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FAQs: Individual Supports and Community Experience

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Please read this article for more details on HGSE's approach to instruction, student supports, and community engagement for the 2020–2021 academic year.

Updates and Resources

  • Watch our Zoom session on individual student supports and community building.
  • Access a series of tip sheets from the Office of Student Affairs, which contain practical information on how to obtain support across a variety of domains: For example, if you seek assistance as a multilingual or international student; if you seek academic coaching or support with academic writing; if you want to access accommodations for individuals with disabilities; or if you want to learn about digital wellness and ergonomics — among other topics.
  • For more information, please visit the Office of Student Affairs, which is here to help you navigate any question you may have.

Student Supports

What if I have questions or need help in my courses? How will I get help?

In addition to our core teaching faculty, we are fortunate to be able to work with advanced doctoral students in delivering our course experiences. These Teaching Fellows, or “TFs” for short, can answer questions, review work, and consult with you on course material and assignments. They will hold office hours and can also be available other times. 

Beyond your course instructors, students can seek help from staff with the Office of Student Affairs, who help students establish a healthy work-life balance; find a rhythm between graduate school, work, and personal life while ensuring continued health and wellness; and develop strategies for dealing with the pressures of academia, such as practicing mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and stress management. HGSE also has dedicated support for Writing Services through Gutman Library, which offer excellent resources for your development as a writer — from individual appointments to writing workshops throughout the year. 

Do you have any special resources or supports to help students who may struggle academically or emotionally during the year?

Many students work to overcome potential barriers to success including anxiety, perfectionism, procrastination, “imposter syndrome,” and time management. At HGSE, we understand these challenges, and you do not have to navigate them alone. There are myriad resources at HGSE to support you throughout your studies. The Office of Student Affairs helps students establish a healthy work-life balance; find a rhythm between graduate school, work, and personal life while ensuring continued health and wellness; and develop strategies for dealing with the pressures of academia, such as practicing mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and stress management. We often remind students that you are not alone; we encourage you to reach out to your peers, professors, administrators, and support services regularly, as this will help you establish a supportive community in which you will thrive.  

HGSE also has dedicated support for Writing Services through Gutman Library, which offer excellent resources for your development as a writer — from individual appointments to writing workshops throughout the year. Students are also welcome to email course instructors and/or Teaching Fellows any time with questions about assignment expectations or your academic work; signing up for office hours is another way to get academic support and build connections with faculty and Teaching Fellows.  

Who will be my adviser?

The HGSE advising model is designed to support all students toward academic, personal, and professional success. Students have multiple advisers, including a faculty adviser as well as professional staff advisers. Faculty advisers will engage students in intellectual (and related professional) conversations about their academic and career trajectories based on the domain/area of faculty expertise. Staff advisers support students in navigating HGSE, including everything from completing course registration and confirming progress toward graduation to securing class accommodations and access to Harvard resources. Additionally, students can connect to the vast network of 29,000 HGSE alumni leading educational systems and organizations worldwide — these colleagues also serve in mentorship capacities, particularly related to career exploration. 

How often will I get to talk to my adviser?

Faculty advisers typically meet with students at the beginning of each semester to discuss course enrollment, and at a second point during the semester to engage in conversation about research and fieldwork relevant to students’ professional trajectory. However, students may also meet with their faculty advisers one-on-one to discuss needs for additional support or questions specific to their growth and development. Similarly, staff advisers tend to meet with students one-on-one at the beginning of each semester to ensure readiness for engagement in the fall/spring term, and then as needed at any point during the academic year.  

When will I know my faculty adviser?

Every HGSE student will be connected with a faculty advisor in August. However, between June and August, students will have ongoing opportunities to interact with multiple faculty members in their Programs and from HGSE. These faculty connections will occur in small and large group settings, ranging from school-wide panels (such as the Education Now series) to more intimate “Ask Me Anythings” with faculty doing research or fieldwork on a topic of student interest. These opportunities will be posted on The Hub throughout the summer. 

While HGSE is online for academic year 2020–21, will I still have access to the Harvard library system?

Yes, all members of the HGSE community will have access to the Gutman Library online collections and services during the 2020–21 academic year. Our various consultation services will take place via Zoom; for example, all students can schedule a research consultation with a Gutman librarian as well as writing services or a communications lab consultation with a Gutman TF. Students can find answers to any Gutman Library questions 24/7 by using our searchable Gutman FAQ site. Research questions can also be submitted on the FAQ site, which will be answered Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. ET. 

In addition, HGSE’s Gutman Library is part of the overall Harvard Library system, which oversees the following 24/7 resources: 

  • HOLLIS is our online search interface for the library catalog, databases, and e-journals. Here you can find e-books or streaming media. 
  • Harvard Digital Collections (Provides free, public access to over 6 million objects digitized from our collections – from ancient art to modern manuscripts and audio visual materials)
  • CURIOSity Digital Collections (Curated views that provide specialized search options and  unique content)
  • DASH (Harvard’s institutional repository that makes research by members of the Harvard community open to the world)

The Community Experience

Will there still be program-based cohort activities? Will I still get to know my fellow students outside of courses? 

The cohort experience is a hallmark of our HGSE learning environment — and will remain strong, if not stronger, in a virtual environment. Our faculty directors and program administrators continue to plan academic, social, and career-focused events that complement curricular engagement to ensure students have a comprehensive graduate school experience. In addition to learning from program alumni and experts in their field, students will have ongoing formal and informal opportunities to develop connections with their cohort — and with peers from across HGSE who share academic, personal, and professional interests. In spring 2020, cohorts created community in myriad ways ranging from coffee hours and virtual dance parties to shared poetry and remote maker spaces. Program faculty and staff also offered informal cohort dinners, trivia nights, and movie viewings, all of which served to bring the cohort together to share support, relaxation, and fun. 

Will I still be able to participate in HGSE student groups?

Students will have continuing opportunities to participate in HGSE’s 40+ student organizations or serve as a student-elected leader on the HGSE Student Council. Each year, there are new organizations added to our list — proposed, designed, and governed by students based on their needs, interests, experiences, and expertise. Additionally, HGSE students are able to participate in cross-Harvard groups and organizations, ranging from the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Club to the Harvard Law School Advocates for Education. Whether you join (or lead!) an existing organization or propose your own, there are myriad student groups that welcome and include all members. At HGSE, we view inclusion and belonging as critical to our work and to the student experience. For more information about our diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives, visit the Office of Student Affairs website.  

Will there still be speakers and other special events for students?

HGSE will continue to connect our community with experts in the field, as we did while working remotely this spring. For example, we hosted the virtual HGSE Leadership Series, which featured HGSE faculty members with education leaders such as Geoffrey Canada (Harvard Children’s Zone), John King Jr. (former U.S. Secretary of Education), Darienne Driver (president and CEO of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan), and Paul LeBlanc (president of Southern New Hampshire University). In addition, HGSE launched Education Now, a new initiative focused on how HGSE can contribute to helping the field respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis for schools and families. This spring, it included webinars on topics across the preK–16 continuum and Field Chats with HGSE alumni.  

Next year, we expect a lively and robust schedule of events during the academic year, continuing to bring our community together with leading voices from the field to explore the highest priority issues for education. Expect frequent opportunities to interact with renowned national and international education experts including entrepreneurs, system-level leaders, master teachers, college and university presidents, nonprofit CEOs, and federal and state policymakers.

Will you still have events like the Alumni of Color Conference?

Next year, we are planning to continue major events like the Alumni of Color Conference, which we expect to be virtual next year. Please stay tuned for updates.

Will there be planned in-person events to meet other students in my region?

Given ongoing gathering restrictions in light of COVID-19, we do not currently have in-person events scheduled. However, we are actively building a plan for HGSE student engagement, which could include local gatherings once public health restrictions are relaxed. Our alumni have also expressed interest and willingness to host local groups of HGSE students once distancing orders end. 

How will you foster connections with people in my area?

HGSE is currently exploring opportunities for students to connect with fellow HGSE classmates — and with HGSE alumni — in their local areas or regions. Stay tuned for more information about this.