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A Global Family

Fernando Reimers

Think international education at the Ed School, and one name instantly comes to mind: Fernando Reimers.

Since joining the faculty in 1998, Reimers, Ed.M.’84, Ed.D.’88, has been overseeing the school’s International Education Program (IEP), where he is an indispensable leader on global education issues ranging from collaborative approaches to citizenship to professional development for educators to 21st-century learning goals, among many other topics. He regularly brings speakers from around the world to campus and joins international commissions at organizations like UNESCO and the Council of Foreign Relations. He annually chairs a think tank on global learning and conducts research on K–12 schools in countries like Chile, Mexico, and Singapore. He serves on committees across Harvard at places like the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and advises other colleges on creating international strategy for their teacher training programs. During his travels around the world, he plans visits with alumni. The list of global-focused books and articles he has written takes up eight pages of his CV.

Fernando Reimers — researcher, teacher, and international education leader — is the steward of an ever-widening community of impact, working across boundaries and time zones to advance opportunities for learners.

But Reimers also has been a leader in an area you won’t see on that CV or in press releases about his latest research: Since first coming to Harvard as a master’s student from Venezuela in the mid-1980s, he’s managed to create a community for his students, both international and American — a community many quickly consider their family.

“Professor Reimers is one of the most hardworking and passionate professors I have ever had in my life,” says Wura Mosuro, Ed.M.’20. “Even after all his years of teaching, he remembers each student's name, personal story, interests, and other details that make each one unique and special.” Reimers even offered to go digging in his attic for old Halloween costumes last October when he learned that Mosuro had never dressed up for the holiday. “This is a funny example of how he always went over and beyond for his students.”

At orientation last fall, Felicity Burgess, Ed.M.’20, remembers Reimers talking to students during the first IEP session. Reimers urged them to really think about how they introduced themselves to one another and to be intentional about how they showed up in this new community. “Our cohort was soon invited to his family home for dinner,” she says, “which encouraged us to shift how we saw ourselves: as family rather than colleagues.”

Months later, when COVID-19 shut down the campus and students were quickly sent home, Burgess says Reimers made sure that close feeling of connectedness didn’t end just because the campus went virtual.

“This strength of our IEP community was truly tested as we all dispersed from our home on Appian Way in March,” she says. “It is testament to the firm foundations that Fernando built that we were able to maintain community despite being geographically spread from Bhutan to Boston and everywhere in between.”

Being a community builder isn’t necessarily a goal that Reimers sets out to meet every year, but it’s one nonetheless that he clearly accomplishes.

“I see myself as someone interested in carrying out research and in educating students in ways which are helpful to advance a meaningful education to all of the world’s children,” he says. “In striving to serve that goal, I try to integrate my teaching, my research, and my service in the world. If around those goals a community is built, or if that work serves to bring together several communities of which I am a part, I am grateful that this happens.” And so are we. – Lory Hough

Learn More and Connect

Read about Fernando Reimers' beginnings at HGSE.

Watch the Askwith Forums event, Leading the Global Education Movement.

Learn about the HGSE Professional Education program Think Tank on Global Education, aimed at helping educators foster global competence in their classrooms, schools, and communities.

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