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Online but Connected, for Real-World Impact

The first cohort of the new Online Master's Program — centering on education leadership in higher ed and preK-12 — is putting the HGSE experience into action far beyond campus
OEL students on campus
Professor Jim Honan and Senior Lecturer Judy McLaughlin meet with students in OEL's higher education pathway during the program's On-Campus Institute in August 2022
Photo: Carolina Ruggero

Launched this year, the Online Master’s in Educational Leadership (OEL) Program welcomes experienced educators into a unique learning community that helps them expand their leadership capacities and deepen their impact in their fields. The program fosters a reciprocal connection between theory and practice, with students applying their diverse experiential knowledge to their coursework, as well as applying their learning in their professional practice in education, nonprofit, and government settings — in real time. 

Though the majority of the program is conducted online, a strong sense of community has emerged within the cohort in the early months, aided by the immersive On-Campus Institute that took place this past summer, near the start of the program.

“As an online learner, having the opportunity to share time and space with my peers, the faculty, and staff made me feel like a valued member of the greater Harvard community,” says Amanda Hope, a gifted/talented program teacher and coordinator at a Dallas elementary school. “I learned so much, not only from the HGSE professors, but also … from my peers.”

Below, students in both pathways of the program — higher education and preK–12 — offer thoughts on the initial days of OEL and the benefits of the program’s unique design. 

Nedaa Alwawi

“Being part of the OEL family has been transformative to my own leadership and practice. It is a privilege to listen and learn with such an intelligent, passionate, and talented cohort. My advice for prospective OEL students: Recognize the power of vulnerability and be ready to embrace discomfort. The program is intentionally designed to challenge students' thinking and to drive honest and tough conversations around our own biases and limitations. As difficult as those moments are, they are a necessary part of the leadership growth journey.” 

Daniel Eckel
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China 
“OEL truly has been a transformative experience because the passion-driven people leading the program and my fellow colleagues push me in so many ways to make an impact within education. The study-while-I-work model allows me to utilize many of the different concepts I learned directly within my place of work.  Even though I am thousands of miles away, I realize Harvard is the people that make up the learning community and this spirit of welcome has been present ever since I applied, and I know it will continue for the rest of my life.”

Johanna Foster
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“The on-campus afforded me the opportunity to connect with and learn from my peers in meaningful ways. The relationships we built during this experience will enrich our online learning in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.”

Amanda Hope

“What I love about the OEL Program is that it’s indeed the nexus of practice and theory. My work as a teacher informs my studies and vice versa. I also love sharing with my students that I attend Harvard and bridging a connection from them to an institution that they’ve heard of but may seem very far removed from their daily lives.”

Mac Howison
"HGSE's OEL Program is an inspiring, rigorous course of study that challenges me to deepen my commitment to education leadership. From the start I was asking harder questions about my future in the field and getting great support from a community of colleagues from all around the world. The thoughtful design of OEL enables me to continue being an active leader in my profession while learning and socializing in an online environment that feels like a college."

Courtney Milavec

“I'm able to learn from and alongside classmates who are in Colombia, Switzerland, China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Peru, and Canada. Even though we span the globe, we're able to build trust and community due to our small cohort size (38 in my higher education pathway) and the on-campus summer institutes in Cambridge, which are necessary parts of our growth as intellectually engaged and motivated education professionals.” 


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