Wednesday's downpours didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the 688 students who arrived on Appian Way eager to start the new school year.
Under a tent in Radcliffe Yard, Dean Kathleen McCartney welcomed the students. She encouraged them to "surrender" to the Ed School and embrace the Harvard environment. "Whether your goal is to become a classroom teacher, to open a school, to lead a district, to become a university president, or to conduct rigorous education research, you've come to the right place," she said. "The faculty and staff are here to support you every step of the way.
"Believe me when I tell you that in the next year or two I will be telling the entering class how you are now making a difference in the lives of learners."
The entering class is dynamic and diverse, consisting of 630 master's students, 29 doctoral students, 4 certificate of advanced study students, and the first cohort of 25 Doctor of Education Leadership Program (Ed.L.D.) students. The average age of entering students is 28; 74 percent are female and 26 percent are male. The class is composed of students representing 35 countries and 44 states. Twelve percent are international students and 31 percent identify as students of color.
"Given the diversity and background among you, I can only begin to imagine the impact you'll have on Appian Way," said Mohan Boodram, associate dean for Enrollment and Student Services.
For many students, the start of the school year can be equally exciting and overwhelming. Orientation week provides students with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Ed School campus, Harvard Square, courses, faculty members, and fellow students. Doctoral students, who arrived on Monday, had an extra two days to begin getting to know each other and acclimating to campus.
When addressing students, Professor Paul Harris tried to ease nerves by sharing his own experiences of anxiety before giving a graduation speech. Harris also relayed some advice that he discovered conducting his latest research with apes: . "Ask a bunch of questions but don't forget your inner ape - there might just be a box to open a better way then you've been told," he said.
Comparing the experience of being at Harvard to going to a fancy buffet, doctoral candidate Angela Boatman, Ed.M.'08, offered some helpful tips to students including try different things, don't stuff yourself, and try not to think about how much it costs because it's worth it. "Where else can you find so many people with the same passions as you?" she asked. "Make the most of the big buffet."
Ed.L.D. student Beth Rabbitt, a former associate partner of the NewSchools Venture Fund -- a nonprofit that focuses on funding entrepreneurs to close the achievement gap -- was already indulging in the opportunity to interact with so many colleagues.
Rabbitt is one of the 25 students in the new program, taught by faculty from HGSE, the Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School. The intense, three-year Ed.L.D. program offers an unprecedented approach to preparing leaders equipped to transform the American education system in order to enable all students to succeed in a 21st-century world. "For a lot of us, there wasn't another program out there that met the goals and gaps I have as an educator," Rabbitt said. "To be accepted [to the Ed.L.D. program] is exciting and intimidating because we are the first."