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HGSE Welcomes Students to Campus

By Jill Anderson on August 27, 2013 4:11 PM

It was during Dean James Ryan’s morning run when he noticed the cloudy weather that would later greet 641 students at yesterday’s orientation kickoff.

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to rain, or if the sun was going to come out,” Ryan told the new students at his welcome. In the cloudy weather, he saw a metaphor for the new students arriving on campus to start a new phase in their lives. “It will rain and shine for you this year, but you will be able to deal with it if you are prepared,” he said.

The weeklong orientation provides opportunities for new students to become acquainted with the Ed School campus, courses, and faculty members, as well as fellow students. The entering class consists of 641 new students: 578 Ed.M., 13 C.A.S., 25 Ed.D., and 25 Ed.L.D. The average age of entering students is 28; 72 percent are female and 28 percent are male. The class comprises students representing 50 countries and 38 states. Sixteen percent are international students and 30 percent identify as students of color.

During the Dean’s Welcome, Ryan shared his advice for students. “Don’t settle for knowing that there is an achievement gap. Ask, ‘why?’ Don’t settle for knowing that many, too many, schools remain separated by race and income. Ask, ‘why?’ Ask why some teachers are significantly more successful than others. Why do some children begin school behind their peers? Why do students in some countries outperform students in other countries?  In short, don’t settle for facts alone; seek understanding. Understanding begins with asking, ‘why?’” he said, while adding that students should go beyond “why?” to ask, “why not?” “I encourage you not to stop once you understand the problem, but to push yourself to start thinking about potential solutions,” he said.

Faculty speaker Associate Professor Tina Grotzer, Ed.M.’85, Ed.D.’93, recipient of the 2013 Morningstar Family Teaching Award, talked about how Harvard will change the students as it changed decades ago.

“In the coming month you will come to realize the special place you’ve found,” she said. “Once this place becomes a part of your heart and mind, it’s hard to let go.”

She noted that contrary to what many people may think the hard part isn’t getting into Harvard but what is about to come: a life and responsibility that will ask a lot of you. “You are here for a purpose beyond yourself,” she said.

Grotzer encouraged students to learn all they can from faculty but to also look around at each other under the tent in Radcliffe Yard. “Together you will change the world,” she said. “The best thinkers you will find are around you now.”

Doctoral student Ling Hsiao, Ed.M.’01, who declared herself an “unmodel student” shared much of her eight-year journey at HGSE. She advised students learn to manage not only their time but discomfort as they make their way through the year. “Become comfortable with discomfort,” she said. “It helped me develop grit.”

In closing, Ryan shared a quote from Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American major league baseball player.

“Someone said to Rickey, ‘You sure are lucky you had a man like Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier,’ to which Rickey responded, ‘Luck is the residue of design,’” he said.

“Put yourself in a position to have good luck here,” Ryan said. “You came here because you have committed yourself to education, and you have my sincere respect. My highest priority as dean will be to ensure that you leave this place not only happy that you have attended, but proud to be associated with it.”

Check back periodically for new photos of Orientation Week. (Photos by Jill Anderson)