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HGSE Welcomes New Class to Campus

Orientation 2015

Dean James Ryan began orientation yesterday by welcoming the 721 new students to the Harvard Graduate School of Education with some words of inspiration and advice — and even a plug to follow not only the school (@hgse), but also him on Twitter. (@DeanJimRyan, for those of you wondering.)

“I know that each and every one of you has come here because you want to change the world through education, and my colleagues and I want to help you do that,” said Ryan. “We are here, quite literally, because you are here, and I hope and trust that this school will give you the tools and the inspiration necessary to achieve your goals, because I promise you that the world needs you.”

This year’s incoming students — which include 660 master’s, 50 doctoral, and 11 C.A.S. students — hail from all over the world, with a range of experiences. “From Belarus to Vietnam, students with backgrounds from sitcom writing to ballet dancing and even a few, like myself, who graduated from law school,” Ryan said.

The new students’ differences are what make the HGSE community thrive, but they are banded together with one purpose.

“Our common task, though by no means simple, is ever inspiring,” said Ryan. “We are here to learn how to improve the education made available to others, and I can think of no higher calling.”

Student speaker Ola Friday, a second-year Ed.L.D. student, tried to comfort the nerves of the incoming class. “First of all, relax, all right?” she said. “Take a deep breath, because it will be okay. I am living proof that you can make it through a year at HGSE. Yes. It’s possible, yes.”

Friday, a Harvard public service presidential fellow and president of the Black Students’ Union at HGSE, offered advice based on her own self reflections from her first year at HGSE.

“The access you have at Harvard, at least for me, is unprecedented — and it can be overwhelming at times,” she warned. “Therefore, what you choose to do with your time is just as important as what you choose not to do with it. There will be many competing demands, so please choose wisely.”

She urged incoming students to take time doing what they love to do, whether it be yoga and meditation, like herself, or hiking, or whatever it is they find joy in. Lastly, she reminded them to also take time to just reflect.

“I also urge you to do a lot of reflecting this year, because the time will fly by, and before you know it, the school year will be over. So did you take the time to really be present in this experience?” she said.

The highlight of the orientation welcome, however, may have been when Professor Deborah Jewell-Sherman, along with Cohort 5 of the Ed.L.D. Program, led the entire group in a sing-along and dance to Labi Siffre’s “Something Inside (So Strong)” as a reminder not to let anyone knock you down.

“You are here because you have dreamed big, and you are going to be challenged mightily, as I was,” Jewell-Sherman, Ed.M.’92, Ed.D.’95, told the new class. “And then we you leave here, you are going to be challenged even further, because the world is waiting for what it is that you have to offer.”

View photos from orientation, on Facebook.