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Driver of Social Change: Jane Lee, HDP'16

 Jane Lee, HDP'16If Jane Lee was sure about one thing when she came to the Ed School, it was that she wasn’t going to let the “Harvard experience” pass her by.

“I was excited to be a student again, to go to school every day, meet some amazing new people, and learn,” says Lee, a master’s candidate in Human Development and Psychology (HDP). “I was committed to giving everything that I was interested in doing a try, and using this experience as a launch pad to do something amazing.”

Lee’s “something amazing” came in the form of Kirality Lab, an education social venture that she developed with fellow master’s student Karen Choi. Kirality, which designs, develops, and delivers formative assessments on social and emotional learning, was a semifinalist in Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition. “It was a spectacular opportunity to be completely creative, and breathe life into an idea,” Lee says.

Lee remains dedicated to the philosophies behind Kirality Lab and plans to continue developing the platform after graduation. “We believe that character education and social-emotional learning not only helps students succeed in school, but has a long-term impact in positively shaping youth’s future careers and lives,” she says, noting that she hopes to play a pivotal role in supporting the social and emotional learning space around the world.

“Jane Lee is a creative, rigorous thinker and a tireless, contagious intellectual,” says Senior Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, faculty director at HDP. “She also cares deeply about her community and is passionate about creating a better and more just world. It was wonderful to have her in our community.”

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for HDP, Lee answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

What are your goals now, after a year at the Ed School? I want to be a driver of social change in the social and emotional learning space in education. Ideas shared with peers and faculty here have helped me to learn from my own flaws, to improve and develop my passions, and take steps together to create a more collaborative and innovative environment for learners around the world. In reflecting on my time at HGSE, I will be leaving fully satisfied that I’ve experienced Harvard to the fullest.

What was your greatest fear before attending HGSE? I was far more excited than fearful of attending HGSE. My time at this school helped me to understand the immense opportunities that exist in educational innovation. I was able to pursue an interest in learning more about adult and adolescent social and emotional learning, and developed a social venture around this idea. I was also a co-chair for Harvard GSE’s Innovative and Ventures in Education (HIVE) nights.

How did you stay inspired throughout the year? Community was a big part of my time here. I was surrounded by an immensely supportive group of individuals that helped inspire me to bring my full potential forward. I also wandered to different spaces around campus to gain inspiration. I enjoyed exploring the different campuses. My favorite library is Widener, although the fourth floor of the law school library inspires as well. Spangler Hall at the Business School, I often refer to as Harvard’s “White House.” A delightfully different ambiance with fireplaces and cozy deep cushions that help inspire. I once sat on the couch and had a pleasantly productive chat with Chairman and CEO of Capitol Records Steve Barnett. You just don’t know who you might run into at school!  

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … the Harvard energy. This place has an energy about it that not only attracts tourists endlessly along its streets, but an energy that keeps this place feeling alive. The creative momentum puts pep into my step every morning. It’s an inspiring energy, that at first might feel intimidating, but when you become a part of it and embrace the groove, you not only begin to appreciate it but you might begin to develop something amazing. Ideas become realities here. I founded a social venture called Kirality Lab! We competed in the Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition and became semi-finalists. That was a big surprise. I didn’t think that I’d come to Harvard and start a company.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program? Be present, be proactive, and create community. You are being groomed to better lead your communities. Walk through Harvard Square with your head held high because your choice to dive further into the world of education is the most respectable pursuit, in my humble opinion. The Harvard name will probably carry you to all sorts of extraordinary places. Do not become proud but remain humbled by the opportunity, and commit to making every school, institution, and community that you are a part of the best in the world. Find joy in the happiness and success of your peers, because a win for education should feel like a win for all! You’re not too young, not too old; your time is now and it is just right, so make the most of it while you’re here. Dream it and proactively go after it, because your ideas, even the most fleeting, can become a reality. If it happened for me, you can do it too, after all, what do you have to lose?

Read about the other recipients of this year's Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award.