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With Optimism and Careful Planning, HGSE Prepares to Welcome Students

Starting August 30, HGSE will reopen its campus and welcome in-person and online students for a reimagined school year — with flexibility, equity, and community at the forefront.
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Important information about health protocols can be found on HGSE’s coronavirus webpage.

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After 16 months of teaching, learning, and connecting remotely, HGSE is ready to pivot once again, reopening its campus and welcoming in-person and online master’s and doctoral students to its classrooms and community this fall. With an unprecedented range of courses to serve the diverse needs of learners wherever they are — both on campus and off — the school will offer a comprehensive and flexible experience to new and continuing students, ensuring academic and professional advancement while prioritizing the health and wellbeing of all community members. 

Safety in the Year Ahead

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict challenges and uncertainty around the world, HGSE is approaching the 2021–22 academic year with a balance of optimism and caution. Over the summer, countless preparations were made to ensure the safety of campus and prepare HGSE to meet evolving state and local guidelines. 

Among the operational precautions:  

  • A comprehensive review of HGSE’s ventilation systems to ensure their compliance with government and university health guidelines
  • Intensive cleaning protocols, implemented daily thanks to the tireless work of HGSE’s operations team
  • Hand sanitizer stations and disinfecting wipes, strategically placed around campus for community use

All HGSE faculty, staff, and students are required to be vaccinated, and everyone — including students arriving on campus for the first time or returning to campus after months of absence — is required to submit proof of vaccination to Harvard University Health Services prior to their return. 

Once on campus, all community members will join Harvard’s COVID testing protocol, which calls for a regular cadence of self-administered tests provided by Color, the university’s testing partner. Tests, which can be picked up at the Gutman Library security desk, are free of charge, quick, and easy for community members to perform. They can be returned to Gutman Library or to any of 36 locations around campus. Results will be reported directly to each community member through the Color app.   

In order to ensure campus safety, an indoor masking requirement is in effect, and all community members should bring a university-approved face covering whenever they come to campus. Community members must also agree to uphold HGSE’s 2021–22 community compact, which outlines shared responsibilities and commitments to safeguarding the wellbeing of the campus.

A Gradual Return to Campus

As the fall semester begins, HGSE will continue to be guided by three priorities in its decision making:

  • the health and safety of community members, their families, and the public
  • the academic progress and success of our students
  • sustaining our community and strengthening relationships with each other

With these priorities in mind, staff, faculty, and students are in the midst of a staggered return to campus. 

HGSE welcomes incoming residential master's students to campus for Orientation, beginning the week of August 30, when they'll engage with an online cohort of continuing master's students. Fall semester classes will begin for all students on September 7. 

Dean Bridget Long in her office

Dean Bridget Long settled back into her office during HGSE's phased return to campus.


“We want to come back together, but we will and must do so safely and sensibly,” said Long, encapsulating HGSE’s strategy in a recent message to the community

Staff and faculty have returned to campus in a phased approach as well. Faculty have re-opened their offices in recent weeks, and some staff are now fully re-established on campus, while other staff are still working remotely and planning their transition back. 

Academic Life

Aside from public health, few fields have been as significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than education, giving even greater meaning to the work that students and faculty will do together this year. “As we live through the severe global education crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am looking forward to welcoming our students, and to working with them in my courses on comparative education policy and educational innovation to find ways to contribute to sustaining educational opportunity for the students for whom education most matters around the world,” said Professor Fernando Reimers, one of many faculty members who, with his re-imagined coursework, created opportunities for students to provide pandemic solutions to partners in the field.

The 2021–22 academic year will provide even more opportunities for connecting with real-world challenges — and it will also mark a shift in HGSE’s approach to graduate training in education. Incoming master’s students will start their coursework under the rubric of the redesigned Ed.M. degree program, newly launching this year. The reimagined program started with the launch of four Foundations courses this summer — immersive coursework in learning and human development, evaluating evidence, organizational leadership, and equity — that cover key competencies and core knowledge essential across all education roles. Incoming students are entering one of five newly configured Programs, aligned with specific areas and roles in education practice, and they can go deeper into particular contexts by selecting a Concentrations — choosing among early childhood education, arts and learning, higher education, literacy and languages, or global education.

HGSE is also providing a robust program for continuing online master's students as they enter the second year of their part-time program — a program that will be augmented by opportunities to interact with the new Foundations and Concentrations opportunities. Throughout their first year, these students were uniquely positioned to identify and respond to challenges in the field of education —  in some cases, immediately applying what they were learning to their own classrooms, schools, and organizations. 

Maritza Hernandez

Maritza Hernandez, associate dean of enrollment and student services, prepared to welcome visitors to the Office of Student Affairs.


And HGSE remains attentive to the needs of incoming international students, who may experience delays or challenges in obtaining visas or fulfilling face-to-face residential visa requirements amid continuing COVID-related barriers.

To serve these diverse needs, HGSE undertook an in-depth, strategic curriculum planning process. As a result, the school plans to offer more than 300 courses across three modalities for the upcoming school year: in-person classes will be offered for students studying in residence at HGSE; flexible classes will include whole-class sessions online and equivalent components (e.g., team projects, sections, labs, and other peer activities) available online or in-person; and remote classes will be offered fully online to provide opportunities for students studying around the world.  


Despite the challenges created by continuing public health questions, HGSE is committed to maintaining a strong community in this unique year, with a mix of online events and in-person gatherings. The school is planning potential opportunities for in-person learning and engagement for online students as well. As the campus awakens — and as new students arrive and settle in — there is a sense that HGSE connections remain strong.   

Gutman Café, an HGSE community hub, has already re-opened with limited “grab-and-go” offerings, bringing with it the return of familiar faces and the serendipity of a casual, unplanned encounter. Campus leaders are hopeful that the offerings of Gutman Café — along with other campus services — will be expanded as the year progresses. 

“After 16-months of being remote, I’m excited to be back on campus and welcome our students at the end of August,” says Maritza Hernandez, associate dean of enrollment and student services. “We are looking forward to not only providing a welcoming campus, but to continuing to offer online programming, resources, and supports for all our students” — whether they are learning on campus or online. As this global and growing community has proven, "HGSE is more than a spot on a map; HGSE is everywhere."

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