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Student Handbook

Student Handbook: Our Commitment to Diversity

The Importance of Diversity at HGSE

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) is committed to recruiting, cultivating, engaging, and encouraging a diverse and vibrant community of faculty, staff, and students. Diversity can be multivariate, intersectional, and complex, and at HGSE, we define a diverse population to include a wide range of racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities; economic and geographic backgrounds; physical abilities; life, school, and career experiences; and political, religious, and personal beliefs. As part of our commitment to our common mission, we each share a responsibility to respect the rights, differences, and dignity of others, and to sustain an environment that is conducive to fostering the highest levels of learning for all.

There are four notable reasons — each critical to our school’s mission — why fostering a diverse community is important to HGSE.

Providing the Highest Quality Educational Experience

As the leading school of education in the United States, we are committed to providing the highest quality educational experience, and we continually seek to improve our pedagogical practices and curricular offerings. When students with differing backgrounds and perspectives are supported to engage in rigorous and shared inquiry, the results lead to deep learning, excellence, and innovation in the form of new ideas for all of our students. Core to our approach is the pedagogical strategy of classroom discussion, which we use to broaden and enhance student thinking. The richness of these discussions relies on the differing viewpoints, perspectives, and insights that a diverse group of students and faculty brings.

Preparing Graduate Students for Careers in a Diverse World

Changing demographics across the United States mean that HGSE graduates will most likely meet, work with, and serve a vast array of people with different backgrounds from their own. Even if the differences between our graduates and the students they will serve are not visible, the realities of our polarized and divergent society mean our graduates will certainly encounter a wide variety of views and opinions. The best way to prepare our students to succeed in an increasingly diverse society is to expose our students in meaningful ways to a diverse group of peers.

The Importance of Producing Diverse Leadership for Education

The students that HGSE attracts and trains to be leaders are an important part of the contributions we make to the field of education. HGSE strives to meet the great demand for strong leadership and innovation in education, including highly educated and well-prepared teachers, principals, systems leaders, faculty members, and leaders at all levels of education systems. Moreover, non-profit organizations, government agencies, foundations, and other related fields are also in need of highly qualified individuals. In order to prepare the talented, leadership-oriented individuals needed in education, we must reach out to as broad a pool as possible, recognizing the range of aptitudes and talents necessary to be an effective educator. This necessarily requires a diverse pool of students, including those from underserved communities, underrepresented minorities, and individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, research has shown that students from preschool through college benefit inside and outside the classroom from diverse classroom teaching and leadership.

Building a Knowledge Base that Reflects a Diverse World

One of the most basic and important questions in education is how we can best help each and every child learn across his or her lifespan. As a school, we devote much of our time and attention to the rigorous study and evaluation of this issue and the implementation of promising practices. In the context of an increasingly diverse nation and world in terms of students’ backgrounds and circumstances, we must approach our work using the broadest set of perspectives and insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the wide-ranging set of students, schools, and communities we serve. Our work must account for the diversity of those we seek to help so that we can figure out what works best for whom and in what context. To do this work in a rigorous way, we utilize our diverse faculty, students, and staff. Their varied backgrounds and perspectives of our community members provides a unique window into the education system — prompting our faculty and students to ask new questions, utilize different methodologies, and foster a range of helpful insights.

Taken together, HGSE’s mission relies fundamentally on having a highly diverse community and fostering engagement across the school. Including a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives at HGSE is essential to our ability to engage in meaningful teaching and practice, conduct relevant and pioneering research, and have a positive impact on the larger field.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Competencies

Responsive to the expressed needs of students along with best practices in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work across higher education, HGSE has adopted a set of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging outcomes that are fostered in all students. The outcomes are broken into two broad categories: universal outcomes — those outcomes and goals we have for all of our students at HGSE and believe that we can/should ensure all of our students make progress toward — and advanced outcomes — those outcomes and goals we have for the subset of our students who may wish to seek careers focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work. Situated as needing to be advanced by the time of graduation, these outcomes are intended to shape students’ readiness both on campus and for their future work.

Definition of Outcome Domains


This domain captures an individual’s foundational understanding of key concepts and terms related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (e.g., "intersectionality" or “structural inequality”). This includes both broad concepts (e.g., systems of oppression and liberation, socialization, historic patterns of educational inequality) and more specific concepts and terms that fall within specific domains (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, language). Knowledge refers to students’ abilities to define and identify key concepts and terms, rather than their ability to internalize, understand or act upon these ideas.

Reflective and Developmental Self-Work

This domain captures an individual’s ability to demonstrate awareness, comfort and skill at self-identifying and reflecting on their identity, positionality, and power consistently over time. Reflective and developmental self-work includes some internalization of the knowledge described above, as well as an ability to apply these foundational concepts and terms to one’s own processes of socialization and development (e.g. Who am I in relationship to others?). Finally, this domain captures an individual’s commitment to engaging in reflective and developmental self-work in the realm of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Interpersonal and Group Work

This domain captures an individual’s capacity to communicate, collaborate, dialogue, facilitate, and intervene (in real time) with other people, across social identity differences. Interpersonal and group work includes interactions that are one-on-one and interactions in the context of groups, including work-based teams. Achieving interpersonal and group work outcomes necessitates that individuals internalize the key concepts and terms, as well as understand their own socialization process, such that they can effectively communicate across lines of difference. While such communication is likely to occur in the context of organizations, this domain is intended to capture everyday interactions rather than organizational structures or systems.

Organizational and Systems Work

This domain captures an individual’s capacity to identify and analyze systems (historical, organizational, political, global) of power and their influence on the everyday experiences of individuals in our society. This type of analysis occurs in micro and macro organizational and systems settings, including classrooms, schools, districts, organizations, and broader policy contexts. To organizational and systems work outcomes, individuals will need to internalize the key concepts and terms such that they can identify their concrete manifestations. In addition, individuals will be able to build on their reflection and self-work to identify the skills and strategies that they have for influencing these systems of power in ways that promote equity and inclusion.

Universal Outcomes

Universal outcomes refer to a set of diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes that we believe all graduates of HGSE should make progress toward during their time on campus. At HGSE, we believe that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work is a lifelong journey; while we expect individuals to make progress on this journey during their time at HGSE, we do not expect that the journey will ever be complete. We expect that students will engage in experiences that help them along this journey through their entire master’s student experience. For example, students might make progress on several outcomes through their foundational Equity & Opportunity class, develop further in a core programmatic class, engage in an OSA-based affinity groups, and participate in different extracurricular opportunities. As stated, there are four domains for of universal outcomes: Knowledge, Reflective and Developmental Self-Work, Interpersonal and Group Work, and Organizational and Systems Work.

  1. Students will understand key concepts and terms related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (e.g., intersectionality or structural inequality). [knowing]
  2. Students will articulate a foundational understanding of key concepts related to equity, inclusion, oppression, privilege, and power within the context of education. [knowing]
  3. Students will identify systems (historical, organizational, political, global) of power and describe influences of systems on the everyday experiences of individuals in education. [knowing]
  4. Students will draw on theory and evidence to show that how people and institutions perceive, experience, and respond to difference as “advantage” or “disadvantage” is socially constructed, and thus also subject to change through social intervention. [knowing]
Reflective and Developmental Self-Work
  1. Students will make progress toward identifying their own prejudices, biases, and blind spots through critical reflection over time. [being]
  2. Students will practice holding the discomfort and stress that can accompany awareness and risk-taking. [being]
  3. Students will participate in inclusive and equity-based professional development. [doing]
  4. Students will explain and engage in personal reflection about the ways in which all people (including themselves) have multiple social identities that are politically, historically, geographically, and socioculturally constructed. They will understand that social identities interact with one another in complex ways, change across our lifetimes, influence how we experience and act on the world, and affect how others experience and act with us. [being]
  5. Students will articulate their responsibility, vision, and action plan for advancing equity and opportunity through their work as education professionals, with attention to how their positionality is implicated in this work. [doing]  
Interpersonal and Group Work
  1. Students will build personal capacity to interact with individuals and groups whose frame of thinking is different from their own; take risks, demonstrate vulnerability, challenge others’ ideas without invaliding their experiences. [being]
  2. Students will connect and build meaningful relationships with others while recognizing the multiple intersecting identities, perspectives, and developmental differences people hold. [being]
  3. Students will participate in dialogue that helps one to assess and complicate their understanding about issues of equity, inclusion, power, privilege, and oppression in education. [doing]
  4. Students will recognize when to speak up and when to step back, in the context of intergroup dialogues. [being]
Organizational and Systems Work
  1. Students will identify systemic and structural barriers to equity and inclusion. [being]
  2. Students will analyze the influence of systems (historical, organizational, political, global) of power on the everyday experiences of individuals in our society. [knowing]
  3. Students will be able to explain how educational equity and opportunity can be promoted or impeded by individuals, teams, and groups, and also by institutional, structural, and historical forces. [knowing]
  4. Students will analyze the role of structural inequality, oppression, privilege, and power in education and the impact of oppression on educators and students. [knowing]
  5. Students will identify, analyze, and apply strategies used by educators, across varied roles and contexts, to disrupt privilege and marginalization, promote educational equity, and increase educational access and opportunity. [knowing & doing]
  6. Students will be able to assess their own roles in systems of oppression, privilege, and power and identify the various ways in which they have used or may use their role to create, perpetuate, or dismantle equitable educational policies and practices. [doing]

Advanced Outcomes

Advanced outcomes refer to the set of additional skills and understandings that we believe students who want to undertake diversity, equity, and inclusion work explicitly will need to advance in their careers. These outcomes may not necessarily be achieved by the HGSE experience; however, these outcomes could be initiated through the HGSE experience. The same four categories for outcomes apply: Knowledge, Reflective and Developmental Self-Work, Interpersonal and Group Work, and Organizational and Systems Work. Although some outcomes satisfy two categories, below they are listed by the primary category. These outcomes weigh heavily on the Systems and Organizational Work as we believe that this domain is critical for anyone who plans to lead individual, group, organizational or systemic change.

  1. Students will engage others in both identifying key concepts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion with which they are familiar and fundamental domains in which they want to push their growth (e.g. race/racism, gender/misogyny/cisphobia, sexuality/homophobia). [doing]
  2. Students will identify systemic barriers to equity and inclusion in their own organizations. [being]
Reflective and Developmental Self-Work
  1. Students will practice strategies (e.g. critical friend groups, journaling) to create a deeper understanding of how identity, positionality, power, and privilege influences spaces for self and others. [doing]
  2. Students will continue to participate in inclusive and equity-based professional development to further engage blind spots. [doing]
  3. Students will provide consultation to other units, divisions or institutions on strategies to dismantle systems of oppression, privilege and power. [doing]
Interpersonal and Group Work
  1. Students will understand and effectively communicate intersectionality and the ways which multiple experiences with marginalization are distinct, nuanced, and diverse within group; and, be able to use this understanding to build relationships across groups and dismantle inequitable systems. [being]
  2. Students will be able to observe, diagnose, and shape group dynamics in order to effectively communicate, collaborate, facilitate, and intervene (in real time) with folks across social identity differences. [being]
  3. Students will facilitate dialogue and reflection about issues of equity, inclusion, power, privilege, oppression, and power without shaming them. [doing]
  4. Students will foster and promote an institutional culture that supports the free and open expression of ideas, identities and beliefs, and where individuals have the capacity to safely negotiate different standpoints. [being]
  5. Students will design programs and events that are inclusive, promote social consciousness and challenge current institutional, national, global, and sociopolitical systems of oppression. [doing]
  6. Students will link individual and departmental performance indicators with demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion. [doing]
Organizational and Systems Work
  1. Students will advocate for equity values in institutional mission, goals and programs. [doing]
  2. Students will provide opportunities for inclusive and equity-based educational professional development. [doing]
  3. Students will lead or participate in hiring and promotion practices that are nondiscriminatory and work toward building inclusive teams. [doing]
  4. Students will promote for the development of a more inclusive and socially conscious department, school or profession. [doing] 
    a. Students will effectively address bias incidents that impact one’s professional community. [doing]
  5. Students will assess the effectiveness of the institution in removing barriers to addressing issues of equity and inclusion. [doing]
  6. Students will implement appropriate measures to assess the campus climate for students, faculty, and staff. [doing]
  7. Students will ensure institutional policies, practices, facilities structures, systems, and technological respect, and represent the needs of all people. [doing]
  8. Students will ensure campus resources are distributed equitably in order to meet the needs of all campus communities. [doing]
  9. Students will create ongoing strategic plans for the continued development of inclusive initiatives and practices through the institution. [doing]
  10. Students will collect data that illustrates institutional effectiveness and growth areas in addressing critical incidents of discrimination that impact the institution. [doing]