Beyond the College: Taking Classes at the Graduate Schools

Last week, I helped launch a campaign for President of the United States. I’m a blogger and foreign policy advisor, and we already have a multitude of other advisors, a campaign manager, press secretary, and even an embedded reporter.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a real campaign. Instead, it’s a simulated presidential election for a class I’m taking at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) on political communication. Instead of just learning how campaigns are run and how to deliver messages to voters, we actually give speeches, write press releases, and then help our candidate prepare for the debate that serves as the capstone to the course. Throughout, we’re receiving feedback and lectures by the professor, who is an active political consultant and manager on actual presidential campaigns.

Taking courses at Harvard’s graduate school is one of the lesser-used treasures of Harvard. If the 1000+ courses offered through the College and the Faculty of Arts and Science aren’t enough, there are 1000s of additional courses available through Harvard’s graduate schools. Are you deeply interested in policy making and politics? Take a class at the Kennedy School. Want to revolutionize education? Try out the Graduate School of Education (GSE). Interested in the legal issues surround tech companies? Cross register at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School. Cross registering is simple: just get permission of the professor, get a form signed, and then you’re in. Many concentrations (such as mine, Social Studies) even offer concentration credit for a number of the courses.

While I took the political communication class on a whim, having the Graduate School of Education has both inspired me to write on education for my senior thesis and learn more about my specific topic, education technology, before I begin my research this summer. I took the course “Education Policy Analysis and Research in Comparative Perspective” last semester where I learned to think about how to implement programs and policies in practice, considering economic, political, and physical constraints. While the College’s strength is in liberal arts, providing a strong foundation in theory, this shift in thought forced me to think in new ways.

Beyond the course, taking classes at the graduate schools also offers a number of prospectives from people outside of academia. The GSE course included a number of guest lectures from educational entrepreneurs, heads of international aid agencies, World Bank economists, and more. Through the Kennedy School course, I’ve even heard from one of Obama’s current speech writers. Having taken the courses, I have been able to meet the students at the respective graduate schools, who are experienced in their respective disciplines and can provide perspective on what it’s like to actually work in the field in the real world. Finally, you’re able to build out a network of professors in subjects you’d like to get to more involved in; in fact, my GSE professor is actually helping me with my thesis over the coming year.

While the College offers plenty of courses, exploring the graduate schools is yet another way to learn about subjects in greater depth and try something new!

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