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College Launches New Secondary in 'Educational Studies'

University Hall.
University Hall. By Justin F. Gonzalez
By Lucy Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 12, 2018 at 2:11 p.m.

The College will launch a new secondary field in “Educational Studies” for undergraduates beginning in the fall of 2018 after a years-long faculty and student-led push for the program.

Dean of the Graduate School of Education James E. Ryan announced the news to Ed School affiliates in an email Wednesday morning. Ryan wrote in the email that students will declare their interest in the secondary during their junior year and “will be required to take five approved courses related to education in order to fulfill the requirements.”

Students will be able to take up to eight credits at graduate schools like the Ed School, and will take remaining credits through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, according to Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane. Dane wrote in an email that the collaboration between the Ed School and FAS is “first-of-its-kind.”

Katherine K. Merseth, a senior lecturer in education, said the Educational Policy Committee—a body composed of faculty, deans, and undergraduates—voted to approve the new secondary at a meeting last week.

Merseth, who teaches the popular general education course, United States in the World 35: “Dilemmas of Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education,” said a student first approached her about the idea of writing a proposal for a secondary in education in 2014. Merseth said some at first confused the proposal with the Harvard Teaching Fellows program, a postgraduate teacher training and education program run through the Ed School.

“Initially, there was this confusion that we were suggesting this teacher education program for Harvard College, and we weren’t,” Merseth said. “We strongly enforced [that] the study of education is an intellectual endeavor and not a vocational program.”

The proposal began garnering interest among the FAS soon after its debut, Merseth said, but—given education is not a department—there remained the question of which senior FAS members would serve as advisors to the proposed secondary. In 2017, Ed School professor Julie A. Reuben offered to head the program.

“The education secondary field is always something I felt strongly supportive of, and we had a change of academic deans this year,” Reuben said. “I offered at that point to take over as kind of the point person because I didn’t want the momentum to be lost.”

Economics professor Claudia D. Goldin, who co-teaches the course Economics 980b: “Education in the Economy” and said she has been involved with the proposal for years, said she is “delighted” to see the secondary approved.

“I’m a great fan of interdisciplinary studies, and we do too few of them,” Goldin said. “Most universities, and this one in particular, are heavily siloed.”

Goldin said that—in addition to economics—fields like psychology, government, and literature are all interrelated to the study of education. Sociology lecturer Manja Klemencic, who specializes in the sociology of higher education, said she also sees this approval as a way to formalize courses on education across the University.

“I see this decision as an important step of building a community of students, researchers, and faculty from various disciplinary backgrounds who share interest in education,” Klemencic said.

Reuben, Klemencic, and Merseth all said many undergraduates have approached them in class to ask whether Harvard could offer more courses on education.

Sruthi Palaniappan ’20, who serves as education chair on the Undergraduate Council as well as on the College’s Committee on Undergraduate Education, said the past year of discussions about the proposal focused on which departments in FAS would support the new secondary.

“During these meetings, myself and other students who were on the education committee and served on the Committee on Undergraduate Education all agreed that, especially as a liberal arts institution, it’s extremely important that Harvard offers education as an academic discipline for students to be able to study, and to especially learn about how it intersects with other fields as well,” Palaniappan said.

Undergraduate Council President Catherine L. Zhang ’19, who worked with Palaniappan to garner student support for the proposal, said the new secondary will provide centralized support for students, like herself, who want to study the subject in a structured manner.

The UC created a video in support of the secondary earlier this month.

“What an education secondary means for me and so many other students is the idea and ability to study education theoretically and be able to have resources and a community behind it,” Zhang said. “A lot of what tracks and concentrations give to students is the community behind it.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 12, 2018

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of sociology lecturer Manja Klemencic.

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.

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