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Harvard Students Can Now Pursue a Secondary in Educational Studies

University Hall
University Hall.

Harvard's brand-new Educational Studies secondary is officially open for business.

Graduate School of Education Professor Julie A. Reuben, who directs the secondary, said 11 College students have already declared the secondary and more than 30 have indicated they are interested. Reuben said the secondary offers students an opportunity to study education from an “interdisciplinary perspective.”

The secondary will ideally help centralize education-related programming within the College and lead to better advising for students interested in the field, Reuben said. She called education a “fundamental human activity.”

“It makes sense to me that undergraduate students want to understand that better, and they should have a structured opportunity to study something that is so important to human existence,” she said.

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Students who wish to pursue the secondary will be required to take one foundational course and four additional education-related courses during their time at the College. In addition, they must pursue a “capstone project” related to education — either a thesis or another intense research project or paper.

The secondary will have its own Student Advisory Board, for which Harvard is currently soliciting applications.

Sruthi Palaniappan ’20, who chaired the Undergraduate Council Education Committee and has declared an Educational Studies secondary, will sit on that board. Palaniappan said the board will help determine the exact requirements for the “capstone project” and will generally help coordinate programming.

Reuben and Palaniappan said they have heard students with wildly different career plans express interest in the secondary.

“This secondary, because it’s very much in the liberal arts sense of mind that Harvard is centered around, is not strictly related to the field of teaching,” Palaniappan said. She cited policy, nonprofit work, and early childhood psychology as other fields connected to the secondary.

“It’s also really nice to have courses that will count towards our secondary that will allow us to critically think about what it means to be students, what inequalities we’ve seen,” Palaniappan added. “What does it mean to be at an institution like Harvard that is so elite, and then go back into the real world?”

No new courses have been created within the secondary to date. But Sociology 1104: “Higher Education: Institutions, Inequalities, and Controversies” has added a practical component this year in which students will examine inefficiencies within the College’s own educational system.

Students and administrators said they think the secondary will provide a greater sense of “community” among undergraduates interested in education.

“I think that over the course of this semester, hopefully there’ll be a community formed around the secondary,” said Ben I. Sorkin ’20, who served as vice-chair of the UC Education Committee. “That’ll be a way to meet other education-minded undergraduates at the College.”

—Staff writer Cecilia R. D’Arms can be reached at cecilia.d'arms@thecrimson.com.

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