Friday Student Spotlight

Name: Noor Baig '23

Job Title: Academic Resource Center Peer Tutor

Noor BaigWhat made you apply to your current job while being a student?

I decided to become a tutor at the Academic Resource Center because I wanted to work with academic topics that I enjoy without the pressure of an impending exam or assignment. Working as a tutor allows me to revisit past topics which is beneficial to myself as a student, but also beneficial to the students I work with. I think working as a tutor, especially for classes that I have already taken, provides me with a rich experience because I oftentimes come to realizations that I missed the first time. I also think experiencing a course from the instructional perspective is insightful and provides me with many lessons that I can use in my future career.

Where did you find your job?

I first heard about Peer Tutors at the Academic Resource Center because I saw how beneficial the program was for some of my peers, especially those in classes with problem sets. Since then, I knew it was something I wanted to join and decided to apply on the Academic Resource Center website!

How have you been able to balance your schoolwork and work responsibilities?

I think the key to finding balance is being an efficient communicator. There are definitely times when my workload gets a bit heavier, and at those times, I tell my tutees so that we can work out an alternate schedule. Blocking out times for sessions in advance is also something that is very helpful for me so that I can allocate the necessary time for session preparation and balance my own schoolwork as well.

What are your personal keys to success and what challenges or hurdles have you encountered?

One challenge that I encountered and see other students having is understanding the material but having a difficult time applying it immediately to solve problems. Although this sounds cliché, I think my best advice for this is to keep doing practice problems repeatedly. Although it feels uncomfortable not knowing how to start or how to get “unstuck”, these uncomfortable feelings are what ultimately help you improve your critical thinking skills. Not to mention, when you finally solve the problem, you feel so proud!

What does your typical day look like at work? What do you love the most about your position?

All of my tutoring sessions are online, so my tutees and I usually pick a convenient time to join a Zoom meeting and go over whatever is most helpful. I like the flexibility that my position offers along with the direct interaction that I am able to have with other students. I also like getting to meet people who I otherwise would not get to know.

How does it relate to what you are learning at Harvard?

I’m concentrating in Neurobiology and am also a premed student, so tutoring others in STEM subjects is a very helpful experience for me. I think of my tutoring meetings as less of a job but more as collaborative review sessions that serve as content review for me as well. I’m hoping that this repetitive review will help me as I prepare for the MCAT soon!

What is the most rewarding part of your job? What lessons have you learned that you’ll take with you after graduation?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing others understand a concept and instantly seeing a weight or burden lifted off of their shoulders. I know how frustrating it can be to not understand something the first time, so being able to serve as an avenue towards deeper understanding is an honor. Through this role, I’ve learned that usually, there are always various ways to approach a problem, but in order to do so, you must stay calm and keep things in perspective. This can apply to questions on a problem set or even obstacles in our daily lives. I hope to apply this to my encounters in life even after graduating from Harvard.

 

Name: Hoda Abdalla '23

Job Title: Academic Resource Center Peer Tutor

What made you apply to your current job while being a student?

I decided to apply to my current job because tutoring is an incredibly rewarding opportunity to help other students succeed while also being a part of the ARC community.

Where did you find your job?

I was recommended to be an ARC tutor by my Gov 1005 professor.

How have you been able to balance your schoolwork and work responsibilities? What are your personal keys to success and what challenges or hurdles have you encountered?

I plan my tutoring availability very carefully, ensuring that I do not overload my workdays with class and other extracurriculars. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is dealing with burnout and heightened stress due to this virtual year, which has caused me to be more intentional about making time for relaxation and prioritizing my well-being.

What does your typical day look like at work? What do you love the most about your position?

A typical day includes a 1-1 tutoring session with a student where we practice course materials and discuss advice for the course. I enjoy my job because I get to make connections with many students while also receiving support and advice from the amazing ARC staff and community.

How does it relate to what you are learning at Harvard?

I plan on using data analysis in my future research and senior thesis, so tutoring students in R studio every week helps me freshen up and maintain my skills.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? What lessons have you learned that you’ll take with you after graduation?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing progress in a student’s understanding of course materials while becoming more confident in their abilities. A lesson that I’ve learned is the importance of long-term goals, as I try to get my students out of the mindset of relying on instant gratification rather than more permanent learning strategies.

 

Student: Amaia Cook

Position: Community Organizer

Amaia CookWhat made you apply to your current job while being a student?

The main reasons for applying to a Work-Study position while a Master of Divinity student were to get practical training in my field of study and earn enough money to cover external expenses. In selecting a job, I looked for opportunities that would combine my interests in religion and advocacy and provide me with enough financial support to pay mainly for personal expenses along with any other unexpected expenses.

Where did you find your job?

I found MORE2, my Work-Study position, through a Google Search of "faith and social justice organizations in Kansas City." Google's handy algorithm and MORE2's prominence in the community made it one of the first results to pop up-proving how sometimes the job selection process can actually be swift and easy.

How have you been able to balance your schoolwork and work responsibilities? What are your personal keys to success and what challenges or hurdles have you encountered?

Balancing my schoolwork and work responsibilities boil down to priority. Depending on the day I might have more important school tasks than work tasks, or it might be the other way around. Throughout the day, I use a calendar and an agenda to remind myself of tasks and adjust priority if needed. During COVID-19, I have had more time on my hands because mostly everything happens in a virtual sphere. Since I tend to overwork, it can be easy for me to use free time for work-related purposes. Finding time to rest has been crucial either by taking a day of rest, or dedicating time in the evening to do so.

What does your typical day look like at work? What do you love the most about your position?

Typically, a normal day of work is spent connecting with community members, organizing leaders, and planning for meetings or actions. MORE2 stresses the importance of one-on-ones, meetings with individuals to find out their background and self-interests. As my job is faith centered, I mostly meet with congregational leaders, but I also take time to connect with non-congregational members. Once I have a one-on-one with someone, I invite them to an NTOSAKE meeting, a women-led group focused on building leaders, or ask if they know women who'd be interested in attending a meeting. One of the important phrases in MORE2 is "every meeting worth having is a meeting worth evaluating." After a meeting, I evaluate what went well about it and what could have been improved and think about the ways in which I personally did well and could have navigated the meeting differently. In doing so, I build myself as an organizer and equip leaders better too.

How does it relate to what you are learning at Harvard?

As a Master of Divinity student, choosing a job that centers faith and social justice was important in the job selection process, which is why I chose MORE2, a faith-based organization focused on racial and economic equity.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? What lessons have you learned that you’ll take with you after graduation?

One of the most impactful things about my studies is that I am required to go beyond the classroom to learn so that I am putting theory into practice. As I learn about methods in religion and arts of ministry, I have been able to apply my scholarship in my experiences of talking to ministers, organizing actions, and equipping leaders to build stronger communities and congregations. There are many lessons I have learned from this experience including that knowledge is found everywhere-a Harvard classroom, a community action, a phone call-and should be valued all the same.

 

Name: Akbar Khuwaja

Job Title: Administrative Assistant with Engaging Schools

Akbar KhuwajaWhat made you apply to your current job while being a student?

There are two main reasons for it. First, my multidisciplinary background aligned well with the requirements of supporting the Executive Director with data analysis, leading ad-hoc educational research projects, and utilizing my existing knowledge of socio-emotional learning (before I became a graduate student, I used to develop such skills in my students). Second, I wished to support myself and pay for my living expenses while attending a full time graduate program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).

Where did you find your job?

I found the Harvard FAS Student Employment Office (SEO) and Engaging Schools’ opportunities at the SEO Jobs database! It is filled with awesome opportunities, whether you are interested in on- or off-campus positions. Lastly, I found my Teaching Fellow position at HGSE through a professor’s recommendation.

How have you been able to balance your schoolwork and work responsibilities? What are your personal keys to success and what challenges or hurdles have you encountered?

Along with tenacity, I believe that I am successful at managing my academic and work responsibilities because I communicated often about my academic deadlines and sought support from my work communities, such as, taking time off to dedicate myself to capstones, midterms, and finals. It was heartening to learn that professors, leaders, and co-workers understood the pressures of a Harvard education. In fact, they gave me the space to never compromise on my academic goals. Other than support from caring individuals, I use electronic calendars and post a printed one in my room to keep track of classes, assignments, and work schedules.

What does your typical day look like at work? What do you love the most about your position?

I love making an impact on lives, and thankfully, I found opportunities that allow me to do so. My typical day at work starts by logging on to the network and connecting with team members via phone or video. My first step is to quickly identify tasks requiring immediate attention before continuing research or analyses on long-term projects. On a different day, I will have office hours and section meetings to help students achieve their learning outcomes. For Harvard SEO, I am helping students align their forms and work authorizations for a seamless flow of earnings. Lastly, I love the people with whom I work. I find their kindness and care – even a text message to check in on me – remarkable.

How does it relate to what you are learning at Harvard?

A profound example is that my research at work on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan or inequitable discipline practices in USA public schools is relevant to discussions in classrooms. I have often cited my research from work in my classes.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? What lessons have you learned that you’ll take with you after graduation?

The work I do or knowledge I gain in classroom has developed my intellect to recognize injustices, pose difficult questions, and step up to eliminate unfair practices. For example, according to the Office of Civil Rights data, African American or Black children are suspended more often – and hence, miss more instructional days – than their White counterparts. Specifically for young children in Kindergarten, for every one day that a White child misses due to out-of-school suspension, a Black child misses almost eight days (7.6 days of discipline gap between Black and White children). This profound finding not only emphasizes the importance of socio-emotional learning during early childhood years, but also a need for African American teachers with whom children can share their qualities and view them as leaders.