Harvard Divinity School | Graduation Year: 2020
Degree: Master of Divinity
Employer: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)
Salvador Peña is originally from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and has worked as a graduate assistant at the Office of Student Affairs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) since September 2017. He helps students navigate school policy, petition for adding and dropping classes, helps the assistant dean with student files, sends files to university archives, adds new student files, and helps with projects in the financial aid office. He works about sixteen hours per week in the office.
He was drawn to this role because he was interested in seeing how Harvard works from the inside and has seen how the whole GSAS works from the inside out and has seen the entire cycle of a student, from outreach to application to admission to enrollment and out on to graduation and beyond to alumni. He has learned internal procedures, how the administrative board handles cases, and how student records are administered. It was really a personal interest and curiosity that drove him to apply and see the entire chain of procedures.
He has worked in more than one GSAS office in different roles, working at the office of residential life in the summer and also helping in the financial aid office, simply because he wanted to learn more and was interested in university procedures. He has had an interest in higher education throughout his life and he is taking the opportunity to see how an institution of higher education at this caliber works and hopefully he can bring this back to the Dominican Republic with him.
His experience as a student employee has been overall positive. He has had to make some sacrifices because he is busy, but says he works better when he has his time well planned and scheduled. He is taking four classes on top of his job and is more productive when busy. As a student worker he must organize his time and be more responsible. Because he sees how decisions are made from the inside, whenever there’s a major plan or announcement, he understands the background and what led up to that decision being made, so he understands the reasons behind it and is not caught off guard.
The most rewarding part of his job is when he gets to put students at ease, especially PhD students who are under a lot of pressure and stress from their degree programs. It can be overwhelming if the stress of navigating through the school system is added on, so he likes to make the students’ lives easier. He feels he is in a unique position of serving as a middle man between being able to tell the administration what problems the students are facing while also being able to tell the students the knowledge he has gained from working with administration.
Aside from his job at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he is the secretary of "The Religious Nones", people who are not affiliated to organized religion at the Divinity School, he is an admissions ambassador at HDS where he volunteers on admitted students day by calling admitted students and answering any questions they have and welcoming them, and is currently also learning American Sign Language as a way to engage with the Boston Deaf community.