It was 97 degrees in late May and a heat advisory warning was in effect for the greater Boston area. Having completing dual degrees in a MA in Sustainable International Development and Social Impact MBA, I was about to graduate from The Heller School. Professors, staff, friends, family, and colleagues were all seated together in a large tent on the great lawn where we withstood the heat to listen to inspiring words and cheer on the names of the graduating students. Although it may seem ironic that the one day of extreme temperatures coincided with graduation, considering our studies were achieved during already unprecedented times, it seemed quite fitting.
We had commenced our studies shortly before or during the pandemic and became accustomed to remote and hybrid learning. While sitting and listening to my peers’ speeches, I was humbled and reminded of the different paths that we each took to lead to the present moment, the completion of our graduate studies at The Heller School. I felt the immense privilege to have been granted the opportunity to study higher education, a right that not everyone can access due to factors such as financial, political, and religious barriers.
When I reflect on the past two years, I have made many incredible friendships with students from all over the world that came to study at this esteemed university. Although it feels surreal that I am graduating, I feel gratitude and accomplishment. From a young age, I struggled with comparing myself to my peers and never having the self-confidence to think that I could achieve success in my career. It was not until completing my undergraduate degree in 2015 that I decided that achieving a Master’s degree would be a future goal. Growing up, my educational journey was difficult, and I had to work twice as hard or more than my peers. Despite being a hard worker and achieving many academic accomplishments, I was not immune to imposter syndrome.
During my 2-year Peace Corps service in Guatemala, I began to feel more confident in my skills and ability to engage deeply with stakeholders and design and manage projects to scale. I had successfully co-designed and formed 3 women’s beekeeping groups, and it was through this experience that I became interested in social enterprise. I knew that pursuing a Master’s degree would provide me with the skills I desired as a leader. l became passionate about how entrepreneurship could be used as a tool to bring about economic development in rural global communities. The Heller School aligned with my interests and provided me with the opportunity to complement and develop my skills in social impact management and international development.
Once the ceremony finished, I quickly walked to the shade under a beautiful tree nearby to take photographs. Happy that my family made the journey to New England from Los Angeles to celebrate with me, I was overjoyed to be surrounded by the people that had supported me these past two years. Following graduation, my parents and I toured New England, traveling to Rhode Island and Maine. I am so grateful and lucky to have graduated from The Heller School, although my studies have come to an end I know the relationships that I have formed will remain. Now onto the next phase…