FROM HARVARD TO HIGHER GROUND – WHY I AM HERE

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One of the chief reasons for which I applied to study at HKS is to gain access to the broad thought processes of a quality network of Professionals and Faculty across the private, public and social sectors and deepen my understanding of International Best Practices in Public Service and Leadership. During my time at HKS, I am focusing on Public Policy, Political Participation, Economic development for emerging Economies and Social entrepreneurship.
I am a patriot; fiercely passionate about my country and our collective development as a People ​but my country is currently going through hard times majorly as a result of a crisis of authentic and visionary leadership that has lingered through Generations.
Each day I spend at HKS in my classes or in the multiple policy focused side events with top rate A Level Executives from all walks of Life, I am gaining more clarity on what Nations are doing and must do 1. to engender equality and prosperity amongst their Citizens 2. to rely more on Institutions and not just the whims and caprices of ​few ​Individuals 3. to foster thriving democracies through power shifts and to learn International best practices in mobilizing Global Change 4. to make social, domestic, fiscal and other policies with a sense of care, diligence and empathy for citizens. ​
I am benefiting from the pool of knowledge and networks of students from more than 90 Countries covering Africa, Central/America, United States, Asia and the Middle East {HKS is the most diverse and international School of Harvard University and I write this proudly}, some of whose failures have led to revolutions that birthed radical change and others, whose institutions and governance systems have improved their education, infrastructure, health care, clean water, youth employment, open government, human rights and other issues ​that ​take the front line because their Leaders were prepared for the exigencies, rigour and responsibilities​ of Public Service.

There’s something about Harvard​​ that subtly compels or more or less, inspires you to dare to be different and focus on a Course that’s great than self. ​Perhaps, the most exceptional people I have met in all the 3 Decades and 3 years I have lived on Earth are here within the Harvard Community.
The diversity in Careers, Competencies and Countries at the Harvard Kennedy School is enriching in all ramifications and it shows a thoughtful selection process that helps students get value for the financial investment we’ve made, the sacrifices of leaving our exciting jobs and careers behind by giving us an immersive learning experience from the Program in an atmosphere that allows the free flow of ideas and creativity.
With all these, I still do not feel under pressure to be perfect but it is a Higher Calling for me to “BECOME MORE” and seek out sustainable solutions to the most critical problems my people face back home. The readings are enormous; the home work is a dime a dozen and the activities and opportunities for Career Advancement are so robust and relevant to my next level Career Plans. By the way, the fun in these climes make up for our sleepless nights of studies; we organize parties and pub crawls, we go to watch football games and host the dandiest baby showers. We have talent shows and even get the chance to gather over 100 students to act as Senators of the US Congress, using role plays, analytical and negotiation skills we’re taught in class to act out the Legislative process in the Kennedy Senate Simulation. I even got a chance to volunteer in one of the campaigns in the just concluded US Presidential elections and glean life lessons for my own future Political activity.
​During the summer Program, I wondered how Statistics was useful for me in any way and then within a couple of days, I discovered that Big Data, GDPs and Internally Generated Revenue of Countries are calculated with high level Quantitative Methods and a lot of macro and microeconomics​ that as Leaders, we should be able at the very least, be able to understand and interpret even if we have subordinates who will do the computing and analysis. In one of my classes, I was part of a group of 4 students given the responsibility of process re-engineering in a Community Hospital; with no prior public health knowledge or experience, it was daunting but I pulled through with the support of my very warm and helpful Professor and colleagues and the immersion I went through in that Class Project emphasized the need for versatility for Public Servants because you must be able to show comprehension and mastery in addressing the multiple varying travails in your constituencies. I must not forget to give credit to my attentive Program Director and Advisor, Suzanne Shende, my Genius Quant Professors, Deb Hughes Hallet and Marian Stas and my ever-kind Dean of Students, Karen Weaver.
Businesses are Good. Non-Profits and Civil Society are great too but it is the Government that make the Policies upon which​ ​the economic and total Development of Nations depend.
My advice to prospective students is that you should begin to write your essays early, your recommenders should be people who are very familiar with your past work activities and future career goals and therefore have germane information to share about you in a way that brings your personal narrative close to home. Ensure your depth of thought in your Essays are specific and also include what unique ingredient you will be bringing into your cohort if you get admitted for your Program.
For the women, this is an amazing Community that supports Spouses and Families and yes I resumed for the Summer Program with my 5 and half month-old baby daughter and my Husband who also got a J2 Visa that made him eligible to work during this 1-year period. ​HKS is a safe space and you should not let the fear of the cost keep you from applying. Harvard does provide funding information for students and my personal testimony is that if you’re unable to for any reason to secure a scholarship within the Harvard ecosystem, hard work can yield results.
The Learning points here transcend Academic assignments and ​I’m all set to morph​​ into a well-rounded Professional Public Servant with better know-how of how the roles of social, private and public sectors all work in unison for the greater good of Communities and Countries. We’re allowed to cross register and take Courses in other universities like Tufts, MIT, Harvard Business School etc. It’s a liberal institution that embodies a good balance of fairness, discipline, skills set, academic excellence, raw talent and an original passion to change lives and transform communities. Everyone is an email away; all our Professors and Deans are highly accessible.
The most difficult part of this whole Journey will be when we graduate and leave Harvard one day and sadly, we cannot carry the HKS hi-tech people and plant infrastructure across the world and in our cozy Libraries and classes away with us; we will have to return to our countries and use the tools and human networks Harvard has handed to us to build and replicate the successes in Developed Countries in our own Enclaves and I want to see more Nigerian and African Representation here, so please, move an inch towards greatness and consider applying in the future. I look forward with Joy.
TAO

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