The Mittal Institute’s interns each have the drive and ambition to serve their communities and perform research to advance the greater good of our increasingly linked world. Their unique experiences and skills have been invaluable to our team, and we’d like to take the time to recognize and thank our graduating interns. Today, we’re introducing Preksha Singh, who will graduate this month with an Ed.M degree focusing on Mind, Brain, and Education. Originally from Navi Mumbai, India, Preksha came to Harvard in the fall and quickly became an asset to our team.
We caught up with Preksha to learn more about her experience as a Harvard grad student and how her studies have been altered due to the COVID-19 experience.
What brought you to Harvard?
I am an engineer turned educator. I spent many years experiencing education through different lenses: from coaching school leaders for two years in a public-school system, to experiencing a student’s life for a month in an urban slum of Mumbai, to spending four months traveling to different schools in India — understanding varied education models. These experiences made me realize that education needs to be more personalized, purposeful, and culturally relevant. To further that journey, I needed to develop skills in research and gain technical knowledge of cognitive and non-cognitive factors that impact learning. Therefore, I came to Harvard to get a Masters of Education in Mind, Brain, and Education and learned about the biological, environmental, and psychological factors that impact a child’s learning journey.
What were your initial thoughts on Harvard and its community?
As unreal as it may sound, I was asked not to pursue Harvard by many caring individuals in my life, and yet something within me was convinced to be here, so I entered this space in a mystified state. The grandiosity and access to so many resources were overwhelming for me to begin with. Just over a year ago, I was working with a child who had to promise to use their pencil — costing less than a penny — for more than two weeks, because they couldn’t afford to buy more. But here, I was learning with the best resources in the world. This feeling is still surreal to me. On the other hand, I fell in love with the humility of this community — of my colleagues, professors, and school support system. I really felt cared for and in awe of the intentional efforts that were put in to make us feel that we belong, and I am grateful for that.
If you could go back in time to your first semester at Harvard, what advice would you give yourself? What would you tell incoming students?
I would tell myself to be courageous and not be afraid to be seen. When you interact with professors whose theory you have quoted on multiple occasions, colleagues who have accomplished so much, and learn new information that shakes your perspectives, it is natural to feel lost, question your own self, and sometimes shut down. But believe in your own experience, your own truth, and lead from there. One thing I found useful in my time here was going back and reading my statement of purpose. Re-read the commitment you made to yourself. That really helped me feel grounded and allowed me to open up to new experiences.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your studies and your time at Harvard? How have you adapted your research accordingly?
I am a natural ally and I love things manifesting organically. Bumping into your friends and new people; conversations in the library, over a coffee, before class, after class; and excitement over discovering a talk, an event that aligns with your thoughts, is the essence of the Harvard experience and is a significant loss. Along with my coursework, these factors have contributed profoundly to my research and studies. With COVID-19, it is difficult to get books at the library and have those unplanned conversations, but the silver lining is that I now feel more empowered to look for alternate ways to create my own learning. I am more open to being vulnerable, reaching out for help, and taking a step back when needed. My home environment consists of cooking, meditation, exercise, and virtual get-togethers with friends and family.
How will you continue your work after Harvard?
I am taking forward the skills, knowledge, and mindset that I honed over the past year with me. I am still committed to working toward personalizing education so it is contextual and responsive to the psychological state of a child. However, I am not sure how exactly it will manifest, as several organizations are on hiring freeze and there is a lot of uncertainty, in general, to navigate right now. Either way, I know the Harvard community will stay with me and will continue to support me as I find my path ahead.
☆ All opinions expressed by our interview subjects are their own and do not reflect the views of the Mittal Institute and its staff.