OGE staff earn higher degrees, build resilience and compassion

June 23, 2021

Several Office of Graduate Education staff members are currently pursuing or have just finished higher degrees. In addition to everything they do for MIT during regular business hours, these staff members are driven to spend time during evenings and weekends to push the boundaries of their own knowledge and skill. The OGE gives kudos to:

Elaine Chen, Assistant to the Dean
MS in Applied Clinical Nutrition, expected completion December 2022
Gaurav Jashnani, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Support & Advising
PhD in Critical Social/Personality Psychology at the City University of New York, expected completion May 2022
Adj Marshall, Grad Families Administrator
MA in Intercultural Leadership and Management, completed May 2021
Charlie Turner, Fellowship Program Assistant
MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, completed May 2021

Why do you love this field?

Elaine Chen: Nutrition is important for everyone. I’ve always believed that nutrition and wellness have the ability to holistically heal people with the proper foods and best practices. I enjoy being a part of the healing process and aiding those in the journey to a healthier wellbeing.

Gaurav Jashnani:I’ve long been interested in the relationship between institutional violence and individual well-being. After my undergraduate, I completed Fulbright research on grassroots responses to child sexual abuse in Argentina, exploring how collective organizing informed the healing and well-being of survivors and their supporters. My dissertation examines student experiences of campus racism and racial justice organizing in higher education, and in many ways continues this thread.

Adj Marshall: People are fascinating! The field of intercultural studies has allowed me to dive deeply into understanding how people learn and lead in cross-cultural spaces. When the physical environments, cultural norms, languages, and/or frames of reference that people experience differ, these elements serve as a jumping-off point for growth and learning. Working to understand how this learning happens is what I love about the field.

Charlie Turner: The power to create anything and have complete control over the world and its inhabitants has always been alluring to me. I’ve been escaping to a notebook or blank Word document ever since I was eight or nine years old, and over the years that hobby has turned into a passion. I’m working on my first novel now, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Did this give you more empathy for our grad students? If so, how?

Elaine Chen: Being a grad student has helped me better understand the many associated commitments and achievements of our grad students.

Gaurav Jashnani: As a doctoral student, my experience has certainly given me more empathy for other graduate students. My research has also provided more insight into the student experience, particularly the ways that meaningful institutional responses to injustice and inequity can contribute to a number of desired outcomes (e.g., improved student psychological well-being, academic achievement, and likelihood of reporting student or faculty misconduct in the future).

Adj Marshall: Being a graduate student while supporting graduate students, particularly those in the writing phase, has for sure allowed me to relate to the experiences that our grad students are having in their own programs of study. 

Charlie Turner: Absolutely! I feel as though my experience in graduate school has made me more patient and understanding in my current role. So many of our students are just looking for a listening ear, and that’s something I also sought out when enrolled in school. I also find myself easily connecting with our students, and wanting to do all that I can to alleviate their stresses, whether it be financial, personal, or academic. 

What was something surprising that you learned?

Elaine Chen: Balancing work and school, along with the ongoings of life — especially during the pandemic — was especially tough. I’ve learned that I had more patience and resilience while balancing work and school, along with the ongoings of life especially during the pandemic. Self care and mindfulness of my wellness was very important as I strived to achieve balance.

Gaurav Jashnani: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in higher education often focuses on campus events, recruitment, and sometimes leadership development for students and faculty of color. But, to be successful, DEI efforts also need to have 1) meaningful consequences for discriminatory and bullying behavior at all levels, and 2) substantial engagement with white community members on anti-racism efforts, particularly those willing to intervene in harmful peer behavior and actively support BIPOC-led efforts to improve campus climate and institutional practice.

Charlie Turner: When you’re sharing your work in a classroom of like-minded individuals, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others. Over my three years in graduate school, I learned to think individually and to focus more on my own writing and talents, rather than continually try and live up to the impossible standards of others. When this finally clicked for me, my writer’s block slowly dissipated and the words began to flow.

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