A Candid, Open Letter to HESA Board Candidates and Voters

Lessons learned in student government

Working with governing student organizations and a number of clubs this past year has been a wonderful and enlightening experience. For a shy introvert like me to end up collaborating with both the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) and the Harvard Graduate Council (HGC)—to help advance their membership communications and social media initiatives—has been quite rewarding and somewhat ironic.

This situation proves that, when we face our fears head-on, and exert the effort to improve ourselves, we can overcome our weaknesses and succeed in achieving our goals. During my term with these groups, I have learned much about which little things are worth sweating, and which big things are worth letting go. I have also learned a lot about the challenges and importance of open communication, team dynamics, leadership, and relationships.

Because politics is icky

Niki Yellow Bird HatThis election cycle, I was too worried that I did not have the political experience and moxie to run a campaign, and so refrained from nominating myself for a position on the board for the 2017-2018 term. I did not want to worry about whether enough people knew me, or liked me, to vote for me. All I knew was that I wanted to continue to be active in the student community, and to be involved in some way to help Harvard students elevate their experience at the Extension School and at the University overall. Thankfully, I don't really need an official title to be able to do that.

When I found out this morning that several of my friends and classmates have launched a campaign to write me in for one or two of the open HESA Director spots, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Alongside this fantastic tingling sensation was a nagging awkwardness that poked at my sides. You see, just last night, I had started reaching out to some of the candidates—to befriend them on Facebook and connect with them on LinkedIn—hoping that I could learn more about them in order to be an educated voter, and perhaps to also allow for potential friendships and valuable professional networks to blossom. I certainly did not expect, nor intend, to be competing against any of them in this election.

Be an informed and conscientious voter

Whom to vote for is your prerogative, and I won't try to sway you one way or another. I would like to encourage you to get to know every single one of the candidates for your own information and peace of mind. Reach out to them, if that would give you more confidence about your decision on whom to elect. Meanwhile, if you have any questions for me, I am available via email, text, or through one of the social media channels linked on my website. If you are a candidate, who would like to ask me about my experiences this past year, or have any questions about being part of HESA, please feel free to get in touch.

You have until 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 30th, to make up your mind. Frankly, I don't care if you write in my name or not. [EDIT: After re-reading that, I realized that my words might be misconstrued as those of an ungrateful child; I apologize. Of course, I would be delighted and grateful, if you do write me in for a director position. But, I will be just as happy to honor whatever the student body ultimately decides.] What I do care about is that you cast your vote for those whom you know have the potential to make a difference. Vote for those whom you sincerely believe can help make your academic and personal journey at Harvard delightful, extraordinary, and unforgettable.