Post By: Alessandra Luedeking, Admissions Officer
Editor’s Note: Meet Alessandra, the Admissions Officer at HDS! Alessandra joined HDS Admissions in April 2021 and is responsible for planning and executing our recruitment calendar here at HDS. In this article, she shares a little bit about her journey to HDS and her advice for prospective students!
Tell us about yourself. What do you want the HDS community and prospective students to know about you?
Hi there! As the Admissions Officer at HDS, I am primarily responsible for planning and executing our recruitment calendar (let me know if you’d like HDS to recruit at your school!), reading and processing our applications, drafting our email communications, managing the team’s graduate assistants, and sitting on the Admissions Committee.
I’m originally from Miami, FL, where I was born to Nicaraguan and German parents. I love the sunshine, Oktoberfest, and a steaming plate of gallo pinto!
I left the palm trees and sandy beaches of Florida for the fall leaves and winter boots of the Northeast to study English and International Studies at Boston College. I graduated in 2017 and volunteered with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as a sixth-grade social studies teacher in the Bronx, NY.
While I loved and grew so much from my experience as a teacher in an underserved community, I was drawn to the administrative side of education because I wanted to learn more about the policies that govern admissions and institutions of higher education. By a stroke of great fortune, I was hired as an Admissions Assistant at Harvard Law School in 2018 and more recently accepted an offer as an Admissions Officer at Harvard Divinity School.
What is your favorite thing about the HDS community and working in HDS Admissions?
I absolutely enjoy the warmth and kindness of the community at HDS. My colleagues are some of the most dedicated and thoughtful individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Similarly, our current students reflect a genuine openness and generosity of their time and talents that inspire me. I am grateful every day to work at HDS.
You’ve recently started graduate school yourself at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE)! What has it been like to step into the student role? What do you plan to study at HGSE and how might it impact your work here at HDS Admissions?
I missed the classroom and learning environment! As I mentioned earlier, my experience teaching in an impoverished, under-resourced, and underserved community instilled a curiosity in me about how the field of education operates, what policies undergird it, and how individuals impact its practice. I applied to the Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship master’s program at HGSE, with the hopes of developing my own sense of ethical leadership and effecting change in the institutions of higher education that will comprise my future professional career. At the moment, my studies help inform the management skills that I am developing to supervise my four awesome graduate assistants and the lens with which I approach reading an application to our degree programs.
What is your admissions philosophy?
Applicants are not “numbers” (aka, a GPA or test score). Each candidate brings a unique story, background, skills, and passions that combine to form a riveting narrative. All of these elements are important to me as I consider the intentional, driven, and service-oriented community we are seeking to build at HDS. I encourage candidates to use their application as an opportunity for self-reflection: How have your past experiences led you to an interest in divinity school? How do your current interests and activities support this intention? How might a degree in theological studies advance your career goals and future pursuits? The answers to these questions tell me just as much, if not more, than a statistic could!
You joined HDS Admissions in April 2021 during an entirely virtual admissions cycle. What are you looking forward to this year as students are coming back to campus?
Despite being an introvert, I have really missed the human connection and interactions that contribute so much joy and meaning to each day (which I had often taken for granted pre-pandemic). I am also a fairly new member of the HDS community, so I’ve really enjoyed meeting my colleagues, seeing the students with whom I interacted virtually all summer, and exploring our gorgeous campus. There’s truly no other place as friendly, warm, and kind as the one I’ve encountered here at HDS!
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Shoot your shot! As the saying goes, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Despite Harvard’s reputation and legacy, the institution is nothing without its students who come from innumerable backgrounds, experiences, talents, skills, and heart. Why couldn’t it be you? My advice: don’t self-select out of the opportunity. Reach out to our office, learn about our programs, take time with your statement of purpose, and submit your application.