Interview with HDS Admissions Staff Assistant, John Rzasa

Post by John Rzasa, Admissions Staff Assistant 

Editor’s Note: Meet John, the HDS Admissions Staff Assistant! When prospective students email admissions@hds.harvard.edu, John is the staff member who responds to their questions. In this article, we asked him a few questions so that you all could get to know him! 

This post was originally written in 2020 and was updated by John in 2021.

Photo Courtesy of John Rzasa

What are your primary responsibilities at HDS Admissions?  

My name is John, and I am the Staff Assistant at HDS Admissions. I respond to emails, answer phones, work on our events and our new events website page, and administer day-to-day office tasks. I also cover other duties and responsibilities as they may come up. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you want the HDS community & prospective students to know about you?  

I’m a fairly boring person!  I have a cat and have a ton of pictures if anyone wants to see them (quite unlike most cat owners, I know). I enjoy bad movies, ones that are far, far worse than B movies. I’ve fallen off a little, but I like to read a variety of fiction; some of my favorite authors are Annie Proulx, Gene Wolfe, and William Gaddis. 

How would you characterize the HDS community?  

Warm and welcoming. I’ve been with HDS Admissions for nearly three years now and was at Harvard Law School for four years prior. In that previous life, I worked with some HDS students who served as teaching assistants, and was impressed by their warmth, good humor, and general kindness. Those interactions made me think about seeking employment at HDS. Once I made the move, I found that those students I had previously met were not outliers and indeed were very representative of the kind and open community here at HDS.   

What is your favorite part of working in the HDS Admissions Office? What do you most look forward to in the admissions cycle? 

If I can put someone at ease or relieve some anxiety about the application process, I’m happy. Applying to any graduate school can be a daunting process, let alone applying to Harvard. I’m also always happy to see admitted students in person, especially since I may have only spoken to them via email previously. Feel free to stop by and say hello!  

Working at the admissions from desk, you’re often the first to greet prospective students. What do you wish prospective students knew before reaching out?  

That we’re here to help. At the risk of repeating myself too much, I’d like prospective students to know that they can ask as many questions as they want of our office. Even if we can’t answer a question, we’ll try to provide additional context or other resources to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out. 

What’s your admissions philosophy? Why is this work important?  

Admissions is (usually) the first point of contact for prospective students, so it is critically important to communicate clearly and warmly with potential applicants reaching out with questions. As I’ve mentioned already, I want to try and make prospective students feel relaxed and less anxious about the process, so they can put their best effort toward their application and have as clear an idea as possible of what HDS is like. 

What advice do you have for prospective students?  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are no bad questions, and the chances are very good that you’re not the only one with a specific question about the admissions process. My job is to provide prospective students with the information and resources they need to navigate the application process and learn more about HDS – so ask away.   

Please email us with any questions you have at admissions@hds.harvard.edu!  

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