Harvard Public Health NOW

February 1, 2008

HSPH Staff Lead Double Lives: Employees by Day, Students by Night

Some Harvard School of Public Health staff members are leading a double life. By day, they work in various administrative roles at the School. By night, they have their noses in the books, pursuing bachelor's and advanced degrees.

Staff Graduates

Back row, l to r, Emily Jeep Klingaman, Siobhan Saint-Surin, Ali Saren, and, front row, l to r, Sherina Epps-Grant, Jeff Adams, and Michelle Gittens. Not pictured is Isabelle Bourdonne.


Seven staff members were honored at a special luncheon in Kresge 110 on December 4. They had identified themselves last spring as having completed or nearing completion of their degree programs. The event was co-led by Paul Riccardi, Dean for Administration and Operations; John Lichten, Executive Administrative Dean; and Christine Ciotti, Associate Dean for Human Resources. Honorees were given HSPH key rings as a gift for "holding the keys to success." Many of the staff members' supervisors also attended.

This inaugural luncheon is envisioned as an annual celebration. Additional staff who have earned degrees will be asked to identify themselves this coming spring for the next celebration.

"I understand and appreciate how difficult it is to go to school and to be an employee," said Riccardi.

Added Audrey Harmon, special assistant in the Office of the Dean, who helped plan the luncheon, "People at Harvard lead multi-faceted lives: administrator by day, student by night. That takes a lot of dedication and commitment."

Many of the employees honored at the luncheon had taken advantage of Harvard's flex time policy and Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP typically allows eligible Harvard staff, faculty, part-time employees, and retirees the opportunity to take classes at a lower percentage of the cost. Flex time allows employees to negotiate specific schedules.

Three hours a week of flex time benefited Isabelle Bourdonne, a staff assistant in the Registrar's Office who earned a master's degree in applied linguistics at UMass, Boston. Her HSPH supervisor, Joann Wilson-Singleton, supported Bourdonne's academic endeavors.

"There was a lot of communication between us in terms of where she was in her program and what she thought her needs were on the academic front. Then, we coupled them with the needs of the office and mapped things out," said Wilson-Singleton.

Siobhan Saint-Surin, a research assistant in the Department of Nutrition, has earned her bachelor of liberal arts after studying at Harvard Extension School. One semester she took three classes and received permission to work four 10-hour days and get one day off to study. Her supervisor, Elizabeth Frost-Hawes, praised Saint-Surin for continuing her studies. "She persevered, and we're proud of her," Frost-Hawes said.

Some employees balanced their work and family responsibilities on top of their studies. Sherina Epps-Grant, a financial associate in the Office of Financial Services, juggled work and classes while taking care of three children. Now, she has a bachelor's of science from Emmanuel College.

Jeff Adams, a project coordinator in the Department of Environmental Health, began taking classes for his bachelor's of science in 1992, but left school when his education funds ran out. Fifteen years later, Adams has earned a bachelor of liberal arts through the Harvard Extension School.

"I was impressed with the level of the classes," said Adams, who plans to pursue a master's in American literature. "You're getting the same hard curriculum students get during the day. I found that challenging and rewarding."

Other staff who were honored in December were Emily Jeep Klingaman, who earned a master's of education from Harvard Graduate School of Education; Michelle Gittens, who earned a bachelor's of science from Northeastern University; and Ali Saren, who earned a bachelor's of liberal arts from Lesley University. All three employees work in Financial Services.

Ciotti congratulated the employees and encouraged others to take advantage of TAP and flex time.

For more information about TAP, flex time, and other programs, contact Human Resources at 617-432-0979.

—Laura Geggel. Photo by Suzanne Camarata.