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As graduation nears, we are sadly getting ready to say goodbye to the class of 2013. Our Institute of Politics graduating seniors have helped shape our programming over the past four years and have already achieved so much in the world of politics and public service. Leading up to graduation, we are highlighting some of our seniors to showcase their accomplishments, knowng they truly will go on to change the world. 

Meet Julia Konrad. Julia initially got involved at the IOP through the Citizenship Tutoring program. From there she joined Policy Groups, National Campaign and Community Action Committee. Finally, Julia went on to be elected and to serve as the IOP's Student Advisory Committee's (SAC) Executive Board Vice President for 2012. In the Fall, Julia will begin a Master's degree in Education at Vanderbilt University.  

Why did you get involved at the Institute of Politics?

I began my IOP life through Citizenship Tutoring, a program that matches Harvard students with Harvard employees to help them pass their citizenship exam. I loved the sense of community the program built, reinforcing the idea that within Harvard, we are interdependent and will support one another. I have developed close friendships through that program, both with my classmates and the custodial and dining hall staff of the University. I also developed a love of teaching that I will continue in my graduate work and post-college plans. 

What began as a peripheral experience of the IOP through my tutoring soon became an all-encompassing life. The Student Office was not only my workplace but also the first place I went to relax and enjoy the company of my closest friends. From Citizenship Tutoring, I joined the Policy program to work in the education group, to the National Campaign program and the Community Action Committee.  My interests were driven by friendships and my overwhelming impression that the students at the IOP were some of the most hard-working, passionate, and caring people I could find at Harvard.

 

What is your favorite IOP memory?

Election Night will be not only my favorite IOP memory, but one of my favorite college memories. It was an incredible celebration of many students’ hard work on campaigns, a semester of political discussions, debates, and poll-watching, and the excitement and fun of being with close friends. For me, it was the pinnacle of my time at the IOP, watching our hard work come together in the JFK Jr. Forum, as we colored in the state maps and obsessed over the latest poll numbers.

I am so proud of the community I joined through the IOP and Election Night brought us altogether full force. There was a sense of purpose and hope in the evening that I will never forget.

What was your overall experience with the IOP?

I like to tell my IOP friends that when I am most frustrated with what I see happening in D.C. or elsewhere, I take comfort in knowing that my friends from the IOP are working against those negative trends. There is something incredible about a body of students who are given the resources and encouragement of the professional world to take active roles in the political and public world. The IOP provides an opportunity unlike at any other university I have encountered. Where else can students meet and work for the leading politicians and public servants of the moment? 

Time and time again, I have been most drawn to the IOP’s message to inspire students into careers of public service—an affirmation I truly needed to help guide me to my own career in teaching. While other institutions validate wealth or social status, the IOP teaches lessons of service and public good. Through the inspiring fellows, to service trips, to the endless support provided by the IOP for students who wish to break the typical Harvard mold, we are told we can solve the problems we see and create the change we wish. On the very edge of my time at school, I recognize now how rare such support can be and how lucky I am to have been influenced by it during my four years here.

Why is public service important to you?

Because of the IOP, I have learned the many definitions of public service. Nothing was more instructive than the summer I spent in D.C.; through participating in the Summer in Washington program, I experienced firsthand the myriad of career pathways that lead to public service. From my own Director’s Internship and the discussions and visits that summer, I feel I have a foundation from which to build my own path to public service. 

While my coursework and extracurriculars opened my eyes to issues of social justice in American education, it was the IOP that provided me with the tools of public service to disrupt those patterns. Without the experiences I’ve had at the IOP with true change-makers, I know I would have felt overwhelmed with frustration, instead of inspired to act. The very presence of the IOP at Harvard reminds me of the many people who are committed to equity and political action. I know in future moments of frustration, I will reach out to my friends and mentors at the IOP to continue to support me in my own pathway of public service.

Talk about some of the opportunities the iop provided you.

There are two forms of opportunity I am grateful to have received from the IOP. One is an intangible opportunity, but it takes shape in the countless role models I have met in the forms of the IOP staff, its invited guests, and my Harvard peers. The opportunity to work alongside such professionals who take my ideas and interests so seriously has been invaluable. The professional experience I gained from working with such dedicated public servants has prepared me in ways I could never have expected for my own career.

The other invaluable opportunity I have gained from the IOP is the constant support both financially and personally to follow a career in public service. From the talented staff who guide students to follow their passion to the generous support of the IOP board, there are endless opportunities for undergrads. My Director’s Internship allowed me to work at the U.S. Department of Education in the Secretary’s office and see firsthand the intricacies of a federal agency. It was only because of my placement from the IOP that the Department’s staff cared so deeply about my experience there and went out of their way to ensure I had the most ideal internship possible.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING AFTER GRADUATION?

This fall, I will begin a Master’s program at the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. I will receive my Master’s in Education and a teaching license for secondary education in history and social studies. I am thrilled to continue my love of education work from both a teaching and policy perspective, a dual interest I formed at the IOP. Through working with my tutees in the Citizenship Tutoring program and my peers through leading the Student Advisory Committee as Vice President, I developed a strong interest in working with students. 

I also learned much of the politics of education from my summer in D.C. at the Department of Education and the many leading professionals in education work who come through the IOP’s doors. I hope to continue both interests in my future, but know that it is unlikely to have such incredible support and guidance as I have had in the last four years through the IOP. As I near graduation and the unknown of the next few years, I am reassured by the wonderful IOP staff that they promise to be excited to hear from me, even years in the future. I look forward to staying in touch with the many people who have so formatively shaped my undergraduate experience.