Tips on Cross Registering for an HBS class (Navigating an Unnecessarily Complex Process)

You in an HBS class

I’ve gotten quite a few questions about how to navigate HBS’s byzantine cross registration process, so I thought I would share some words that I sent to a fellow classmate in case anyone else was interested.

First, don’t be afraid! Cross registration can be daunting, but once you get to the class, it’ll be worth it.

ZERO STEP: Peruse the Course Listing
Check out the many interesting HBS classes, and find one that is open to cross registrants. The class I took was “Leading and Governing High-Performing Non-profit Organizations” and was taught by Alan Grossman. I highly recommend it!

FIRST STEP: Scheduling
Make sure the class fits in your schedule. HBS’s schedule is ridiculous and, I suspect, purposely difficult for anyone outside of the HBS world. They have classes that fall on “X” days and “Y” days, which are not compatible with HKS’s schedule at all — or any schedule that makes sense. X classes are generally M, T, W during the time block, while Y classes are generally W, Th, F. The only way you can fit an HBS class into your schedule is if you don’t have another class during the same time block all week — for example, my class last year was at 8:30-9:50 am, X schedule, so some weeks the class was M&T, others it was M&T&W, and still others it is T&W. Since I had no other classes all week between 8:30-10, I was fine.

SECOND STEP: Contact the Professor
I would contact the professor and tell him/her that you are interested in cross registering. If the class was like my class last fall, all non-HBS students had to apply to join the class, and they only had a limited number of spots. Email the professor and give him a brief blurb about why you want to take the class and how your experience will add value to the class — HBS is all about “adding value.”

THIRD STEP: Go to Class
Then just go to the first day of class, and obtain the professor’s signature for your petition form. There might be an application or lottery. My professor made us write a short essay with our experience and how we’d add value to the course. Make sure you talk to professor after or before class, tell him who you are, and reiterate how much you want to take this class.

After a couple of days, the professor will inform you if you made the cut, and you have to obtain his/her signature. After you get the signature, you just submit the form to HBS’s registrar office, and that’s that.

In terms of the actual class… That’s a whole ‘nother story. Some cross reg students felt really behind on some of the business school jargon and financial aspects of the class. Case method takes a bit to get used to, but once you get the hang of it — and how cutthroat HBS’ers are — it’ll be fine. I’ve attached an unofficial guide to HBS case method for cross reg students, which you’ll probably get if you get into the class.

One other thing, when you get to class on the first day, the seat that you sit in will be your seat for the rest of the semester. The best seats to sit in are in the middle section and not the front row. HBS’ers generally will get to class WAY early to snap these seats up because they are valuable. The professor generally calls on the middle seats the most because those seats are in plain sight. It’s harder for him to see people who sit in the front rows and also on the side seats. Get to class early and snap up a middle seat. This is also a good way for you to meet some HBS students. I wish I knew this because I sat in the front row off to the side, and it sucked. Almost all of the cross reg students sat on the sides or the front rows because we didn’t know.

Lastly, don’t get intimidated. The HBS class I took last year was one of the best classes I’ve taken at Harvard! And it’s great to get out of the HKS bubble! Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck.


UPDATE: Link for the list of HBS classes is here, and link to find out what time each HBS class meets is here.

Why has it proven so difficult to create more good urban schools?

My fall semester at Harvard has been a great mental playground. I learned a ton about the enormity of the problems with our national education system while also starting to dream up some potential solutions. I recently wrote a business plan for a national social venture that aims to solve some of our nation’s issues, and below is a portion of an essay that I wrote that catalyzed that plan. The prompt was “Why has it proven so difficult to create more good schools in the US, particularly in urban areas?”

Stronger Schools from Stronger Communities

The exploding growth of the American economy in the past century created a platform for incredible educational opportunities for middle and high-income communities, while simultaneously limiting educational opportunities for those in low-income communities. In his book Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol (1991) gives us a disturbing view of how high poverty East St. Louis was plagued by struggling schools that are choked by a lack of resources. The problems of creating and scaling effective schools in urban America are due to the pervasive social inequities inherent in low-income communities like East St. Louis. In order to tackle this root cause, solutions need to address the social context in high poverty communities. A promising solution lies in building a strong network of support within and around schools in low-income communities to provide a network of comprehensive wrap-around services for students and families, while promoting the school as a community hub.

Critics would argue, however, that creating such a network of services to fight poverty is not only beyond the scope of schools, but also beyond schools’ means. I contend that building this network of support within and around schools in high-poverty urban areas is a small price to pay for positive results. Another solution is to give families school choice so that students can theoretically attend schools that provide a higher level of academic and social support for students and families. Yet because we want sustainable solutions, we must build scalable solutions that start at the local community level. By building a strong network of support within and around schools, students will do better academically and families will have more access to the services they need to lift themselves—and their communities—out of the shadow of poverty.

Poverty Bleeds into Schools

In urban communities, students bring the most pervasive social issue—poverty—into school everyday. As stated in the Coleman Report (1966), “A school’s poverty level is a stronger predictor of how a child will fare in school than any other factor save the child’s own socioeconomic (SES) background.� Attending a high poverty school likely means that the student comes from a high poverty family and community. As Traub described, “educational inequality is rooted in economic problems and social pathologies too deep to be overcome by school alone� (2000). The current educational system cannot handle and sustain the heavy case management required to help students and their families deal with the plight of poverty. When students face problems, like health and dental issues, poor nutrition, violence, gangs, and drugs, school becomes a low priority (Kozol 1991). Because the problems are so commonplace and the interventions are “so slow and heavily encumbered with red tape�, teachers and administrators’ perceptions of normalcy have become skewed; they learn to operate and live with the glaring social issues (Kozol 1991, 21).

We can see then that high poverty urban schools are unable to swiftly address student needs outside of the classroom because they lack capacity and, furthermore, it has not been the schools’ responsibility or goal to lift students and their families out of poverty. Our society has drifted away from the common school movement of the 1800’s when “spreading prosperity and ending poverty� was an important aspect of creating public schools (Wirt and Kirst 2005, 32). In this day and age there is no unified expectation for schools to address student needs that stem from poverty, and thus schools have no incentive to do so. However, if students’ basic needs—like housing, health care, nutrition, and safety—are not adequately met, we also cannot expect schools alone to compensate for the consequences of poverty (Warren 2005).

A Network of Community Partnerships

It is interesting to note, however, that in any given urban community, a myriad of external service providers already exists to support low-income students and families. The issue seems to not stem from the dearth of social services, but rather from a lack of direct links between schools and the necessary service providers. In my own work experience at BUILD, a college access nonprofit organization, we provided direct services to students in low-income communities like East Palo Alto and Oakland, California. I observed that while there were a plethora of service providers in the East Palo Alto and Oakland, they almost never collaborated or shared resources with schools and with each other. Furthermore, many of the service providers had only marginal relationships with the surrounding schools. While the service providers perceived that they were doing good work in the community, there was only a tangential relationship with surrounding schools during the fall recruitment season.

By consciously partnering with community development organizations, schools can work together with the community to directly raise the level of social and economic health of families. By addressing problems that students face in a holistic manner (e.g. if students had adequate healthcare, received proper nutrition, and were safe from violence and drugs), students would be healthier and safer and schools would thrive. However, there is a link missing between service providers because oftentimes schools do not build relationships with them.

By strengthening the schools’ relationships with external service providers and also connecting service providers with one another, we strengthen the network that can support not only students, but also families. It is not enough for external service providers to fill a void that schools are unable to because teachers and counselors often do not have the capacity to research service providers, pick out ones based on a student’s need, and refer them to the appropriate one. However, if a school is the hub of a community, we can create a centralized and organized system that connects teachers, students, families and service providers in an efficient manner with one another. This centralized system could serve as an efficacious information-sharing process that students and their families can use to access services—like homeless shelters, job training programs, and food banks—that will likely improve their livelihoods.

Continue reading Why has it proven so difficult to create more good urban schools?

Seven Weeks Left in the Bay Area

I have these gigantic 3 ft by 2 ft calendars on my wall to see all of our activities and events for the upcoming three months. Since today was June 1, I took down my May calendar, and put up the July and August calendars… And then it hit me. I’m not even going to be working at BUILD in August! My last day at the org is July 16, and I have about seven weeks left at this organization that I called home for five years. A few days after my last day at BUILD, I’m driving down to Las Vegas to spend time with my family, and then flying to Boston to find an apartment. Crazy.

Over the last few days I’ve been trying to brainstorm all of the things I want to do/get done in the Bay Area before I leave, so below is my audacious (narrowed down) list of fun things to do. If you are around and available, please join me!

Fun things to do before I leave

One of my favorite places in the city, Dolores Park
One of my favorite places in the city, Dolores Park


  1. Pacifica Beach Trip: Surfing & L&L Hawaiian BBQ
  2. Napa Wine Tasting
  3. SF Pride!
  4. Mistro (Mission/Castro) Crawl: Mission mural tour, picnic at Dolores Park, Castro Slides
  5. Yoga Classes: Darren Main, Janet Stone, Rusty Wells, Pete Guinosso, Dina Amsterdam & of course, Eric Kobrick‘s Yoga en Espanol in preparation for Spain trip
  6. Golden Gate Park & Presidio: Yoda Statue & CA Academy of Sciences
  7. Hiking: Muir Woods, Mt. Diablo
  8. Singing: Karaoke at the Mint (which is a given!), SFGMC Pride Concert

My Favorite Restaurants

  1. Back-A-Yard in Menlo Park

    My heaven: Back-a-Yard Caribbean Food!
  2. Cha Cha Cha in the Mission
  3. Sushi Time in the Castro
  4. Sol Food in San Rafael
  5. Front Porch in Bernal Heights
  6. El Zocalo in Bernal Heights
  7. Zante’s Indian Pizza in Bernal Heights
  8. Taqueria Cancun in the Mission

New Restaurants that I want to check out

  1. Lucky Chance’s Filipino Buffet in Colma
  2. Mission Pie in the Mission
  3. Thanh Long in the Sunset
  4. Pi in the Mission

Anything else I need to add to this already ridiculously long list? And again, join me!

As per usual during the summers, not only is it going to be filled with sunshine and renewal, but also a lot of traveling.

Tentative Summer Plans

  • June 12 – BUILD Graduation
  • June 24 – SFGMC Pride Concert
  • June 26-27 – SF’s 40th Pride
  • July 7-11 – College Summit Workshop at University of the Pacific
  • July 14-16 – BUILD All-Staff Retreat
  • July 16 – Last Day at BUILD
  • July 20 – Last Day in SF
  • July 21 – Drive to Las Vegas for Faustino Family Time
  • July 28 – Fly to Boston
  • August 4-8 – College Summit Workshop at University of Southern California – Also my Rap Director Certification workshop!
  • August 10-22 – Trip to Spain’s Mediterranean Coast with Karla
  • August 24 – Harvard Kennedy School Orientation
  • September 1 – First Day of School!

Taking the Next Big Leap after BUILD

After five amazing years at BUILD, I’ve chosen to take the next big leap in my life: this summer I’m going to graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Yes, I’m going back to school! I’m moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts! I’m going to Harvard! 2010 is truly the year of leaping and landing.

I’ll have more to say about BUILD over the next few months as we go through transition — I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the last several years, and very optimistic about what the future holds. I’m deeply indebted to the BUILD staff for believing in me, challenging me and trusting me with our flagship site. All of our amazing mentors, volunteers, and board members have been crucial to BUILD’s success as well, and I would be remiss if I did not thank you all.

And I especially am grateful to our BUILD students and alumni, who continually inspire me to do the work that we do and show me that our society’s educational inequities and problems CAN be solved… even if it is one student at a time.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll have more to say about my Harvard experience as I transition to the East Coast. Ya’ll know that education is extremely important to me — and I specifically wanted to model that by going back and getting more education. Special shout out to my parents for instilling the love of learning in me! And they say it takes a village… to raise a child, and then send that child to college, and then to send that child to grad school. I want to communicate a deep gratitude to all of the people who aided me throughout the application process: Oudete, Karla, Chantal, Suzanne, Larisa, Sal, Tim, Amber, Craig, Kenyon, Alex, Jim, Amber, Sandie, Regan, Steve, Adriana, Elizabeth, Tony, Jed, Richie, Bola, and of course my family–Mom, Dad, Francis & Rachel. I literally could not have taken this gigantic next step without you!

Below is a note I sent out to everyone in the BUILD Family, with a little bit more explanation for why I chose to go to Harvard.

Onward & upward!

Dear BUILD Family,

Over the last five years, BUILD has grown in significant ways. We have expanded into three sites with a robust, life-changing and innovative program. I have had the privilege of working with phenomenal BUILD students, aiding their growth into confident young entrepreneurs and college students. And I have had the opportunity to work with talented community members and partners, like you, in the fight for educational equity. I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together in my five years at BUILD.

This summer I am about to embark on another personal journey. It is with careful thought and great anticipation that I want to let you know that this will be my last school year with BUILD. In August, I will pursue a master in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Pursuing my education in this country has been a lifelong dream. This next step will allow me to be a better leader for communities of youth in our country and around the world. After delving deeper into education policy in graduate school, my goal is to affect systemic, transformational change in the education sector at national and international levels. Although it is hard for me to even imagine leaving BUILD (and California!), I would be a hypocrite if I did not take risks in the way we ask our students to.

The BUILD Peninsula site is in good hands. Nicole Oppenheim, our current E1 program manager, will be the next site director of the BUILD Peninsula site, and I have the utmost confidence that she will lead the Peninsula team to achieve new and exciting heights. Her management experience and innovative vision and implementation of our freshman year program showcase her qualifications for the site director position.

My last day at BUILD will be on July 16th, and I encourage you to please reach out directly if you have any questions before I leave in the summer. I am equally available on phone or email.

Thank you for our relationship, your continued support of BUILD and your partnership in the fight for educational equity.

With deep appreciation and gratitude,


PS – Because of the transitions, we are hiring an Academic Program Manager and an E1 Program Manager at the Peninsula site as well as a few other positions in Oakland, DC and our Headquarters. Please check out our website for more information and please spread the word:

PPS – I’d love to stay in touch with you: Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter