Malka Fleischmann shares her experiences getting a unique degree and her thoughts on finding the right job for you.
1. What is one sentence you would use to describe who you are and what you do?
I love to watch things grow and struggle in the growth process, and, while that might sound strange, I’m fascinated by the ways in which educators and people who cultivate maturation can introduce good questions and colorful stimuli in order to generate meaning, beauty and appreciation of growing pains. Since I am a human think-tank in the education field, I get to do what I love: think abstractly about the dynamics of the education process and about the societal contours and advancements that affect it.
2. Did you take the GRE? If so, what was your experience studying for the GRE like?
I felt fairly certain that the programs in which I was interested would privilege the verbal section. Instead of memorizing word definitions, I focused on Latin and Greek root words, knowing that I could use my knowledge of them to decipher most unfamiliar words I encountered on the test. It worked out pretty well 🙂
3. What program did you attend at Harvard? Why/how did you decide on that program?
I got a Master’s in Comparative Theology from Harvard’s Divinity School. I had developed a pretty strong passion for interfaith work during my time as an undergraduate, and I felt like, were I to pursue it professionally, the world would demand formal credentials. I wanted to be in an actual Divinity School, as opposed to a Religious Studies department, because I wanted the whole experience to be suffused with interfaith community and religious living. I thought it would be especially fascinating to see religious life flourishing in a really liberal, academic, scientifically-minded place, and it was.
4. How do you feel your graduate degree has impacted your career?
I’m sure my degree’s uniqueness draws attention, and I think people respect the intellectual curiosity implied by it, but I think it’s more important that it affected me and my own development. It was a period of my life during which I became more deeply independent and which demanded a level of academic rigor that, at points, really humbled me. I grew into new parts of myself during that time, and, against the backdrop of my colleagues’ sensibilities and religious lives, I also reaffirmed a lot of what I already valued.
5. Do you have any advice for someone interested in working for a non-profit?
I think people assume that the non-profit world is a stage on which passionate people can exercise their ideals. It’s important to remember that non-profit jobs are, at the end of the day, just jobs–there are offices, meetings, tech issues, etc. I also think it’s important to know that the work you do can often depart greatly from your job description and that the people with whom you work will impact your day-to-day as much or more than the contents of your work portfolio. Finally, non-profit or not, finding the things that put you in a state of “flow” is a key part of deciphering which jobs will be, on the whole, satisfying. No job comes without a side of busy work or menial or support tasks, but some will, on balance, afford you the sense that you are living your truth or demonstrating your unique worth and the most skilled parts of yourself. Try to find that job.