After two years working as MCO’s Program Coordinator, Lindsay Guest was appointed MCO Program Administrator in August. Her role has expanded to include comprehensive management of the program, and she now serves as the primary program advisor to MCO graduate students.
“On the operations side, I do everything from managing our admissions process, student progress, database management, event planning, etc,” Guest explains. “And on the advising side of my role, I really serve as a sounding board and guide for our students to navigate grad school. So students can come to me about things like lab rotations, preparing for their candidacy exam, accessing resources around Harvard, really anything that comes up during their time here.”
Guest works closely with the Program Directors and Assistant Director of Graduate Programs Fanuel Muindi on the MCO program’s planning and development. “I’m also working on integrating students more into those conversations,” says Guest. “Grad students really are the experts on their own experience, and I think they have a lot to offer.”
She adds,“Grad school is stressful, and I’m looking forward to finding ways to let students know that they’re important and they belong here.”
These efforts have impressed the faculty and staff she works with. “Lindsay has gracefully taken the reins to help guide the program through the pandemic’s virtual period, on our way back to in-person reality,” says MCB faculty and MCO Program Director Craig Hunter. “The key to an effective graduate program is as Fanuel often says, ‘communication, communication, communication’ and Lindsay’s natural rapport with graduate students and faculty is serving both very well.”
MCB faculty and MCO Program Director Victoria D’Souza adds,“Lindsay is a perfect fit for MCO’s vision: She has incredible organizational skills that keeps the wheels of MCO continuously turning, but most importantly, she is a strong student advocate who cares deeply about their experiences and academic success.”
Guest is loosely following in the footsteps of her parents, who were both school guidance counselors. Growing up in the town of Brunswick, Maine, Guest learned to value not only education but also the great outdoors. As a kid, her hobbies included teaching herself musical instruments—she played flute in band class but also learned to play piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone by fiddling with the instruments at her friends’ houses—and “playing in the woods whenever possible.”
Sports were also important to Guest growing up. Always active, she ran track in high school and was on the lacrosse and field hockey teams in college. Guest is still an avid runner and plans to run a marathon before she turns forty. “I’ve still got a few years!” she says.
Among school subjects, biology was Guest’s “first love.” She entered Vassar College intending to major in it but later switched to psychology. “It’s so interesting to be working in a biology department; all these things come back to me like, ‘Ah, I remember learning about this!’” Guest says.
After graduating, Guest was considering a career in mental health counseling and took a job at MIT’s Mental Health and Counseling Center. “I liked to call myself a therapist matchmaker,” she recalls. “Being a big university, there aren’t enough staff to regularly see and treat the entire population [of MIT students and staff]. So we would refer out.” Guest’s job was pairing MIT graduate students and staff with external mental healthcare providers. Although she enjoyed the university administration environment, she realized that she did not, in fact, want to pursue clinical work.
The next role Guest tried was realtor. Boston-area realty is “brutal,” she says, and the pay is commission-based. She enjoyed working with the people in real estate but was less keen on the instability. After a couple of years as a realtor, she took on a second job as a bartender.
One night, after a long apartment search that ultimately led to no commission, Guest was talking with the woman she had helped search for an apartment. “She felt so bad that I had worked for so many months to help her find a place…We got to talking, and she mentioned she was hiring,” Guest recalls.
The woman worked in Harvard’s GSAS Residential Life office. Guest remembers asking, What if you hired me?
“She was like, ‘Are you serious?’” Guest says. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to switch careers…I want to do something a little more solid and [that] feels more substantial than trying to convince people they should spend $4,000 a month on rent.’”
That conversation led Guest to her first Harvard job as a staff assistant in GSAS Residential Life. She enjoyed it but wanted a role where she could interact more with students and grow professionally.
Now, with the MCO program, Guest feels she has found her niche. “The work I do on the administrative side is obviously critical—it keeps the program running,” she says. “I’m the glue that holds everything together. But, at the end of the day, it’s the people who are important. It’s about the students and their wellbeing.”
She adds, “It’s important to me to be able to serve people throughout their educational experience, and I am thrilled to work in a department, to have more access to grad students, and to help them through their time here.”
While she is excited about her new role, the feeling is also bittersweet. Assistant Director Fanuel Muindi has served the MCO community for almost 6 years, and that position will be coming to an end in the spring. Muindi and Guest have worked together closely, and Guest credits Muindi with much of her success. “I came to MCB with no experience working in a biology department. It had been many years since I even thought about biology,” she says. “Fanuel never had an ounce of doubt that I would be just fine and do well in my role. He has been the best mentor I could ever ask for. He has been instrumental in my professional growth, and he has also been a good friend. I will miss him greatly, and can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me, and for MCO.”
Muindi, in turn, has nothing but praise for Guest. “As I complete my tenure here at MCO, it’s been an honor to have worked with Lindsay in these last two years and witness first-hand her energy, dedication, focus, kindness, curiosity, and passion that she brings to MCO,” Muindi says. “Lindsay is the type of person that goes above and beyond what is required of her and thinks multiple steps ahead. She is not afraid to ask the hard questions which will be critical in her new capacity. The promotion is well deserved, and I have no doubt that the program will soar to new heights with her as the Program Administrator.”