Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
A couple of years after graduating from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, I was working in business and biotechnology, but I found that I missed the sense of satisfaction and growth that comes from learning new skills. My undergraduate degree in India had been focused heavily on technical skill sets. I hadn’t benefited from a liberal arts education that would have exposed me to works of literature and poetry, and the art of writing well.
I was familiar with the Harvard Extension School, so I started looking for courses that would help fill in those gaps and bring that sense of fulfillment. At HES, I found just that and so much more.
The vast array of courses available, the flexibility in schedules, the incredible faculty and teaching assistants, and the warm student community all drew me in. Before I knew it, I had taken a handful of courses and realized that I could apply for a degree program. From that point onwards, the structure of the program was helpful to keep me on track and build a fuller skill set. I am now using that skill set to write a nonfiction book.
How has your HES experience helped you in your career or personal development?
My HES experience complements the rest of my career development by supporting my personal goals. I had always wanted to be a better writer and a more keen reader. The Creative Writing & Literature program taught me those skills through an engaging and rewarding set of courses, which boosted my confidence to take on challenging writing projects.
One of the courses motivated me to start on my nonfiction book project, which has been both personally gratifying, and acts as a refreshingly constructive counterbalance to the rest of professional life, where I work on business and technical content. Besides that, good writing and communication skills are always useful tools, which serve me well in my professional settings, for instance to help me write better emails and make more effective presentations.
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
I met my now wife when I was taking my first course at the HES. Now, we have two children together! Her support, for instance in helping me find times for class and homework, and her interest in my studies have been invaluable. Sharing this journey with her also made it all the more meaningful for me.
Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?
My thesis advisor, Christina Thompson, has been a fabulous mentor over the last couple of years. Her course, Writing a Nonfiction Book, made my pipe dream feel like it could be a reality. I have benefited from her instruction about my writing, and also from how generously she shared her experiences navigating the world of nonfiction publishing.
Do you have any advice for new students?
I benefited from being able to dip my toes with taking just a couple of courses, and then letting those experiences guide the rest of my journey here.
It’s much easier to think about your HES experience initially as a set of a few courses that you could just be taking for fun or to learn something specific. Before you know it, you will learn from peers and faculty about all the other avenues available at the HES and will be able to chart your own path more confidently!
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.