Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
I had been working in state and local politics for over 20 years and had been researching the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). My goal was to generally further my education with respect to government, but also to find an opportunity to further my research of women’s equality. The logistical challenge of flying from Portland, Oregon, to Boston every week was challenging, but the entire experience totally exceeded my expectations. The education I received in this program was the key and the instigator in motivating me to try to pass a state ERA in the Oregon Constitution, which we did overwhelmingly via direct initiative in 2014.
How has this experience helped you in your career or personal development?
The experience of this program has given me a far more in-depth understanding of the challenges of human rights in the United States and globally, and has helped me hone my strategies for future work to bring equality to women.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Harvard Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect was narrowing my thesis topic because the vastness of what I learned meant I was incredibly tempted to take on a much broader thesis topic. The most rewarding was the teachers, without question, and my advisors—working with this incredible team to not only further my thesis but really to push me beyond boundaries that have become some of my new projects.
Because I had a great team, I was able to narrow my thesis topic. As a result, I was able to create a constitutional statute and change a state constitution. I was totally inspired and encouraged the entire way through. I had a natural desire to try things, to take on new ideas, and to broaden my thinking. I felt comfortable enough to be wrong, knowing the end goal for Harvard and me was to create positive change. Also the curriculum was magnificent! I will be pursuing a few certificates because of it. The entire program is at the highest level. It is unbelievably amazing.
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
I was able to manage the rest of my life more easily because I had this purpose that gave me never-ending energy. I knew why I was there, which was to broaden my education and learn more about the ERA, but I had no idea all of it would move me to change my state constitution. Everything in my life was easier to prioritize because I was never held back in this intellectual pursuit to learn and create change, and that alone meant the positive energy went to all areas of my life.
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.