Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
I found the Harvard Extension School journalism program when I was shopping for graduate programs. I was thrilled at the prospect of accomplishing my educational goals and associating myself with the Harvard community. I also believed that being a HES candidate would help me understand my strengths and overcome some weaknesses in my vocation, and it did just that.
How has/will your HES experience help you in your career or personal development?
My HES experience helped me focus on what I really want to give to my field at this stage in my career. It helped me get “up close and personal” with what I truly value about my vocation and what I find so fulfilling. It helped me reestablish my “north star”—how I want to develop the next chapter after Harvard Extension School.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
There were academic and personal challenges during my time at Harvard Extension School. I faced coursework that stretched me to my previous outer limits in my knowledge and abilities. But that’s why I came to the Harvard Extension School, and I signed up to do that with no holds barred. I asked to be challenged at Harvard Extension School to learn my own caliber for excellence—what I have in me.
A couple of experiences provided me with a remarkable journey at HES. First, the people I met and the friends I made will always be the most cherished part of my journey at HES.
Also, I found “my portion” at HES. Harvard President Larry Bacow’s 2021 College Convocation speech, in which he referred to finding one’s “portion” with a quote from the Talmud, really spoke to me: “It’s the person ‘who rejoices in his or her portion,’ he said. “I hope you will devote luxurious amounts of your time to understanding what truly satisfies you. To rejoice in your portion, you must first find your portion—the endeavor that swells your heart and fills you with a deep sense of satisfaction and wonder…if you are like generations of those who have come before you, many of you will find that special something during your time here.”
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
I don’t really believe in using the word “balance” to describe success with incorporating endeavors, such as earning a degree, into daily life and other responsibilities. I think “balance” is a 21st-century American sociocultural buzzword we use to give value towards packing as much as we possibly can into one day. By definition, it means “an even distribution of the weight of something, allowing things to remain steady.” Yet I don’t believe everything always works out “evenly”, or that life ever remains steady. Instead, I live in “seasons.” Everything continually shifts and changes as we journey from one season to another.
Like many of my HES friends, I came to HES with a plate that was already full of work, family, and personal interests. To make my HES journey a realistic endeavor, I had to adjust some things on my plate to make room for my Harvard Extension School season. That didn’t mean saying “no” to work and family. It meant taking some components in my life and saying, “No, not for now, not during my Harvard season.” Being a Harvard graduate student is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I didn’t want to miss one minute of it. And what some say about true friends during journeys like this one is real; my true friends and family are those who rode this out with me, even on the “messy” days, and are still with me today. Those people who are still by your side on graduation day are the ones you’ll want to invest in during the next season in your life.
In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community?
I was able to connect with the Harvard community in many ways. Of course I made many friends in my classes.
I really enjoyed getting to know the staff at Harvard’s Memorial Church and virtually participating in the daily Morning Prayers services. It’s a tradition that started with the beginning of the school in the 17th century. Morning Prayer services were required for students then. Today, this brief 20-minute non-denominational service allows students to connect with a broad range of faculty and peers in the community.
I also had the unique opportunity of connecting with the Harvard community through the Global Ambassador Program, serving as the southwestern global ambassador in 2020-2022. I found out about the program through engaging in its many virtual events.
Do you have any advice for new students?
My advice for new students is this: if you are going to do this, go all in, no holds barred during this season in your life. Make a personal decision to do that, and then ask your friends and family members for support. Tell them that you want to share this opportunity with them and bring them along for the ride of a lifetime. Ask them to proof your work or quiz you along the way, and they will feel a part of your journey there. Tell them they can give you no greater gift than to support you with it. Then, when they are your guests at graduation, they can take pride that they invested in helping you succeed.
Also, when you extend yourself and contribute to the community, you will touch the soul of Harvard and genuinely integrate with it. You will discover what makes this institution so inspiring and unbeatable. As you become a part of it, it will become a part of you. Help your peers in your classes, and on graduation day, you will take pride in being a part of their journey, too. This is what it means to be “all in” at Harvard and the secret to equipping yourself with what it takes to change the world.
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.