Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?
I was looking for a high-quality education in a specific field at a price I could afford. I needed flexibility and schedule options because I was working full-time and had a family. My rigorous search led me to Harvard Extension. Not only did I find exactly what I was searching for, but I found the opportunity to earn a degree from the world renowned institution that is Harvard. I also realized that I was joining others that not only wanted the best education for themselves, but wanted to learn and grow from each other to make a difference in this world.
How has/will this experience help you in your career or personal development?
I thought that after I earned my degree, I’d have wider opportunities available with my expanded skill set. What I actually found was that I didn’t have to wait until after graduation. I was able to apply what I was learning in school to the working environment that I was still in and was given more challenging roles as a result. There’s no doubt in my mind that this experience will continue to help me in my career and personal life.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my time at Harvard was making time for everything. To be honest, what I learned quickly was that there wasn’t time for everything. I learned to say no to the less important things so I had more time for the things I cared about: faith, family, school, work, and (some) fun.
The most rewarding aspect of my time at Harvard is the growth that occurred. As soon as I began taking classes, I was learning and applying new concepts. I could tell that my professors cared about the material they presented and how their students could actually use it. They challenged me to get better with each assignment and project. At the end of the day, I know I’ve grown substantially because of my time at Harvard.
In what ways did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you over the past year? How did you manage those challenges?
Like most, COVID-19 had a dramatic effect on my work and family situation. All at once my family went from being in separate spaces doing our normal daily routines to all of us trying to get those very different things done in one common space. At the same time, my wife became sick and we were told to treat it as if she had tested positive for COVID. My world turned upside down as I was trying to not only continue my normal school schedule, which was luckily already online, but to learn how to work from home, take care of my sick wife, help my three kids adjust to online learning, and take over all household duties.
I managed this in a few ways: I prayed, I kicked my planning and time management abilities into a new gear, and I accepted help from others. We had a wonderful church community that stepped in right away and supported us. Had I kept my old “I can handle it” mentality, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled it. I learned a big lesson about not trying to do it alone and that we can all find opportunities to help others. Sometimes a single meal for someone can make a giant difference.
What was your online learning experience like? How did you ensure success as a distance student?
My online learning experience was great. The technology that we used, the professors that we had, and the willingness of other students to learn in this environment were amazing. To make sure I was successful as a distance student, I made sure at the beginning of each semester that I had all of the recommended tools and materials in place well before they were needed. I prepared a dedicated space for learning: quiet, minimal distractions, and access to the materials and supplies I needed. I also set and kept a strict schedule and planned school, work, and family activities well in advance.
Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?
There are two people that made a huge difference for me at Harvard. Lynn Larsen, my advisor, was always available and always provided the help I needed. She made time for me to meet with her, she listened to my goals and objectives, and she helped me chart the perfect path for me through this program. Teo Nicolais taught the two best classes I’ve ever taken. His passion, not only for the real estate industry, but for students to learn, grow, and have the best educational experience, is truly inspiring. I sincerely thank you both for the impact you’ve made.
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.