What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect of my time at Extension was pushing myself to believe in myself. I will humbly admit that I spent the entire first semester with a stack of index cards at my side where I would write down all the words I had never heard before!
The most rewarding part of my time was the esteemed and encouraging instruction I found in every class I took. I feel honored to have been able to ask as many questions as I could think of, and receive such practical wisdom during my time at Harvard Extension.
As a distance student, what was the online experience like for you? How did you ensure success?
Because I live on an island in the middle of Washington State, distance learning is the only available option. I found that the faculty treated the online experience just as professionally as when we were in a classroom together.
So in order to ensure my success during online class times, it was imperative that I maintained this professionalism also: I wore work clothes, I did my make-up, I had a pen and notepad at the ready, and I stayed hydrated to keep up. Because the professors did not waste time!
How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities?
My husband, Ben, and I have five children together and we homeschool. I relied on my family to support me during the times when I was working, and they relied on me to set aside specific time for them. When I was studying, I was studying. When I was with the family, I was with the family.
In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community? If you spent time on campus, what was that experience like?
It’s no surprise that Harvard stands out, but honestly, I did not expect the atmosphere at Harvard to be so encouraging. When getting my undergraduate degree, and even now in my informal writers’ groups, the atmosphere tends to feel more tense. It seems like everyone is in it for themselves.
At Harvard, I immediately found that we were not in it for ourselves. We were there, together. I have never seen this effortless camaraderie anywhere else. This positive environment enabled me to complete my studies with a greater depth than if I had been worried or stressed. The human element of Harvard is unparalleled.
Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?
There are so many, I couldn’t possibly pick only one!
I loved Elisabeth McKetta’s proseminar class because she was so enthusiastic about the subject, and about our discoveries! I loved David Barber’s poetry class because I have never witnessed anyone with that degree of knowledge in poetry (plus, he liked my poems!). I loved Elisa New’s Poetry in America courses because she illuminated the span of poetry across land and time.
I also really enjoyed the writer’s residency because I spent an entire week discussing writing with writers!
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.