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|Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Division of Continuing Education|
|Dean||Henry H. Leitner (interim)|
841 in ALB
2,577 in ALM
Harvard Extension School (HES) is the extension school and one of the twelve degree-granting schools that compose Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, individual courses among the school's liberal arts and professional offerings, a number of which have Harvard College equivalents, are open-enrollment. However, the Extension School also offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates in more than 60 fields of study, provided that a qualifying test is passed, satisfactory grades are obtained in prior Harvard coursework, and a formal application is accepted. Degree candidates and alumni enjoy access to Harvard's many amenities and opportunities.
The school offers on-campus, online, and hybrid courses. It also offers a pre-medical program for students needing specific coursework to apply to medical school. The school is primarily intended for nontraditional adult learners.
Since its establishment in 1910, an estimated 500,000 students have taken courses at the Extension School. Of these, 0.18% earned a degree.
Founded in 1910 by Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell, the Harvard Extension School grew out of the Lowell Institute, which was created according to the terms of a bequest by John Lowell. It was designed to serve the educational interests and needs of the Greater Boston community, particularly those "who had the ability and desire to attend college, but also had other obligations that kept them from traditional schools." It has since extended its academic resources to the public, locally, nationally, and internationally.
During the 1920s, affiliated professors from Boston University and Harvard University traveled around New England to teach courses offsite. While they were primarily aimed at teachers, courses were offered whenever 40 or more students expressed an interest. Professors traveled on a weekly basis to places as far away as Yonkers, New York, some 200 miles away.
In the early years, courses were run by a commission composed of several Boston area schools, though it was largely a Harvard-run program. In 1938, there were 28 professors from Commission faculties, including 11 full professors. Early faculty included Charles Townsend Copeland, William Yandell Elliott, William L. Langer, Oscar Handlin, Perry Miller, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Frank M. Carpenter. In 1953, there was a similar number of professors.
In his will, John Lowell asked his successors to set up courses "more erudite and particular corresponding to the age and wants of the age." By the 50th anniversary of the Commission of Extension in 1960, more than 1,400 courses had been offered for a total of over 85,000 enrollments. Lowell's bequest limited tuition to no more than two bushels of wheat. During the Great Depression, this amounted to roughly $5 per semester course.
Several years after his retirement, President Lowell wrote that the Extension courses "have given a service to the public ... which seems to me of the utmost importance." In 2013, more than 100 years after its founding, the Extension School's classes were described as "surprisingly affordable" and the school itself was said to be a "thriving institution."
The Extension School currently offers two degrees (and has offered these degrees since 1979): the Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALB) and the Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALM). From 1911 to 1933, the school offered an Associate in Arts, and from 1933 to 1960, it offered an Adjunct in Arts. Both were considered the equivalent of a bachelor's degree. From 1971 to 2014, the school offered an Associate of Arts in Extension Studies (AA), the equivalent of a two-year degree.
A proposal before the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and 2010 to rename the school and the degrees offered was not accepted. A committee led by Professor of Computer Science Harry R. Lewis proposed renaming the school the "Harvard School of Continuing and Professional Studies" and dropping the words "in Extension Studies" from degrees so that the school would offer Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Master of Liberal Arts, and Master of Professional Studies degrees. Some faculty objected, saying that those degrees were too similar to degrees already offered by the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In 2016, a student group calling itself the Harvard Extension Degree Change Initiative rallied in front of University Hall to call for removing “Extension Studies” from the degree name and adding a student's field of study instead. The Harvard Crimson editorialized in favor, urging Harvard to "consider changing the title of Extension School degrees to include the field of study rather than the ambiguous 'Extension Studies.'" While the school retains "Extension Studies" in official degree titles, transcripts reflect students' area of academic concentration.
There have been six deans in the school's history:
- James Hardy Ropes, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Dean of University Extension, 1910–1922
- Arthur F. Whittem, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1922–1946
- George W. Adams, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1946–1949
- Reginald H. Phelps, Chairman of Commission on Extension Courses, Director of University Extension, 1949–1975
- Michael Shinagel, Director of Continuing Education and University Extension, 1975–1977, and Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension, 1977–2013
- Huntington D. Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education and University Extension, 2013–2019
Part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Extension School offers more than 900 on-campus and online courses. Students take courses with Harvard affiliates (instructors have included Nobel laureates), as well as faculty from other Boston-area universities, business professionals, and community leaders in various fields. The number of courses offered has continuously grown over the school's history.
Some of the courses at the Extension School are "virtually identical" to courses offered to the traditional students at Harvard College, with "the only significant difference" being that many of the classes are taught in the evening or at night instead of during the day. Ropes, the school's first dean, said that "our aim will be to give the young people of Boston who have heretofore been prevented from securing a college education the same instruction they would receive were they undergraduates at Harvard."
Many daytime Harvard College courses are recorded and offered to Extension students online. For these courses, office hours and other student support are typically offered using live or asynchronous software. Additionally, Extension students are offered the option to attend class lectures for these dual-listed courses on campus. Extension degree candidates who meet required criteria may also apply for "Special Student status" to enroll for up to two courses in Harvard College, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, or another Harvard Graduate School. The majority of instructors at the school, 52%, are Harvard affiliates; 48% are faculty from other schools and industry professionals.
Students may enroll full or part-time, and classes may be taken on campus, via distance-learning, or both. In order to earn an academic degree, students must complete a minimum number of on-campus-only credits at Harvard.[b]
Non-degree students have access to the Harvard Library, including electronic resources and select computer facilities. Those registered for a course at the Extension School may also access writing tutorials at the Writing Center as well as assistance with math and related courses at the Math Question Center. Career services and academic advising are offered through the school's Career and Academic Resource Center.
Accreditation and partnerships
The Extension School and Harvard Business School have together created the HBX Credential of Readiness (CORe) program. Having begun in 2014, this program allows undergraduate students at the Extension School to take courses with Business School professors for credit.
The graduate program in Museum Studies has developed a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The new courses include two active learning weekends in Washington, D.C. The Extension School is also looking into partnerships with the School of Public Health, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Medical School.
A pre-med program was established at the Extension School in 1980. Students who successfully complete the pre-medical program are eligible for sponsorship through the program and a committee letter of support in their applications to medical school.
Harvard Extension was a pioneer in distance education. Beginning on December 5, 1949, courses were offered on the Lowell Institute's new radio station. New Englanders could go to college six nights a week at 7:30 in their living rooms simply by tuning into courses on psychology, world history, and economics. The first course on radio was by Peter A. Bertocci of Boston University. For 30 years he taught Extension courses, with never fewer than 100 students. He often taught over 300 students per course and once had over 400. Over the years Bertocci taught at least 7,000 Extension students, a record for the school.
The radio courses proved to be so successful that when the television station WGBH went on the air in October 1951 they began broadcasting an Extension class every weekday at 3:30 and 7:30. The first course, offered by Robert G. Albion, was on European Imperialism on Monday and Thursday evenings. In the late 1960s, three of the televised courses were offered in the Deer Island Prison. Students who watched the courses on television could attend six "conferences" and take a mid-term and a final exam at Harvard in order to gain credit for the class.
As of 2014[update], distance-learning courses at Harvard Extension School are offered in two formats: asynchronous video courses (lectures are recorded and uploaded within 24 hours of on-campus class meetings); and live web-conference courses (courses are streamed live, and typically allow for synchronous participation from students via a secondary online platform).
Awards and honors
The Dean's Prize for Outstanding Master of Liberal Arts thesis is awarded during commencement ceremonies, and includes a medal, a certificate, and a monetary award. It is awarded to a student whose graduate thesis "embodies the highest level of imaginative scholarship." In addition to the Dean's Prize for Outstanding ALM Thesis, there are several other academic prizes:
- The Academy of American Poets is awarded to an ALB candidate or an undergraduate student at the college for the best poem or group of poems.
- The Santo J. Aurelio Prize is awarded to an ALB degree recipient aged 50 or older; this prize acknowledges distinguished and unique records of academic achievement and character.
- The Derek Bok Public Service Prizes are awards presented at Commencement. They consist of a cash prize along with a citation and a medal given to graduating Extension School students. The award recognizes creative initiatives in community service or long-standing records of civic achievement.
- The Commencement Speaker Prize is awarded to either an ALB or ALM graduate who delivers the student Commencement speech at the Extension School diploma awarding ceremony.
- The Annamae and Allan R. Crite Prize is awarded to ALM (liberal arts field) or ALB graduates who concentrate in visual arts or other artistic fields on the basis of academic achievement and dedication to learning and the arts.
- The Klein Family History Prize recognizes the thesis in the field of history that represents superior achievement in historical scholarship.
- The Harold Langlois Award recognizes an ALM management or finance graduate who has demonstrated exceptional academic accomplishment and promise as a manager. Based upon highest cumulative GPA.
- The Patrick Lee Award in Drama is an annual award given to the student who shows the best promise in the field of dramatic arts.
- The Reginald H. Phelps Prize, named for the former dean, is awarded annually on the basis of "academic achievement and character" to outstanding graduating students receiving bachelor's degrees.
- The John Osborne Sargent Prize for a Latin Translation is offered for the best metrical translation [students may choose meter] of a lyric poem of Horace, to be selected each year by the Department of the Classics. In addition to ALB candidates, it is also open to undergraduates at the College and visiting undergraduates under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
- The Thomas Small Prize is named for a Lithuanian immigrant who, at the age of 89, became the oldest earned graduate degree recipient in the history of Harvard University. Two prizes are awarded annually on the basis "academic achievement and character" to two outstanding Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies degree recipients.
- The Judith Wood Memorial Prizes are awarded during Commencement Week to Harvard Extension School students who, while compiling honors academic records at the school, also contended with disabilities of a serious nature. It was established in honor of a blind Extension Student student who had cystic fibrosis and diabetes to recognize students who must travel a singularly difficult path to degree or certificate completion.
- The Katie Y.F. Yang Prize is awarded annually to the international ALM management or finance graduate with the most outstanding academic record.
To be eligible to apply to the Extension School's degree programs, students must "earn [their] way in" by passing the Test of Critical Reading and Writing Skills as well as completing two or three designated admission classes with a B or better. In 2016, Dean Huntington D. Lambert said that 32% of those who want to pursue an undergraduate degree (ALB) earn the grades necessary for admission, making admissions "very selective." If the admission requirements are met, acceptance is not guaranteed but very likely. About 85% of those admitted successfully earn their degree (ALB).
It has been estimated that acceptance into the graduate programs (ALM), using the number of accepted students and the number of students enrolled in admission courses, is 15-20%. Thus, based on traditional metrics, admission into the graduate programs is highly selective.
ALB students may graduate cum laude, but magna- and summa- cum laude are not offered. Extension students may earn the Dean's List Academic Achievement Award upon graduation based on a high GPA (at least 3.5 for ALB, 3.8 for ALM). Many courses are offered online, but a degree cannot be earned entirely online as students are required to take classes on campus before earning their degree.
Students who wish to earn degrees must be formally admitted to the Extension School by the Admissions Committee. Admitted degree candidates are granted full privileges to Harvard's libraries, facilities, student resources, as well as access to Harvard's museums and academic workshops. In 2016, an undergraduate degree cost around $40,000, and a graduate degree cost about $25,000.
Bachelor of Liberal Arts
The undergraduate curriculum is similar to the curriculum for Harvard College students; requirements include expository writing, quantitative reasoning, foreign language, moral reasoning, upper-level coursework, and an area of concentration. The expository writing class is known as a "gatekeeper course" as it will typically "determine whether [students] are prepared for the intensive and demanding curriculum."
Once admitted as an ALB degree candidate, students must successfully complete 128 credits (Harvard courses are typically 4 credits each) and maintain good academic standing to meet graduation requirements. Upon admission into the ALB program, students may petition to transfer up to a maximum of 64 credits from other accredited post-secondary institutions, but 64 credits must be completed at Harvard. Students select one of three "areas of concentration" which are humanities, science, and social sciences.
ALB degree candidates are also required to complete a minimum of 16 on-campus-only credits at Harvard; students must also complete a minimum of 12 writing-intensive credits and earn a minimum of 52 credits in courses that are taught by Harvard instructors. In addition to a concentration, degree candidates have the option to pursue one of twenty "fields of study" (similar to majors). In order to successfully complete a field of study, students must earn a B– or higher in 32 Harvard credits in one field, and maintain a B average in the field. Students may also complement their degree with up to two minors.
Undergraduate degree programs require pre-admission courses as well as a formal application process.  Students must also hold a "high school diploma or its equivalent [which] must have been earned at least five years prior to enrolling in any ALB degree-applicable courses." Students applying for degree candidacy must complete three 4-credit liberal arts courses at Harvard (Extension School, Summer School, or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) with at least a B grade in each, and maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. One of these three pre-admission courses must be EXPO E-25, the equivalent of Harvard College's mandatory and "notoriously difficult" expository writing course. To enroll in this course, students must either pass a placement test, which measures critical reading and writing skills, or enroll in EXPO E-15 (a course that acts as a precursor to EXPO E-25). Students failing to earn at least a B in a class can retake it once. Those who meet all these criteria are then eligible to apply for admission into the school's undergraduate degree programs.
Master of Liberal Arts
The Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALM) includes 19 liberal arts fields of study and seven professional degree programs (Biotechnology, Information Technology, Journalism, Management, Mathematics for Teaching, Museum Studies, & Sustainability). Except for Museum Studies (10 courses), all ALM candidates must complete 12 courses, with most requiring a thesis or capstone project crafted under the direction of an instructor or faculty member holding a teaching appointment in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Admission into a graduate degree program requires an accredited bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent), passing the Test of Critical Reading and Writing Skills, the completion of two or three pre-admission courses with grades of B or higher, and a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0. One of the pre-admission courses must be the "proseminar" course for the intended area of study, which is akin to a traditional research methods course. Certain disciplines have other specified pre-admission coursework, while some have specific coursework that is required before submitting a master's thesis proposal (biology and psychology students must take a specific graduate statistics course). Some programs require supplemental application materials; for instance, Creative Writing and Literature ALM candidates must submit original manuscripts. Students who meet these criteria are then eligible to submit an application for admission into the graduate degree programs (ALM).
A student who fails to earn a grade of B after twice enrolling in the proseminar course—often considered a "gatekeeper" course—will be denied admission indefinitely.
Beginning in the 1960s, the university began providing additional facilities for Extension students. Study spaces, conferences rooms, library facilities, and a dining hall were set up in Lehman Hall for students in 1964. In addition, there was a television lounge where students could watch the WGBH programs.
Today, admitted degree candidates are granted access to Harvard's athletic facilities, libraries, and career services, among other amenities. Students have "nearly unfettered access to some of Harvard's most prized resources—world-renowned libraries, a distinguished faculty, and an impressive body of speakers." The top 10 percent of the undergraduate (ALB) graduating class in good standing is inducted into the Harvard Extension School's Phi Beta chapter (established 2002–03) of Alpha Sigma Lambda, the national honor society for nontraditional students. Ordinarily, undergraduate students with GPAs of 3.8 or higher are eligible. Degree candidates and alumni are also eligible to work at the Harvard Innovation Labs.
The Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) is the official acting student government for the Harvard Extension School and is the organization responsible for school's representation on the University's Harvard Graduate Council. All degree and diploma candidates in good standing at the school are voting members of HESA. Degree candidates are also eligible to be elected to HESA's Board of Directors. Established in 2001, HESA's mission is to build and maintain a sense of community among Extension students. In partnership with many other organizations on campus, HESA provides a variety of social activities, educational/networking events, and forums that enrich student life. HESA is in charge of managing officially sanctioned clubs within Harvard Extension School. Currently, there are two official clubs: Harvard Extension Student Environmental Club and Harvard Extension Student Management & Finance Club.
President Faust said that "the Extension School is a critical part of the University" and that "students increasingly should come to see themselves as full-fledged members of not just an individual school but Harvard as a university."
The class of 2019, the largest class to date, had 1,184 graduates. The graduates had an average age of 37 and were nearly evenly split between the genders, with 54% being male. 49 countries were represented in the graduating class.
In 2016, 96% of the students enrolled for professional enrichment. Half took a single course, and half were pursuing a degree. The increase in online course offerings has fueled growth, and students from more than 150 countries are enrolled. In 2017, the school educated more students than all of the rest of Harvard combined.
In 2000, there were 14,216 students, with the youngest in their early teens and the oldest in their late 80s. There is often a span of 60 years between the oldest and youngest students, and students as young as 11 years old have taken courses alongside those old enough to be their grandparents. Of the students enrolled in 2000, 75% had a bachelor's degree and 20% had a graduate degree. More than 1,700 were Harvard employees using the Tuition Assistance Program, and an estimated 10–15% were exclusively online students. Of the 255 Certificate of Special Studies graduates that year, 163 were international students hailing from 39 countries.
In the early 2000s, there were 208 students under the age of 18. Most attended local high schools, but a growing number of them were home-schooled. In 2018, a student from Kansas received his high school diploma and a bachelor's degree from the Extension School only a few days apart. The Extension School now requires that a high school diploma or its equivalent is earned at least five years prior to enrolling in any courses applicable to its undergraduate degree.
Harvard Extension School accepts international students. To be admitted to courses or degrees, a student must prove proficiency in the English language. If English is not a student's native language then he or she must submit an official TOEFL or IELTS score with a minimum score of 100 for the TOEFL or a minimum score of 7.0 for the IELTS. International students must also meet the on-campus-only course requirements as outlined above. The Extension School does not issue I-20s for the F-1 visa but the Summer School does. In 2007–08, more than 2,500 international students and nearly 2,000 Harvard University employees were enrolled in classes. In 2013, students came from 118 countries and 46 states.
Upon graduation, students are eligible for membership in the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) and the Harvard Extension Alumni Association (HEAA). Graduates also are invited to take part in the commencement ceremonies with all other schools of Harvard. The HEAA was founded in 1967–68 by Ella Smith and Edgar Grossman, both members of the class of 1966.
Both the oldest and youngest graduates in the more than 375-year history of Harvard University received their degrees from the Extension School. In 1997, Mary Fasano became the oldest undergraduate degree recipient, while in 1983, Thomas Small became the oldest master's degree recipient. Both were in their 90th year. The youngest degree earner in Harvard history was 18-year-old Amit Chatterjee who earned an ALB in 2002.
One of Small's classmates, Christopher Lohse, was selected to give the graduate commencement address. His speech, "The 10,000 Ghosts of Harvard," was a play on both the university's fight song and the fact that classes are taught after dark. In 1989, another ALM graduate gave the commencement address. Joseph R. Paolino Jr. began his studies as a Providence city councilor, and at the time of his speech, he was the Mayor of Providence. He went on to become Ambassador to Malta.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms for the Extension School was approved in 1983. At the top of the shield the three books spelling out Veritas (Latin for "truth") represent graduate education, as the same device is found on the arms of the other graduate schools. Instead of a straight line separating it from the rest of the shield, as is found in the other schools, a line with six arcs pointing up was used instead. A silver chevron was used to represent undergraduate education, a device used in the shield of Harvard College in the 17th to 19th centuries. Two bushels of wheat are included to represent John Lowell's stipulation that courses should not cost more than two bushels of wheat. A golden lamp is included to represent both learning and the fact that some classes are taught at night.
- Approximately 600 of the courses were offered online.
- n.b. These requirements vary for each degree, from 4 classes in residency for the ALB or the ALM/Biology, two semesters residency requirement for the general ALM, and up to 50% residency requirement for the ALM/Management. It is therefore not possible to receive an academic degree solely through distance learning.
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- Shinagle 2010, p. 153. Harv error: no target: CITEREFShinagle2010 (help)
- Shinagle 2010, p. 138. Harv error: no target: CITEREFShinagle2010 (help)
- Shinagle 2010, p. 211. Harv error: no target: CITEREFShinagle2010 (help)
- "Ambassador and Mayor Joe R. Paolino, Jr". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
- Shinagle 2010, p. 55. Harv error: no target: CITEREFShinagle2010 (help)
- Shinagel 2010, p. 137. Harv error: no target: CITEREFShinagel2010 (help)