I am a 2008 graduate of the Harvard Extension School’s ALM/Liberal Arts program, with a concentration in history. Much of my coursework related to Chinese history, and for my thesis I carried out an extensive computer content analysis of Xinhua (新華社), China’s official news agency, to gauge Beijing’s foreign policy priorities in Southeast Asia during the Deng Xiaoping era. This was a part-time program that I completed while helping raise two young children and working full time as a journalist.
While attending Harvard, I also wrote a blog about Harvard Extension called Harvard Extended. As the first unofficial online resource dedicated to the Extension School, it became quite influential, and still attracts a lot of traffic. There have been more than
500,000 750,000 1 million page views to date, and I continue to receive questions and comments about Harvard Extension courses, program requirements, and quality issues. I received an award from the Harvard Extension Student Association in 2021 for my blogging and advocacy efforts.
Several years after completing the ALM program I began full-time graduate studies at MIT Sloan as a Sloan Fellow. After graduating from Sloan, I co-founded a mobile software startup (which failed) and later a digital publishing venture (which is still going strong). You can learn about IN 30 MINUTES guides here.
I am also the creator of Lean Media, a framework that provides the tools and know-how to create media that resonates with audiences. In 2017, I published Lean Media: How to focus creativity, streamline production, and create media that audiences love.
John Maeda, former Head of Computational Design & Inclusion at Automattic, Inc. and author of The Laws of Simplicity, has praised the timeliness of Lean Media.
“Lamont has successfully taken concepts from the Lean Startup movement and applied them to media production projects. No longer can there be the ‘one visionary way’ — instead, there needs to be humility (know your customer) and incrementalism (test often) as the keys to creative outcomes.”
The book is available on Amazon and the Lean Media website.
Follow me on Twitter at @ilamont, or contact me by emailing lamont -at- sloan -dot- mit -dot- edu. I also maintain a Harvard Extension twitter feed (@harvardextended) with a distinctly independent perspective.
Thanks for reading!
15 thoughts on “About the Author”
A question about HES. I’m considering the Sustainability program. Does HES offer anything in the way of post-degree career services, such as a typical university career services office or the like? Academic advisors with insight into career possibilities? Or is the degree holder completely on his or her own as to what to do with his or her new degree?
Frans – there are limited career services available to Extension School students, including access to the Harvard Office of Career Services. However, I would not regard that as the guarantee of a job. My advice would be to contact the school and ask to speak with someone about the placement rate for grads in specific programs. Also, if you can get into contact with a recent graduate, that would also be helpful. Good luck!
Thanks Ian. Much appreciated.
I am seriously considering going for this program however I have a few questions and/or issues that I was hoping you could address.
1. Have you heard much about the finance program? If so, is it pretty good compared to other schools?
2. If I get the ALM in Finance, will I be able to actually apply for jobs that require a minimum qualification of Master’s in Finance?
3. How does the Harvard community view the HES based on your time there. I read in a 2009 article from the Crimson that had a very negative view of HES students. It’s title “Avoid These Crazy Harvardians” and in one paragraph, they said the following:
“The “Well, I don’t exactly go to Harvard” Complex
Taking classes at the Extension School does not make you a Harvard student. These faux-students linger in the Barker Center or the Garage Starbucks, pensively writing (not typing) away in their notebooks in hopes of fitting in with the rest of the undergrad population. Unless they’re upfront with you right away, don’t bother: the only thing more screwed up than actually being a Harvard student is pretending to be one.”
Now I’m not sure if they simply mean students that take classes there for the sake of it or take it periodically or all HES students in general. After all, another article from another source mentioned that Zuckerberg and Gates were both just “taking classes at Harvard” but nobody says they’re not students.
4. How much have you heard about whether a degree from HES, especially Master’s have helped a person’s career or if recruiters had a positive or negative view on it?
5. I’ve read about your articles about the naming convention on our resumes. I was thinking about putting “Master’s Degree in Finance, Harvard University Extension School.” Is that appropriate or is that too “deceiving”?
Thanks for your questions. Until your email, I wasn’t even aware that the Extension School offered an ALM Finance degree, so I believe it was recently launched or split off from the ALM In Management program. I can’t answer all of your questions, but I will try the best I can:
> 1. Have you heard much about the finance program? If so, is it pretty good compared to other schools?
As I said, I have never heard of it until now. I think it will be very difficult to compare it to other schools. Have you asked the Extension School to connect with current students or recent grads?
> 2. If I get the ALM in Finance, will I be able to actually apply for jobs that require a minimum qualification of Master’s in Finance?
The ALM is technically a Liberal Arts degree which states “in Extension Studies,” which might give some employers pause. This was an issue for one graduate of the ALB program who concentrated in engineering but ran afoul of a hiring company’s lawyers who expected to see “in Computer Science” on the degree. On the other hand, the same alumnus said that employers and HR departments were most interested in what he could do, not what his degree said.
> 3. How does the Harvard community view the HES based on your time there.
I have written extensively about this on this blog and harvardextended.com. Please check out the posts and the comments to get more insights into this — it would take me a long time to write everything out again.
> 4. How much have you heard about whether a degree from HES, especially Master’s have helped a person’s career or if recruiters had a positive or negative view on it?
The people who attempt to trick recruiters or hiring managers are viewed very negatively. Read the comments such as this one on my resume post, made by someone who was apparently tricked by an HES grad trying to pass herself off as a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
I think there also is some negative bias against the Extension School in the local recruiter community, partially because of the longstanding problem with Harvard fakers as well as a perception that a part-time degree from any institution is substandard compared to the full-time equivalents. This was discussed in a WSJ article some years ago about recruiter perceptions toward executive MBAs and part-time MBAs — on Wall Street they were not taken very seriously, although that may have changed since then.
In addition, this seems to be less of an issue the further away from Cambridge you get. In fact, many people with HES degrees have gone onto better careers and advanced academic study elsewhere after completing their Harvard Extension School degree requirements. That’s not only because of the degree, of course, but also because they are driven individuals.
> 5. I’ve read about your articles about the naming convention on our resumes. I was thinking about putting “Master’s Degree in Finance, Harvard University Extension School.” Is that appropriate or is that too “deceiving”?
In my opinion, as long as it’s clear the degree came from the Extension School, there is no issue. However, you may get questions on the technicality (i.e. it’s a liberal arts degree, not a finance degree, even though the coursework is very similar). This issue has caused problems for other people in technical fields, as well as the ALM in Management, as described above.
In any case, good luck!
#5. You mislabeling a degree program as described is problematic for future HR meetings with HES grads, due to dishonesty. Labeling yourself with MS in Finance is as deceiving as adding MD from HMS as well. Neither are degrees at HES, and listing as such on your CV would be fictitious and presumptuous. You would have to sell yourself as ALM and tell them why you are as valuable as MS in Finance with your coursework, research, and referees.
I’ve heard that the extension school’s biggest impediment has been the other Harvard schools and faculty. It feels like we’re systematically discriminated against by Harvard itself and the select employers that directly recruit from Harvard.
I’ve thought of a few strategies that could work to fix the stigma, some of these have been discussed in the past, some haven’t. Let me know your thoughts.
1) Change the name of the “extension school” to “Harvard School of Continuing (or General) Studies”
– This was discussed in the past by the last dean in 2008 or 2009. I never heard about it again since.
2) Raise the barriers of entry.
– I argue that HES should be the most rigorous and difficult at Harvard strictly because we’re 100% merit based and a lot of our classes are distance, which isn’t the same as being on campus. I don’t care what new technology is flouted. Nothing beats being in person. If you take distance courses, you need to have to work much harder to get even remotely closer to what being on campus entails.
3) Higher emphasis distinguishing difference between passive class takers and admitted students.
– A lot of casual students are only in it for the brand recognition. These types hurt the reputation of the school and everyone associated with it.
4) We need to create an Endowment.
– This, by far, is probably the most important. Having our own endowment would immensely improve our position and would give us more political capital to make the changes we need (all the above suggestions). Nothing has more power than the almighty dollar.
Anyways, I hope we can discuss this in more detail.
That’s because Harvard faculty (FAS) shot it down. There was another student-led campaign a few years back that fizzled.
The FAS will do the same for any similar effort unless there is something that really makes them sit up and notice.
They’re already pretty high, IMHO. They could probably be tougher on grading, but that would dilute its mission to serve all kinds of learners.
I don’t know what more can be done beyond changing the name of the school for matriculated students, which runs into the FAS problem noted above.
This will take decades, and they STILL might not pay attention.
IMHO the only thing that will move the needle on the name is a sustained awareness campaign, up to an including regular demonstrations at Mass Hall and in front of FAS gatherings. Otherwise no one will notice or care what we think. I have come to this conclusion after writing and railing about this topic for many years. It’s not hopeful, just realistic about the bind that HES is in on this particular matter.
How could we organinize a new sustained campaign? I think with the college admissions scandal, this could be a good time to raise awareness and get FAS to work with us. Any ideas?
I think the campaign has to come from current students who feel strongly enough about the issue to dedicate time and resources to raising awareness – even in the face of indifference. The last campaign 4 or 5 years ago was great, but it fizzled after there were no results (see this post for details).
You can reach out to the current student government or people who participated in the last campaign to see if they would be interested in restarting it.
How much have you heard about whether a degree from HES, especially Master’s have helped a person’s career or if recruiters had a positive or negative view on it?
Have you looked at the Harvard Extension School website? Lots of success stories there. See also: What employers think about HES degrees.
Anyone has any idea if Harvard Extension School will allow people seeking to read a second Bachelor’s degree anytime soon? Kinda a shame it currently doesn’t allow it. They have a good system going on, in my opinion. Opening it up to Bachelor’s degree holders would open a door for people who would like to, say, transition to a different field.
Why not just get a master’s in the field you want? That’s what graduate school accomplishes for a lot of people, including me (undergraduate communications degree, grad history and business degrees.)
[…] will prevent other idealistic students from running for leadership positions in the future. As a student of modern Chinese history, it mirrors the abuse of democracy taking place right now in Hong Kong, in which Communist leaders […]