Well, we did it! We students of Harvard Extension School class of 2018 have finally achieved our goal of graduating college …and it feels amazing! Each one of us that graduated has a different narrative as to the why we chose this path and the challenges and obstacles that we have overcome to be a graduate of the Harvard Extension School Class of 2018.
I would like to talk about how the impact of those academic challenges that we all have had in our experience here at HES have transformed us, in one way or another, into being more conscientious citizens in our societies.
When I think back to the size and scope of the lens that I viewed the world with at the start of my journey here at HES 6 years ago, I realize how very narrow and small that scope was. I don’t apologize for that, as we all view the world from lenses whose width and depth are defined by our experiences. The beauty is that these lenses can change as our experiences enrich and expand our consciousness.
I would bet that most of us took at least one class that terrified us when reading the syllabus. There were a few classes that I had no idea what some words meant and I had to look up the definition. Many classes took me out of my comfort zone, not only academically but emotionally and socially as well. There were a few classes in particular for me and I am sure that you can all recall at least one. It was the class that at first, you may have had no idea what the concept was about. Perhaps it was a requirement class in Humanities or Social Science. As the semester went on you began to understand the terminology and concepts through course materials and how they could be applied outside the classroom. If you were very lucky, you would have the opportunity to have discussions with classmates who were from around the world. These global conversations allow us to understand the humanness of people and places around the world that for many of us would otherwise not have the opportunity to engage with other than through the narrow lens of media outlets. The opportunities for global discussion are invaluable to not only enriching our academic experiences but expanding and changing the shape of our lenses through which we view the world.
With each course that we took, whether we were able to acknowledge it or not, we changed. The changes may have been subtle, like paying more attention to current events or being more mindful of your impact on the environment. You became more comfortable asking questions in class. Perhaps the change was that you were exposed to values and opinions different than yours and although your values and opinions did not change, your lens expanded to respect those others’ views. The change could be that you decided you wanted to do more. That book, song, poem or paper that you wrote for class was published! You collaborated with one of your favorite professors on an article and it was published! You decided to pursue employment in a new field after a particular course ignited your passion. You volunteered for a local or global organization after learning about the cause in class or maybe you created a non-profit organization. You started a Club at HES. These are all positive changes that through our expanded consciousness are enhancing our societies.
The intangible transformations that are a result of our academic challenges and experience here at HES are the lenses through which we view the world. Our lenses have changed in width and depth allowing us to be more cognizant of the humanness of our classmates, our neighbors and the global community. We are confident that by overcoming our academic challenges we are making a positive impact in our societies, and we now go forth as ambassadors of the Harvard Extension School Global Community.