Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Place of Residence

Denver, Colorado

Program

Master of Liberal Arts in the field of Journalism | Marketing Management Certificate

Professional Field

Freelance writer and owner of KOE, LLC

Prior Education

Bachelor's degree magazine journalism and advertising, University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College
I loved the on-campus requirement. Cambridge is both steeped in history and incredibly forward thinking; I think it’s one of the most exciting places on the planet.

Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension? 

I had been working as a magazine editor in New York City for years, and yet there was still so much I didn’t know. I had discovered that I loved teaching, but did not have the Master’s degree needed to teach at the collegiate level. Enter: Harvard Extension School, which I found on a simple Google search. 

I still can’t believe my luck in coming across it. I never would have imagined that I could get my Master’s degree from one of the world’s most illustrious universities—John Adams went there, Jill Abramson went there, Barack Obama went there, and I could attend from home in my sweatpants after a busy work day? Dreams really do come true.

How has this experience helped you in your career or personal development? 

Enormously. One of my greatest lessons I took with me was how important lively quotes are in bringing a story to life, and that’s something I keep top of mind with every deadline. 

What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?

I’m an early bird—by dinnertime, I’ve been working so hard all day that my brain is pretty useless. So, for me, staying up and being an active participant in some of the courses that went late was beyond difficult. Of course, there are people joining at 3 a.m. from Dubai, so I had no excuse! I try to avoid caffeine, but on nights with evening classes, a cup of coffee at 2 p.m. worked wonders. 

My most rewarding aspect was my capstone project. I traced the footsteps British travel writer Isabella Bird made in 1873 in my new home state of Colorado.

How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities? 

When I was a full-time magazine editor in New York, I only took one class per semester. “Slow and steady wins the race” is one of my life mottos. When we moved to Colorado and I started my freelance writing business, I was actually busier than before—often putting in 12-hour days—but I was able to start taking two classes per semester because my time was more flexible. 

My husband was super supportive throughout the process; picking up extra chores around the house (dishes, dog care, cooking) to ensure I could do my best without distractions.

In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community? If you spent time on campus, what was that experience like? 

I loved the on-campus requirement. Cambridge is both steeped in history and incredibly forward thinking; I think it’s one of the most exciting places on the planet. Getting to go study food writing with Alison Arnett, former restaurant critic at the Boston Globe, in such hallowed halls, was nothing short of exquisite.

I have attended a few meet-ups at the Harvard Club in New York City and Denver, which were lovely. Everyone I met was a delight and doing incredibly interesting things with their lives. I hope to become more involved now that I’m a graduate.

Do you have a favorite class or faculty member? Why?

Looking back on it, Writing about Food was definitely my favorite class. The instructors were super knowledgeable and had fabulous guest speakers (including The Boston Globe’s current restaurant critic), and … perk of all perks … we got to eat in class! And then describe what we’d had in delicious detail.

Do you have any advice for new students?

Keep going. In the beginning, getting all the degree requirement done seems daunting. But it’s like climbing Colorado’s 14,259-foot-tall Longs Peak, which I wrote about for my capstone project. Take it one step at a time and, soon enough, you’ll be done.

Describe your Extension School experience in one word.

Motivating.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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