L. Brent Gilmore
[Required on-campus courses] turned out to be some of the most amazing experiences of my life—and my children haven’t stopped talking about ‘daddy’s school.'
Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension School?
I originally made the decision to attend Harvard Extension to increase my knowledge and skills, and add gravitas to my résumé so that I might work at higher levels in the same industry.
However, the experience at Harvard Extension has fueled new interests and passions, and now I hope to change careers. I have been successfully interviewing with large investment banks and private equity firms. I would like to put my new finance and management knowledge to work in these industries.
What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Harvard Extension?
The most challenging part about attending school is starting and getting acclimated to learning. For me and many of my classmates, it had been almost 20 years since we graduated from undergraduate school. As demanding as our jobs were, we simply were not in the habit of reading for detailed comprehension, learning new and oftentimes abstract concepts, and being tested frequently. It took me the better part of two semesters to really settle in and feel like a thriving student.
How has this experience help you in your career?
The obvious benefit is increased knowledge, both breadth and depth, in very key areas of the industry I am currently in, as well as those I would like to move to. It has also raised my profile and this places me front-and-center in all areas of the business that need this expertise, especially with new clients. While acceptance and attendance [at Harvard] don’t guarantee success, they certainly help open doors and start conversations.
What was the most rewarding experience?
So much of it was rewarding that it’s difficult to narrow down. Here are a few things that come to mind:
- Being on campus and feeling part of such a historic community
- Relationships formed with professors, teaching assistants, and other students
- Breadth and depth of acquired knowledge
- Immediate transferability of acquired knowledge to my personal and professional life
- Attending local alumni events and the feeling of inclusion in such an amazing community
- Traveling to Cambridge with 14 members of my family to attend Harvard Commencement and my diploma awarding ceremony. While this hasn’t happened yet, it promises to be a life highlight and something I am immensely proud of
As an online student, how did you manage to fulfill the on-campus requirement?
My first advice with the residency requirement is, don’t wait. Start working with your advisor as soon as you are admitted. And take your on-campus courses as soon as they are available for you. Waiting could leave you with no options or options that don’t work as well as you would like.
As a father of two—and soon to be three—children, the residency requirement was the most daunting. However, I came to find out that not only is it “doable,” it is enjoyable and can be a family affair. I opted for a combination of a January session, two summer courses, and a course that combined online lectures with a weekend on campus. For all of those on-campus experiences, my family either came with me or visited during the semester.
Adding such a personal connection to a requirement turned out to be some of the most amazing experiences of my life—and my children haven’t stopped talking about “daddy’s school.”
Describe your Extension School experience in one word.