Molly Smith

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Molly Smith

Place of Residence



Master of Liberal Arts, Sustainability, 2017

Professional Field

Sustainability fellow at Dartmouth College

Prior Education

Bachelor's degree in natural resources and plant science, Cornell University
It’s truly empowering to be around so many passionate people from all over the world.

May 2017

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

I was drawn to the Extension School’s sustainability graduate degree program because I could do it from wherever I was living at the time and while working full time. I took the majority of the courses online while living and working in the Upper Valley [New Hampshire and Vermont]. At one point, I seriously considered moving to Boston. But one look at the average rent and cost of living down there stifled that ambition!

Studying online is also the learning format that I grew up with. I was a homeschooled student. In some ways, it makes me feel like I’m back home on the farm, logging into Blackboard to talk to my teachers and classmates in seventh grade. Of course, the material is much more challenging and interesting!

How has this experience helped you in your career?

The program helped me determine where in this vast field of topics my passion truly lies. I started out taking a wide variety of classes—from agriculture to energy to green buildings—to help narrow my interests. Thanks to the spectrum of classes available, I was able to find that I gravitated toward classes dealing with energy reduction and use procedures.

The class I’m taking in my final term before Commencement, Energy and Carbon in the New Economy, actually teaches us how to do greenhouse gas assessments. Who would have thought I'd love crunching numbers in a spreadsheet so much? My studies have inspired me to pursue a career in consulting, where I can apply what I have learned to real-world scenarios to reduce energy usage.

I may go back to school further down the road, perhaps for a PhD or law degree. Ultimately, I would love to teach.

Tell us about your on-campus experience.

It made me feel like part of the Harvard family. It’s truly empowering to be around so many passionate people from all over the world.

My classmates came from as far away as California and even Ireland. We came with a diversity of backgrounds and educations. But we were all there because we share a passion for the environment, the desire to be change agents, and a drive to help our respective organizations make sound environmental decisions. It hit me at the end of our first day together how lucky the world is to have people like that working for its protection. It made me feel a bit better about the future of the environment!

I also enjoyed the classes that had both online and on-campus components. I loved the feeling of being on campus. While Harvard Extension has the convenience of being mostly online and part time, I do miss the experience of going to campus every day and interacting with my classmates. I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting LA Burdick's every morning for their delicious hot chocolate!

Learn more about Molly's experience as an online student

Read Molly's extended Q&A

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