Sarah Anne Stinnett
Anyone with the drive and right support network can write the next chapter of their story here at Harvard Extension.
What was your path to Harvard Extension School like?
My path was definitely circuitous. I grew up in southern New Hampshire, the child of musicians and professors. I was homeschooled by my mother and earned my high school diploma at 16. I had a passion for photography then, but I couldn’t commit to being an artist at the cost of tremendous financial impacts through student loans.
So I began my undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music. My father was a professor there, which meant my tuition was waived. However, because I didn’t want to pursue music, after four years I left without my degree.
I found my way to the Extension School’s door, where I could transfer the credits I had already earned and feasibly finish my degree. It has been a consecutive nine-year journey to where I am today.
Why did you decide to finish your degree at Harvard Extension?
My whole life story typifies the nontraditional. I’ve always had diverse interests, and I wanted to immerse myself in an environment where I could further explore and develop the many facets of my life. The liberal arts curriculum was ideal for that pursuit.
Also, in a way, coming to Harvard has been a symbolic gesture to honor my mother. When she was earning a master’s in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the late 1980s and early ’90s, I was born. Shortly after, she gave up that life to dedicate herself full time to raising and educating me and my two older siblings. In a sense, this accomplishment is as much for her as it is for me.
What were the most rewarding aspects of your Extension experience? The most challenging?
I loved my classes in poetry, drama, literature, and public speaking. Mimi Goss and Marjorie North were inspirational professors, and Stephanie Paulsell’s course on Virginia Woolf spurred a spiritual awakening in me.
Although my courses in quantitative and moral reasoning were rigorous and difficult, they challenged me to develop new thinking pathways. They taught me the value of logic in my work, for which I am grateful.
How is your experience helping you in your career?
When you have a diverse set of skills and a wide range of interests, there is no one prescribed path to achieving professional or personal success. You have to keep looking for and taking advantage of any and all opportunities. Through my education, I’ve learned how to leverage and focus my strengths.
My positive academic experience at the Extension School brought me to the Division of Continuing Education professionally. I’ve found much meaning in my work at the institution that has supported my success, achievements, and lifelong learning. It’s satisfying to reinvest myself where I have grown into who I am today. Someday, I would like to be back in the classroom—as an Extension School instructor!
Do you have any advice for new students?
Don’t underestimate how committed the Extension School community (staff, advisors, faculty) are to helping you succeed. Reach out. Make connections. Anyone with the drive and right support network can write the next chapter of their story here.
Explain your Extension experience in one word.