Relaunching the blog…

First, an apology:

The last year has been a bit hectic for me.  After graduating, I changed jobs and relocated closer to NYC.  Between moving and getting settled in at the new job, I let this blog go unattended.  My apologies.

The good news is: I’m Back!

A lot has changed at the Harvard Extension School since I graduated:

  1. The requirements for admission to the ALB degree program have been increased.  Without a doubt, the admission bar is now even higher, never mind to graduate.  This is certainly something that I expected.  While HES serves a non-traditional population, they do want to make sure that it’s people who are at the top of the spectrum in terms of academic potential.  They also want to make sure that the school stays small.  There is a lot of interest in the HES programs now and one administrator mentioned to me that they are trying to keep the quality of the program high and the programs relatively small.
  2. Some field of study programs were eliminated.  I expect to see some further consolidation.  This is probably a result of the changing demographics of the student population and the economic landscape.  My impression from talking to other people is that they are seeing education (when they are already past the traditional college age) in purely economic benefit terms.  This probably translates into more “practical” coursework and less “liberal-arts” type coursework.
  3. The ALM in Management is now the most difficult program to enter at HES.  When it was first created, there was no expectation on the part of the administration that it would be as popular as it is.
  4. Extension students are getting some respect from a notable source.  I find his comments particularly telling:

In any case, the extension students from CS 124 this semester should be very proud of themselves.  I believe my class is one of the more challenging undergraduate Algorithms and Data Structures classes at any university — extension or otherwise.  Many (most?) of these students have jobs, families, and other responsibilities that make taking any class extremely difficult.  They should know that I’m impressed by them, and I hope my class turns out to be a useful experience for them.

I took Michael Mitzenmacher’s course and it was a killer.  My grade in his class was the lowest grade that I earned at HES during my time there: a B-.  Ouch. 

Protip: do not take his class during the summer when it’s done double-speed unless you already know the material.

That said, I got some instruction from one of the best professors at Harvard.  That’s an experience I’m going to cherish for along time.  The level of understanding that I got for the mathematics of computer science is simply something you can’t fathom until that light turns on for you.  It’s an enlightenment that informs my career and my academic pursuits today, several years later.

It’s also worth noting that of all the departments at Harvard that teach classes at HES, the computer Science department has been the most welcoming.  Of all my interactions with professors at Harvard, the CS professors are the most willing to go the extra mile to help a student succeed.  Salil Vadhan taught a relatively tough course to extension students and was more than willing to help me smooth over the gaps in my knowledge.

Protip: take a course in Formal Methods of Computer Science before you tackle any other mainly theoretical CS course.

This is all very good.  I’m happy with the progress that HES has made with integrating itself into the larger Harvard community.  Right now, the trend is towards lifelong learning.  I’m planning on taking another course in statistics soon (for work) and when I do, it’ll probably be at HES.  We’re an important demographic.  We shouldn’t have to settle for inferior programs at high prices.

More to come.

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4 Responses to Relaunching the blog…

  1. Padish says:

    Hello Richard

    May I complement you on your highly informative blog, it is a source of invaluable insight
    into HES for its newcomers (especially computer science aspirants).

    I am wondering if you could answer one question. You mention in your post about taking the courses “Algorithms and Data Structures” and “Formal Methods of Computer Science”, but when I was on the HES website I notice that these courses are listed for graduate credit. Is it possible to take these in the ALB?

  2. richard says:

    You can take any course offered for graduate credit as part of an undergraduate program. I did this for several classes as part of my ALB program.

  3. Padish says:

    Thanks very much for the info 🙂

  4. Tolkien says:

    Hi Richard, I see that you completed an ALB, congrats! Can you comment
    on how employers view the degree, there is just not much reputable info out there.


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