Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Last. Class. Ever.

Tonight was the last session of my last class at the Harvard Extension School. My final paper isn't due until the end of next week, but it's already 90% complete. I can submit it via email, so I won't be going to campus ever again to attend class, hit the stacks, or meet with professors.

Graduate school is basically over.

It felt strange leaving Boylston Hall and walking out into the Yard for the last time. It was dark, quiet, and muddy with all of the melting snow. Kind of dank, actually. Not the type of scene that would typically evoke sentimental feelings, but I felt very keenly that it was the end of an era for me. My graduate studies began five years ago this month, and with the exception of the fall of 2004 (when my son was born) and the summer of 2007 (after my thesis was substantially complete) there hasn't been a semester that I haven't devoted major amounts of time to course readings, class, writing, and research. As of next Friday I will have written nine final papers (typical length, 20-30 double-spaced pages), several dozen smaller papers and essays, a thesis proposal and my thesis. Almost all have required multiple drafts and revisions. I will have also spent hundreds of hours in class and many thousands more studying, writing, or conducting paper and thesis research. Even during my commute to work, I am thinking about class and research. After next Friday, all of this comes to an end. It will be odd to not have these requirements and routines dominating my life any longer.

I usually stroll quickly back to my car parked on Mt. Auburn Street, so I can get home before my wife goes to sleep. Tonight, I passed slowly through the dark Yard. I passed Mass Hall and walked through the gate for the last time as a student, and then crossed Mass Ave. On the other side, at the mouth of Church Street, I turned back, and noticed -- for the first time in a long time -- the giant, ornate clock on the upper floors of Mass Hall, facing the street. It was dark, but I could see that the hands read 9:20. Behind it and to the left, I could see the slim steeple of Memorial Church with the lantern burning inside. That steeple at night has always been one of my favorite campus scenes -- it really gives me a sense of peace, even when I have been hurrying to catch a class or have been exiting Widener with a bag laden with books.

This time, even though I am no longer dealing with such pressures, it still brought me a sense of peace, and perhaps a sense of finality as well.

Memorial Church at night, public photo by AntyDiluvian, Flickr, all rights reserved


Brandon Ruse, Medical Student said...


I've enjoyed your blog over the years and I really hope you flourish and become great. Remember, when given much, much is expected. congratulations.


Unknown said...


Congratulations on your accomplishment. Although I am only 1/3 of my way through my efforts at earning an ALM in IT, the idea that this will eventually come to a conclusion already seems foreign to me.

I wish you the best of luck going forward.



I Lamont said...

Thanks Ken and Brandon, for your kind words.

It's kind of hard to believe that in a few weeks I'll have my nights and weekends back!

Anonymous said...

Ian, as I walked out of Widener yesterday after picking up three books on hold from the depository, I heard the Memorial Church bells the joy of feeling ensconced in the middle of my journey at Harvard. I still have to remind myself occasionally that I 'go to Harvard'. But it's more real than it was the first two years.

As I round the bend in my program, (writing my thesis proposal this month and will take my last class this summer), I feel a slight resistance to finishing - as it will mean the end of an important part of my life. Thanks for the blog, marking your experiences. It's been really helpful. Personally, I'm sorry to see your status change from 'fellow ALM' to 'alum', but for your sake, it's great!

I Lamont said...

Thanks, Chris. There is a transition point worth mentioning in the ALM journey. It's when the coursework was substantially over and I had reached the point where my thesis research had started in earnest. The routines of research, consultation and writing had taken over my evenings and weekends, and it was not clear when the thesis would be complete. I know that some people like to approach it like a giant term paper but that's a mistake -- it requires much more from the student than simply writing a lot, and while you do get some guidance, you're on your own in many respects. It creates a feeling of helplessness, but at the same time it made me closer to the school, and, once I began to get things under control, gave me a sense that "I can do this, this is where I belong." This bond is now being cut, which is tough, but at the same time, it's nice to be able to do things like read any book I want for pleasure, spend more time with my wife and kids, and turn toward the next stage of my life.

Anonymous said...


Ironic photo selection for this posting. Not so much that it's one of mine (on Flickr) as that I graduated from Harvard Extension myself -- got a BA way back in 1966.

Good luck,


I Lamont said...

Thanks Tom. It's a great photo and the Extension connection is amazing. What a coincidence!