Board of Directors Letters

The Harvard Extension Alumni Association Board of Directors work together to build a more active and engaged alumni body. Together they strive to provide Harvard Extension School alumni a wide array of opportunities to connect, celebrate, learn, network, and lead in their communities.

September 25, 2020

Hello fellow alumni,

The start of the fall term at Harvard Extension School is getting underway smoothly with a marked increase in new students from all over the world. We wish them well in their pursuit of gaining new skills in our unique learning environment.

It’s never been more important for alumni to be talking about their HES credentials. While online education a year ago was pacing along and developing, covid-19 has highly accelerated the digital transformation of K-12 and Higher Education. Amidst the challenges and tragedies, these kinds of macroeconomic shocks to world economies do create some bright spots.

We see investment and innovation as business and education are reliant on online platforms. Online education, once the subject of debate, is becoming mainstream.  Yet, we have been doing this for years at Harvard and are experts.

Our HEAA board meetings have started up again. We spent a good portion of the last term developing a new, robust strategic plan of which we are all very proud. The next step for the strategy is some minor adjustments to our Constitution and Bylaws coming before alumni for a vote this fall. If it passes, it will clarify procedures and extend many more volunteer opportunities through new teams and engagement initiatives. Note also the HEAA Board elections will begin in early 2021.

What can you be doing now? Well, here’s your homework assignment.

Please also join us at any of our coming virtual events, including symposiums, career focused presentations, and faculty and alumni conversation series.

Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or send questions to

I know for many around there world this has been an emotional and tough time. For myself, I am trying to find that right balance of exercise, work and family – keeping a positive attitude and putting my energies to making constructive change in the world.

Stay safe,


Michael Fabiano ALM '16


June 29, 2020

Hello fellow alumni,

Having worked so hard for their degrees, I wanted to take yet another moment to congratulate the Class of 2020.  On behalf of all alumni around the world, I welcome you to the Harvard global alumni community of over 371,000 individuals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the rituals and daily lives of most of the world, beyond  what was even imaginable in early 2020. I hope you and your family enjoyed the University’s historic inaugural Virtual Commencement. We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2020, all together with full pomp and circumstance in Tercentenary Theater, just as soon as we are able.

Part of the Harvard experience, in my view, is each of you having the personal vision to take the first steps in enrolling in classes and then having the strength of character to finish.  If you can do this, think of what more you can accomplish in your lifetime.

My own experience was, transformative. Working full time, attending classes, meeting family obligations – balancing all of this takes enormous intellectual drive and self-discipline – we are not the same people on the other side. I have met thousands of alumni traveling to various Harvard alumni events around the world. The shared characteristics are striking. I see a passionate group of global leaders and changemakers.

The Harvard experience imbues upon us the desire to make a difference.

Our world is very complex today and at this very moment it is affecting all of us greatly and in distinctly different ways. We are experiencing the greatest pandemic in one hundred years, economic instability, sustained protests, and political divisiveness.  In the midst of this, I encourage all of you to find inspiration. Always think about what Harvard stands for and be global citizens, making a point to improve ourselves and elevate our discourse in all your interactions.

Our global Harvard alumni community is thrilled to welcome you and is here for you, always.  A sincere congratulations, and once again, welcome to the Alumni Association.

Stay safe.


Michael Fabiano ALM '16


March 19, 2020      

Watch Michael's "Transformational Moment in Education" Video

Hello fellow alumni,

I know the impact of the global virus outbreak was in many ways unthinkable.

Just a few months ago, the first cases of pneumonia were detected. As the U.S. stock market was reaching unprecedented highs, the acceleration of COVID-19 has shaken the global economy to the core.

Yet, the entire Harvard community and the world is about to see, at a highly accelerated pace, what HES has mastered over the last two decades. The capability developed at HES in online learning is of a very high caliber.

I see this as a transformational moment in the world of education and the HES alumni should place close attention to this transitional time.

One thing is for sure, our societies will learn so much from this event, with many of the world’s top universities trialing something they have never done before – the ability to execute online education.

In the U.S., various K – 12 schools are sending students home with Chromebooks and other technology to see how this grand experiment will work. We will also see educational inequities from country to country and town to town. Some towns are already well into testing out distribution of Chromebooks and online technology, while others lag far behind to no solution at all.

Unfortunately, just watching my kids struggle through being confined to home (due to local schools shutting down) on a Chromebook has already highlighted how far behind K – 12 is to HES.

I described to my kids, what it is like to have a fully interactive live classroom, with hand raises, sentiment monitors, private rooms, interactive graphs, etc. All those neat bells and whistles we got used to in our own HES experiences. My 10th grader finally understood the richness of what HES offers.

As I watch my kids fumble through this experience, what is highlighted for me, is how the skillset of the online teacher truly needs to be recognized, the amazing technology platform HES developed, and the ability learn much more if done right.

There are some potential positive outcomes in all this:

  • Fundamental acceleration of the online educational process
  • Partnerships to increase the speed and technical options available to students – Holographic technology exists today.
  • More targeted solutions for students – What if you could take the best chemistry course across multiple colleges?
  • Methods of teaching and programs we haven’t thought feasible - Why can’t a high school student take their first year of college online over four summers?

It’s a good time for all alumni to be sharing our experiences at HES with the world.

Fortunately, we were able to hold two important inaugural Harvard Extension School events in Singapore and Japan. I had the pleasure of spending time in February with interim HES dean Dr. Henry H. Leitner and Pamela Lim ALM '18, award winning entrepreneur, educator and university lecturer and meeting dozens of incredibly talented alumni.  

The alumni board continues to work with the advancement office to develop the right structure to maintain a high degree of engagement across the world. We will be discussing this structure more in the months to come.

I know this is an immensely difficult time for our global alumni community. I wish you the best as we all get through this crisis together and hope you all find ways to manage through this with your families safely.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


February 14, 2020

Hello fellow alumni,

I had a wonderful opportunity this month to spend time in Los Angeles the morning after the Academy Awards with Christine Leunens A.L.M. ’05.

The hit movie, Jojo Rabbit, based on Christine's award-winning second novel Caging Skies, had just won an Oscar for the best adapted screenplay.

Jojo Rabbit received an incredible six Oscar nominations on Jan. 13th, including the nomination for Best Picture. These nominations alone are a major accomplishment. A hearty congratulations to Christine!

Harvard Extension School was essential to Christine’s process for writing the book Caging Skies. She described her educational experience as critical in providing the foundation for understanding how to research in depth, and how study, critical analysis, and dynamic class discussion of great works of literature brought her further in her own writing.

We also discussed the benefits of advanced degrees and we mutually agreed on a few concepts.

Flexibility and Choice - Our master’s degrees offer us flexibility in our careers to pursue other options. People are simply working longer and it’s not uncommon to have second, third and encore careers. I personally have changed my career once so far. Having choice in our lives is empowering.

Adaptability – The jobs of the future are not the same as the ones we currently have. As we build skills and credentials, we retool along the way. Through HES and HEAA we establish a mental model of continuous learning. Remaining teachable and adaptable is key to a long and productive career.

I encourage our alumni to pursue large, transformational ideas that make a difference in our world. We have a tremendously accomplished alumni association and it’s important to continue to engage across Harvard schools.

If you are inspired to write a book based on this post, consider that the process of adapting Christine’s book to film started in 2010. The movie was ten years in the making.

It’s a long walk to Hollywood for short drink but well worth the investment of time and energy.  Have a great month.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


January 15, 2020

Hello fellow alumni,

Happy new year to all of you. I am very excited for 2020 and I hope you are approaching this year with great energy and enthusiasm.

This month I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 154th annual meeting and dinner of the Harvard Club of New York City. This black-tie event featured guest speaker Larry Bacow, President of Harvard University. I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with the president and emphasized the dynamic, talented and deeply experienced nature of our alumni worldwide.

In his remarks to the attendees, President Bacow stressed how, as alumni of Harvard, we all have a responsibility to engage with society in a meaningful way, leaving the world a better place.

He also highlighted the value of diversity as a pathway to learning. I have always thought of our Extension alumni base as highly diverse in all areas.

The last part of the discussion focused on Veritas – finding the truth. This is a broad idea, finding truth in all things but at the core of it, is the idea of challenging each other productively, with civility, to push ourselves to be our best.

Thank you to HCNY for a wonderful evening for alumni of all Harvard schools and for a reminder of what a Harvard education imbues on every student; the desire to make a difference.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


December 16, 2019

Hello fellow alumni,

I was on the Acela express train to Boston this month for a meeting at the Harvard Faculty Club serving on the advisory board for the Journalism Program at Harvard Extension School.

As luck would have it, on part of the trip, I happened to be seated next to a Harvard professor that teaches in a few of our graduate programs. During our brief conversation, which I will paraphrase, he said it best. “I just love teaching Extension school students. They bring real world experience daily, enriching the conversation. These are some of the best classes I have taught”.

Receiving a master’s degree from Harvard Extension is one of the few programs where you can work full-time and go to school full-time or part time, depending on how you create your schedule. Hearing these realities, from students around the world, was critical to enriching my own experience. The merging of the classroom and the practical simultaneously, is what differentiated each of our individual journeys.

My journey at HES was rooted in the Journalism Program, a program that is now fifteen years old. We have a great advisory board and alumni working all over the world in key media companies.

Like so many industries, Journalism is undergoing transformative changes in technology and business models…changes that are incredibly exciting. Journalism today is filled with new roles that involve data sciences and visualization, artificial intelligence (machine learning and natural language processing), data journalism, digital product development, video innovation, augmented reality, drones, image recognition technology and much more.

My HES journey prepared me to help determine the future strategy of the AP, as the next inflection point of streaming media is transforming the company in real time.

Now, I ask you: what made your HES journey special and how are you transforming your industry or the world?

I wish all of our talented alumni around the world, a fantastic holiday season.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


November 19, 2019

Hello fellow alumni,

The stars aligned, allowing me to synchronize business travel with the recent alumni events in Santa Monica and London.

Both events were memorable and amazing -- the people first and foremost, the venues, the energy.

Our LA Chapter met at a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica in a beautiful candlelit space overlooking the surf. I was struck by the diversity of this group, their experiences and future goals. We even found a way to connect two alums together for a business opportunity while at the event. We shared ideas on everything from artificial intelligence, finance, journalism and how humans will live and learn in space someday. We even came up with an app idea to help alumni connect while traveling.

In London, I was very much humbled by the international backgrounds and accomplishments of everyone that attended – such a strong and interesting group.  A few traveled from other countries to make the event. Several have been accepted to PHD programs following their master’s degree at HES. We had some entrepreneurs that have achieved significant business impact in their careers.

What is very remarkable about the London group, is how they all were creative in their ability to meet their on-campus requirement. Several spent multiple summers, while others had jobs on campus to make it work. This is much tougher for our international students to pull off. They made it work. This common theme runs throughout our alumni.

We also said goodbye to Dean Huntington Lambert at the London event and recognized how far he had moved the needle on our school.

I was asked some similar questions about the school at both events. Why did I take on such a role?  Would we pursue a name change?  How can we integrate better with the other Harvard schools?

I will try to answer these concisely for you.

  • I took on this responsibility because Harvard Extension School is having a unique and exciting moment and I want to contribute to it. Higher education is shifting. Taking off two years from work to go to school is antiquated and we are expertly positioned with our technology platform and courses offered.
  • I don’t know if or when a name change could happen, but this topic continues to be part of the HEAA board’s conversations with the Office of Advancement.
  • I will push the third one back to us. We need to take the opportunity to connect with other alumni and tell our stories. I recently was contacted by a Harvard alum from the Kennedy school. We work in the same industry and will be meeting soon at the Harvard Club in NYC. It’s up to us to develop these connections and report back.

I am hoping these monthly updates are helpful, to share my perspective and experiences as I go through this two-year journey. Please join me on it, engage and get involved.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and message me your ideas.

Have a great month.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


October 21, 2019

Michael Fabiano ALM '16 and HEAA President speaks at Convocation

Hello fellow alumni,

This month I had the absolute privilege to participate in Harvard Extension School’s Convocation held at Memorial Church. This was an exceptional event for newly admitted degree candidates. The space was full, with over seven-hundred students and their families. The energy and excitement in the room was so very tangible and uplifting for all.

It was exciting to talk with members of this remarkable class of future graduates. Many of them are working, while pursuing a degree. This is a hallmark of our program, and different from the other Harvard schools.

“Most of you are full-time professionals with at least 10 years of work experience,” said Suzanne Spreadbury, Dean of Academic Programs & Chief Academic Officer. “Well over 100 of you are men and women who are veterans of our U.S. armed forces or who are courageously serving in our active military — likely the largest admitted cohort of military students at the University.”

Yet, it’s the reality of how the future workforce will be skilled and reskilled over time. We are living longer, working longer, getting more educated. Our labor force is having multiple careers over the span and even “encore” learning and careers, post retirement. The Harvard Extension environment molds a dynamic individual, that is balancing work, family, and school. With periodic travel to campus, it’s even more complex.

Harvard Extension School is on the cutting edge of higher education’s future and one’s personal 60-year curriculum. The technology platform we are using give us the ability to have a leapfrog effect over the traditional lecture. Our live global classes are unmatched.

On the other side, we find employers that want to hire a workforce that knows how to get things done. We produce multi-dimensional, curious individuals. Employees that have unique mixture of gritty determination and professionalism.

Finally, I was reminded that when you complete this program, you simply cannot leave without taking on the responsibility that this institution imbues upon you, to lead and make real difference.

Harvard challenges all of us, to create positive change in the world. We don’t stand still, we don’t just pass through.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


September 2019Michael Fabiano

Hello fellow alumni,

I am very excited to begin working with our board and alumni as we embark on a two-year journey together at what I view as an important inflection point for the Harvard Extension School.

A technological tipping point is occurring in higher education. Driven by interactive classroom software and artificial intelligence, society has for the first time in history an educational model that is quite different from the traditional classroom and arguably more impactful.

This model is impacting the way professors teach, how students learn, and provides access to more diverse and blended student populations. These innovative education platforms are creating new possibilities. I understand them deeply having completed a master’s degree at HES and an Executive MBA at Columbia.

While we are an alumni board, immense change is occurring, and we can help influence and shape the contours and direction of one of the twelve degree granting schools that compose Harvard. We have this moment and it’s inspiring and motivating.

I have already been quite involved with the administration and started activities in a number of areas including: assisting with global alumni engagement and community building, planning alumni events in Santa Monica, NYC, DC and Cambridge, and establishing the groundwork to develop a broad strategic plan on where we want to be in two years.

The core mission of the HEAA is one of lifelong learning and engagement.

Together we endeavor to “reach, serve, and engage all Extension alumni; to foster a lifelong intellectual and personal connection between the school and its graduates; and to provide Harvard Extension School and Harvard University with goodwill and support.”

I am looking forward to furthering this mission together.

Michael Fabiano ALM '16


October 2018

Greetings fellow alumni,

As one of the two appointed Directors representing Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education on the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) board, it’s a pleasure to introduce myself as we kick off another fantastic year for the Harvard Extension Alumni Association.  I serve alongside Carlos De La Rosa ALM ’08 as Appointed Directors to the HAA.  

Each school at Harvard has two Appointed Directors that formally serve on the Harvard Alumni Association Board of Directors. The Directors offer our leadership and experience to further the work of HAA committees and initiatives while advancing the virtues of One Harvard. Throughout the course of our 3-year term, we travel back to campus several times during the academic year for the Harvard Alumni Association Board of Directors meetings. In each of these meetings we gather together to support the engagement needs of our respective alumni, sharing best practices and challenges. 

In terms of my involvement as a Harvard alumna, I’ve been proud to serve on the HEAA board for two years and volunteered for Harvard Clubs for over 30 years.  Currently, I live in the Greater Los Angeles area where I consult to organizations on growth and fundraising initiatives with a focus on board impact and governance.  

Together, Carlos and I advocate for the needs of Harvard Extension School and its nearly 20,000 (!) alumni.  We serve as liaisons to student members of the Harvard Graduate School Council and collectively discuss how to engage alumni across all the Harvard schools.  

Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and ideas with me directly, via our ‘Get Involved’ page.

Veritas, ubiquitas, aeternitas!

Maryellen Gleason ALB '84
Appointed HAA Director