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New HES Sustainability, Global Development Degrees Director Hopes to Strengthen Programs

Harvard Extension School is located at 51 Brattle St. HES appointed Michael Mortimer to oversee master's programs inSustainability and Global Development Practice.
Harvard Extension School is located at 51 Brattle St. HES appointed Michael Mortimer to oversee master's programs inSustainability and Global Development Practice. By Aiyana G. White
By Kirsten O. Agbenyega and Lenny R. Pische, Crimson Staff Writers

The Harvard Extension School appointed Michael J. Mortimer to lead the school’s Sustainability and Global Development Practice master’s degree programs earlier this year, as he seeks to fill gaps and refine the program curriculum.

Mortimer, who took office in January, previously served as the associate dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech.

Though the HES Sustainability and Global Development Practice master’s degree programs are distinct from each other, they recognize that “more organizations around the globe — corporate, nonprofit, governmental, and consulting — are committing to climate action,” which may require global development practices, according to the degree websites.

In a Wednesday interview with The Crimson, Mortimer said he hopes to solidify and grow the HES sustainability program during his tenure.

“My vision for strengthening the program has really been sort of looking at what the program's already good at and strengthening that, looking at the program for what I would consider some small gaps,” he said.

Mortimer likened his view of the current situation to “missing a piece of glass on a window pane and trying to replace that piece of glass” in order to “strengthen the program, overall.”

Mortimer said he hopes to “make sure that some of the cutting edge topics that are out there in the sustainability field are being represented in our curriculum.”

He also highlighted the unique position of Extension School students within the broader University, pointing to the utility of their greater experience in the professional sphere.

“The student body at the Extension School is primarily working professionals or practitioners,” Mortimer said. “These are students who are working for organizations that are tackling environmental sustainability or global development issues all over the world.”

“Those students are some of our most effective on-the-ground folks to be able to make change in the spaces that they’re working in,” he added.

The Extension School has also recently opened — in collaboration with the Harvard Extension Student Association — the Harvard Extension School Global Development Practice Student Society, which “serves as a supportive and interactive space for the global Harvard community to promote awareness and understanding of Global Development work,” per their website.

According to the society’s website, they focus on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, fostering online and in-person student engagement to “inspire an intersectional and participatory framework towards international development.”

HESA President Emina Dedić underlined the importance of these programs and projects in an emailed statement to The Crimson.

“I firmly believe these programs are extremely important,” Dedić wrote.

“Sustainability is centered around the idea that we can provide for the needs we have now without sacrificing the ability for individuals in the future to meet theirs,” she added.

—Staff writer Kirsten O. Agbenyega can be reached at Follow her on Threads @kirstena006.

—Staff writer Lenny R. Pische can be reached at Follow him on X @lenny_787 or on Threads @lenny.787.

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