Campus & Community

A distance-learning pioneer

5 min read

New head of continuing education has broad experience in expanding online footprint

For a man who idolized baseball player Carl Yastrzemski as a kid, there is no doubt part of “Hunt” Lambert’s return to the Boston area will include trips Fenway Park this summer. But Lambert hasn’t come home simply to cheer on the Red Sox.

Huntington D. Lambert has a far different mission.

As the new dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education (DCE), Lambert — Hunt to his new colleagues — is charged with continuing to blend technology with teaching and learning to serve highly motivated students who are advancing their education through the Extension School, Summer School, Professional Development Programs, and the Institute for Learning in Retirement.

DCE’s leap into the online age isn’t starting with Lambert, but he hopes to enlarge its digital footprint.

“The importance of teaching and learning is greater than ever in a global society, and all of us in higher education need to stay focused on learning outcomes,” Lambert said. “To actually be on the Harvard campus is the greatest learning experience in the world, and the Harvard Extension School’s goal is to deliver that quality of learning outcome to students who cannot come to campus full time.”

Years before the term MOOC — massive open online course — became a part of the academic lexicon, Harvard was an important educational resource for learners outside the walls of the Yard. President A. Lawrence Lowell established University Extension at Harvard more than 100 years ago to serve Greater Boston.  In recent decades, technology has enabled the Extension School to expand its reach to all 50 states and 195 countries, bringing Harvard’s world-renowned education to a growing community of learners.

Lambert comes to Harvard with a wealth of experience in technology and distance learning, and is excited to build on the foundation laid by Dean Michael Shinagel, who is stepping down after 38 years. Lambert wants to grow the technology-supported teaching tools available to faculty, and to partner with HarvardX to further expand the University’s pedagogy and increase its impact globally.

Discussing the potential of continuing education in the 21st century, Lambert said Harvard’s portfolio of delivery mechanisms and breadth of programs — from edX to the Extension School to Harvard College, and from the humanities to hard sciences — provides a platform to help lead higher education to serve the demand for 20 million more college graduates over the next decade.

“Harvard has always been an innovator.  The Extension School allows thousands of students to take credit-bearing classes, HarvardX allows Harvard faculty to build and test new capability and conduct research, and edX allows millions of students from around the world to access courses,” Lambert said. “We are rapidly migrating from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy.  In a knowledge economy, people will have about 14 jobs and three careers in their life. To stay current, high-quality distance and online education is required.”

A Massachusetts native, Lambert came to Harvard from Colorado State University (CSU), where he led the Division of Continuing Education, serving more than 10,000 students a year. Under his leadership, the division rapidly expanded its programs, added students, and improved program quality. The division served two critical constituents: the students under the land grant-access mission, and the faculty, providing an opportunity for instructors to learn technological teaching tools and choose what to bring into their classrooms.  Lambert also did this himself, teaching in CSU’s M.B.A. program both on campus and online over the past 13 years.

“Hunt Lambert has been described as a visionary,” said Dean Michael D. Smith of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “He is a bold innovator who possesses the rare combination of a strategic business sensibility and a true commitment to our academic mission. At this exciting moment, when technology and education are combining in new and important ways here at Harvard, Hunt’s experience and track record of success are particularly welcome.”

Earlier, Lambert was the founder and interim chief executive officer of the Colorado State University Global Campus, an online public university within the Colorado State University System. Lambert developed the strategy, business plan, and operations plan for this venture, and was involved in all aspects of planning, strategy, board approvals, startup, legal approvals, and independent accreditation. The program now serves more than 7,000 students.

Lambert also founded CSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and its Community and Economic Development Office, and was involved in the startup of 15 companies from the university research labs, including and Solix Biofuels. He began his career in market-based management in the telecommunications industry, where he experienced the impact that technology and interconnectivity was having on people and the world around them.

A graduate of Colorado College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, Lambert entered higher education about 15 years ago, bringing with him his experience and passion for reaching new people. At Harvard, Lambert said he is committed to maintaining and growing the University’s leadership in teaching and learning.