Why Did I Write This?
As of August 2018, I have completed Boise State’s Masters of Education in Educational Technology. And I decided it would be appropriate to share details that demonstrate how I have seen my Heavenly Father’s hand in my life.
Simply put, it’s been a long journey with several miracles along the way. I did not want to shortchange the opportunity to share in detail how God and humans helped me so I wrote this blog post. I hope by sharing my journey, others will see blessing in their own adventures.
Since a young age, I was determined to go to college. I always loved school, and the traditional educational system worked for me and the way my brain learned. It was in middle school or high school where I decided that pursing a graduate education was a life goal.
I remember a specific instance where I read a letter written by my mother. I applied for a scholarship that required a letter from my parent, explaining my scholastic potential. In that letter, my mother made it explicitly clear that I was capable of achieving a bachelors, masters, and even a doctorate degree. While I knew my parents believed in me, and supported me, seeing their thoughts in written form struck me deeply.
Also, I had a conversation around that time with my dad. I was curious about how to pay for college. So I asked dad, “are you going to help me pay for college?”
“I paid my way through college. You can do the same,” Dad answered.
And that was that. Thankfully, my love of school lead to receiving good grades which qualified me to receive a scholarship. That scholarship paid for most of my tuition for all 4 years of my undergraduate degree. I also was led to find a part-time job early freshmen year that impacted my life deeply, and set me on a professional career that is both internally and extrinsically rewarding. I was proud to say that by age 25, I was completely debt free, and I put myself through school.
Part of my undergraduate work included participation in the William O. Douglas Honors College. This was crucial to prepare me for graduate level writing. I was taught to think critically, write concisely, and argue my ideas persuasively. I even wrote an undergraduate thesis discussing feminism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I identify as an active, participating member of this faith because of personal, soul-changing experiences that I will not go into detail here.
Summarizing, my college experience created an excellent foundation to pursue graduate work in the future.
Life After College
To put it short and sweet, I went into banking for 6 months post-college. I liked it but did not connect with it as a long-term profession. I was encouraged by a previous supervisor to apply for the Program Manager role at UW in Disability Resources. I started in that role in March 2012.
Deciding on a Graduate Program
About 9 months into my new job, I started to get antsy. I grasped the fundamentals of my role and worked hard to develop the program. I started the exploration of available graduate degrees. One big component of this process was to identify my “must-haves” in the selected program. The big “must-haves” were:
- no GRE requirements (I didn’t want to study for a standardized test).
- at least 50% online (so I could participate in an experience similar the students I served at UW).
- be in a field that was related to my industry (accessibility or helping students with disabilities).
- would support careers that had the earning potential I sought.
I applied to 2 student affair programs in early 2014. On a whim, and a random Google search, I virtually stumbled across the Boise State University’s Master of Education in Educational Technology (M.E.T.) program. It was very appealing and a route I frankly did not know existed. I applied that same night (there were minimal admission requirements so I could complete the application in one sitting).
Sometime around this point, I was rejected from one student affair programs, accepted to the other. One week after applying to the M.E.T. program, I received an acceptance letter. That was Valentine’s Day 2014. Admittedly, it did not seem to be that competitive. Why? My guess is because it is a 100% online program, they did not have tight scale-ability issues. The M.E.T. program is also geared towards K-12 teachers, although other professions can tweak certain projects to fit their area of expertise.
I basically made a decision within a couple of days to accept their acceptance. It seemed like the clear choice, based on my “must-haves”. Plus, it was intriguing in a way that student affairs was not.
Wasn’t Busy Enough
I write that heading cheekily. In June of 2014, I was invited to consider part-time employment with a vendor with whom I had developed a close-ish professional relationship. I thought it sounded fun, so I started in July 2014. I began working with other higher education institutions remotely (through video conferencing and phone calls and emails, often at 6 am in the morning), and onsite (traveling to their campus for 2 days). My job was to help them learn a disability management software that revolutionizes paper-based offices. Thankfully, my schedule at UW allowed me to do both jobs.
Starting Grad School
Fast forward to August 2014. In a small fishing village of Sekiu (see-queue), I logged into my first online, graduate course. Admittedly, it was late at night, and I quickly became frustrated with the slow internet, and my inexperience with the online platform, Moodle. Sekiu is basically the northwestern tip of Washington state and low-quality internet service should not have been a surprise. I remember being a bit snippy with my mom, who thankfully, was super supportive and understanding.
That introductory course was interesting. I mostly remember struggling with APA format (only used MLA previously) in writing papers. I also remember the quick decline of social activities. Naturally, I was trying to learn how to balance a full-time job, a part-time job, and part-time graduate school. I decided to take 1 course a semester since I wanted to have at least a mediocre a social life.
I tried to keep stress and the challenges of these different demands under control but it took a while to find my groove.
Leading Women at Church
The same week I started graduate school, I was called or asked to be the Relief Society President at church. The Relief Society President is the women’s leader, focusing on the spiritual, social, physical, and mental needs of the sisters in that congregation. The President works with 3 other women who are also leaders. And there were other people in the congregation that were also of immense support. There is never just “one” leader in an LDS or Mormon congregation; there is a whole network of leaders.
This role is not paid, nor is there formal training. Frankly, I believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and He does not always call the person with the most credentials. Rather, each invitation to serve in His church is for the benefit of that individual, and the members that individual serves.
This role easily added 5-10 hours a week of meetings, visits, emails, pondering, and outreach. Keep in mind, I still had my full-time job, my part-time job, my new part-time graduate work, and all the other things we get to do in life. Like laundry.
My role as Relief Society President lasted about 1.5 years. While it was hard, I know I was blessed in my jobs and schooling because I was willing to sacrifice time to focus on helping others.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, I think everyone can connect to the idea of things somehow “working out” when the focus is external, not internal.
Alright this blog post is becoming a novel so let’s speed this up. This is what the next 4 years of my life looked life, organized by semester. (A semester is around 16 weeks).
- Fall 2014 – EDTECH 501. Invited to serve as Relief Society President at church.
- Spring 2015 – EDTECH 502.
- Summer 2015 – EDTECH 512.
- Fall 2015 – took this semester off due to intensity of my 2 jobs.
- Spring 2016 – EDTECH 503. No longer serving as Relief Society President.
- Summer 2016 – EDTECH 513.
- Fall 2016 – EDTECH 504.
- Spring 2017 – took this semester off due to promotion at UW. I moved from a Program Manager to an Assistant Director and wanted to adjust without additional distractions.
- Summer 2017 – took this semester off. Why? Honestly, I spend my tuition money on replacing my iPhone. This was a helpful move, as there was a marriage in the family and I loved having all the space for videos and pictures.
- Fall 2017 – took this semester off. By this point, I was directly managing 26 student and temp hourly employees
- Spring 2018 – 505, 506, 535, 551 (academic leave)
- Summer 2018 – 592, portfolio course
- Don’t work Sundays
- Apply as much to profession as possible
- Educate professors and peers as much as possible about accessibility
- Finished every assignment when it was due
- Learned a lot
- Good health
- Co-write some articles with professor
- Added legitimacy to my profession, especially being in higher ed
- Craft a training course for my employees that grew to 26 people by the end of my time at UW
- Prepared for current phase of career as a consultant
- Do work in 1/2 the time. Recommended was 10 hrs a week for 16 week courses; 20 hrs a week for 7 week courses (summer).
- For most part, technology worked well with me – no major catastrophes. The cloud is a wonderful thing!
- Create videos for 2nd job which prepped me to create videos for other courses (513, 592).
- Never pulled an all nighter, saw 2 and 3 am a handful of times.
How I Was Prepared
- Work in higher ed environment that fosters learning and application of learning
- My boss was supportive
- Team members were so supportive (especially in editing the Canvas course for hours afterwards).
- 2 friends had taken leave of absences from work prior to me asking for permission in October 2017.