My life has been quite a journey over the past few years. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: from June 2006 to October of 2013, I worked as a staff member in the Division of Student Affairs at CSU Channel Islands overseeing a variety of programs, but most recently, the student leadership program… all while teaching classes online, blended, and face-to-face formats. After my daughter, Jojo, was born in January 2013, I made the decision that I needed a job that afforded me the ability to work a flexible schedule; it just didn’t make sense to me to have a child and then only see her for two hours in the evening before bed after a long day of work. In August 2013, I took a risk and resigned from my role in the student leadership program and backed away from an upward career trajectory in Student Affairs to work as a lecturer and part-time in Student Affairs assisting with assessment, research, and training. I chartered this journey to gain more time with my daughter. This change was successful in a few ways: I built up to a full teaching load of five classes to pay the bills (something I was most worried about when resigning from my job), I had a flexible schedule, I built up my research agenda and got a few publications, and I fully committed myself to integrating technology into my teaching.
Unfortunately while the role of a “part-time” lecturer had many benefits, it also came with some challenges. Among the challenges were the fact that income was not stable because it was unclear how many classes I would be offered from one semester to the next. The fundamental challenge associated with teaching 5 classes per semester and maintaining a part-time job in student affairs was the workload: between prepping for classes, grading, office hours, returning student emails, teaching classes, logging hours for the part-time job and returning more emails – I worked an average of 55 hours a week. In fact, I had so much work to do that I often felt that I should be working even if I was not working. I won’t complain about the salary I earned as a lecturer, but the reality is that I had to do all of this work just to break close to even with what I made in my full time job. While the goal I had of physically spending more time with my daughter was achieved, it was a shallow success since I was almost always mentally absent, consumed with work. I loved what I did, but it was like a good Las Vegas buffet… I just got too full. After three semesters of maintaining this sort of schedule, I began to worry that Jojo would be making memories of her mum holding a laptop while she watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (I am embarrassed to admit this) and hardly ever experienced times when her parents were together while parenting (if Dustin was home, he had to take over so I could do more work).
Meanwhile during the middle of this craziness, being innovative became a secret goal of mine and working with technology in teaching took center stage. In fact, over the last year, I’ve co-authored a book chapter, completed one study, and started two other studies — all of which involve investigating the use of technology for learning. I even created an implemented an online module connecting my students with my friend’s students at a university in Japan. So- when one day, at the end of the Fall 2014 semester, I got a call from a colleague who suggested I apply for the Instructional Technologist position with Academic Technology Services at CI….it made sense to apply. I can’t say this was part of any career path I had for myself, but then again, I can’t say I have ever been someone who has felt comfortable without a path. I started thinking… maybe I should just follow where my passion is and not a prescribed path.
As the quote below says, when change happens, you can build walls or windmills…
I decided to build a windmill and go where the wind has been taking me.
On Saturday, December 20, I officially accepted a new job as an Instructional Technologist. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what that even means. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I had to look it up to make sure I knew what I as applying for before submitting my application.) Through this new role, I will be able to help faculty leverage technology to enhance student learning and engagement. I also plan to use my experience across the university, including student affairs, to help colleagues consider how they can use technology to better meet student needs and engage students in co-curricular learning. IMHO, the student affairs profession has done well with investigating the impact of social media on students but I think there is room to grow when it comes to integrating technology into the co-curricular lives of students… especially those who take classes full or partly online.
I love that my job will be to help others provide a deeper learning experience for students and that this will rely heavily upon innovation; I have always tried to be innovative in my job, you know… someone who researches best and current practices… but that was something in addition to my role. Being innovative is a job expectation now — love it! On top of all of this, and incredibly important for my work/life balance – I am fortunate that my new Division and supervisor allows for telecommuting one day a week and a flexible schedule; faculty, after all, are not on campus between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., so a varied schedule might actually better meet their needs. They get it! Plus, I will be a better employee because my employer is clearly committed to me. Who would have thought that a field (technology) that is dominated by men would be leading the way with this stuff?
People who know me know that my doctoral degree is in educational leadership (GO BRUINS) and I have a particular passion for leadership and teaching students. When I applied to this job, I had to think about what this would mean for this passion- and I came to the conclusion that I believe technology is the future (not to replace education or educators, but to deepen the learning experience)- so I figured what better way to prepare for the future than to teach and support faculty and higher education leaders in the area of technology. I still love teaching and will maintain teaching a blended class each semester that will afford me the ability to live within the latest technologies while connecting with students in meaningful ways. I am excited to forge forward in this new role of a woman in the technology field and look forward to finding unique ways to inspire young girls to do the same (I am even envisioning a passion project with girls in P-12).
The funny thing is, I’m not sure that the title, Instructional Technologist, really reflects what I’ll be doing, but I can’t really think of anything better right now anyway. And, since this move was never part of my “path”, I really have no clue where it will lead. Maybe I will continue building my list of publications and keep applying for tenure track positions or maybe I will return to student affairs. Maybe I will stay in the same job for a very long time. I am just not sure… somehow I think I could be preparing myself for a job that does not even exist yet. That’s kind of cool!