Q: You come to us from Rutgers University in New Jersey. What was your position at Rutgers? What got you excited about applying for the position of Manager, LSA Learning & Teaching Consultants (LTC)?
I had two big reasons. For one, Ann Arbor is my hometown and I wanted to come back. I have always loved Ann Arbor. I didn’t attend the University of Michigan, but it’s what I imprinted on as a child—this is what a university should look like. I wanted to come back home to it. The other reason is that this position is the next logical step in my career path. At Rutgers, I was one of the two co-leads of the central instructional design team with a focus on faculty training and professional education. That was a good start on leading a team and working with a large group of faculty. I enjoyed the position very much and I wanted to do more of that. So being the manager of LTC, which is dedicated to the College of LSA, looked just right. Plus, it takes me back to the Liberal Arts, which is my intellectual hometown. It was the perfect opportunity for me.
Q: What are a few things you would like your team to accomplish in the 2019-20 academic year?
I want to improve our outreach and visibility to the faculty. It will take a sustained effort from the whole team to make that work, get that traction, but I am confident we can do it. I also want us to increase our faculty support materials such as documentation, video resources, workshops, as well as our ability to leap in quickly to support faculty in person when they have an instructional design question or other support needs. I would like to expand our capability and integrate it better so everyone on the team feels able to step in anywhere. My third goal is to make sure that each member of my team is trained to a uniform level in instructional design theory and practices. The team should be familiar with backwards course design, the principles of learning, and the best practices of teaching with technology. I want everyone to feel equally comfortable working with faculty and presenting these ideas.
Q: Instructional technologies change so quickly. How do you keep up with the latest trends and technologies?
One of the ways I keep up is through my professional organizations—The Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Educause, and the Chronicle of Higher Education are my big three. I read their publications and go to their conferences when I can. I know if I attend the Educause conference, everything is going to be there. I can learn about the tools I haven't even heard of yet, or the needs the faculty have but have not articulated. Visiting the conferences also tells me where people are developing new things. The OLC Conference, especially, can tell me how instructors are developing new pedagogical approaches.
Q: What has most surprised you about this job?
The thing that has surprised me the most is how much influence LSA has at the University. I’m used to thinking of the professional schools as the ones who have a lot of money and influence and can say things about which direction the University will go. As an instructor, I have seen the liberal arts degree denigrated and perceived as not as important as other degree programs. But honestly, since I have been here I have found that when people hear about an LSA project, they get right on board.
Q: You recently adopted a cat from the Humane Society. How is that going?
It is going very well! He is an all-black wild caught cat and we estimate he is about five years old. He seemed very wise so I named him after Osanyin, a Yoruba god of the forest and medicine. I have another cat named after Atalanta, who was a foot racer in Greek mythology. She was a big runner and jumper, as a kitten! There are times when Osanyin plays the bratty little brother and swats at Atalanta’s tail, but overall the two cats are getting along nicely.
Q: What is something people may not know about you?
I danced for 20 years, and started when I was four years old. I studied ballet, jazz, and modern dancing growing up and while I was an undergrad at Kalamazoo College. I wanted to be a professional dancer at first, but my interest shifted over time and I wound up majoring in English. Another interesting fact is that my dissertation was about the women in Herman Melville’s work. Yes, there are women in Melville!
Q: What is the last book you read?
I'm a big fan of science fiction and fantasy as a genre. My latest read is Ninefox Gambit. This is the first book in a series by Yoon Ha Lee, who is an amazing author. Ninefox Gambit is a difficult book to summarize, but I would categorize it as science fiction, and possibly math fantasy, or space opera. The story is absolutely fascinating. The main theme is about dealing with conflicts of loyalties and how to change an entrenched system of government and society.
Q: When you are not in the office, what interests/hobbies do you enjoy?
I love reading. I also garden—I grow flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Right now I have my mint, basil, and tomatoes going. My foxglove is coming up too. One day, when I have more space, I would love to grow corn again. When I was a kid we had enough yard to grow a plot of corn. It was so good, fresh!
Q: Now that you have been with LSA Technology Services for 3 months, what gets you excited about coming to work?
I get really excited about collaboration with units outside LSA such ITS, CRLT, and the library. There is also much collaboration within LSA such as the Language Resource Center, academic departments, and units within Technology Services. I didn’t have access to nearly this depth of collaboration at Rutgers University. It really makes coming into work much more appealing!