The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who am I? Why am I here?

I guess since this blog is about the road to being an academic, I should tell the story of why I chose this particular profession. Well, it all started out when I was just a wee college student...

It was the mid-late 1990's and I was going to college at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota. I had chosen this school because I wanted to be in the big city, go to a private school, and when I visited there were more cute boys around than there were when I visited Hamiline College (also in St. Paul). I entered college with really no true goals of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just had always known that I would go to college. One of those givens in my life. I have always enjoyed school and so why not extend it beyond High School. I was also a pretty smart cookie and I knew all the smart kids went on to college. I did not want to think of what life with just a high school diploma would be like.

As I progressed through UST I found that I was interested in psychology. My first interest had started in high school when I took a high school psychology course from my teacher Mr. Beisel. Cudos to you Mr Beisel for getting my interested in the first place! I was interested in psychology after taking my first intro class and so in my just before my second semester as a sophomore, I decided to declare myself a Psych major.

I then needed to start taking my core classes. I found out when I began planning my program of study that there was some aspects that I did not expect of a psych. major. Namely math. I had to take Statistics my sophomore year and really did not fully understand why and was a bit disheartened. I was never really good at math and had a bit of a math anxiety, but I took the class. You need statistics to be able to do research, which was the next class I had to take for my major in order to basically take any other upper level psych class.

Well, research methods was where I really fell in love with psychology. I found that I did enjoy the content of the field, I knew that from taking Intro. But somehow I knew I wasn't in it for the clinical or counseling part of psychology. No, now I knew where my niche was....Research psychology.

I loved conducting little experiments, designing studies and testing my hypotheses. During research methods I learned how statistics are used as a tool to answer questions (and I am still a huge stats nerd today!). Now after taking research methods I knew that I wanted to be able to do research....but where does one do that.

Moving on through my major I learned that the only place to really do research was in higher education. I also learned that I really admired my professors and I wanted to do what they did for a living. My psychology professors were more than just teachers...they were inspirations to me. My advisor, Dr. John Buri, is by far the best professor I have ever had. You can look him up at and see the rave reviews that he receives. And he earns every single one. Other noted professors I had were Dr. WilliamsMorris, Dr. Robinson-Reigler, Dr. Mabry, Dr. Chakley, and Dr. Hamdan. All of these faculty members were dedicated to their students' learning and also let all of their students know that they cared.

So when I was at the end of my undergraduate career, I knew that I loved research, I wanted to teach, and that I wanted to focus more on teaching than research (but not completely!). I knew I would go to graduate school, but I did not know what area of research I was interested in.

Because of this I took a couple of years off. I got married, lived in England for a while, lived in Oklahoma for a while, and learned that I had an interest in researching how technology is used in learning. I mostly got this interest because of my husband's computer-based training sessions when he was in training for the Air Force. I wondered, was it any good, what are different ways to program learning, what about the Internet. Keep in mind that as I was going through college, learning on the Internet was still relatively new. When I first entered St. Thomas we still had to use PINE to access our e-mail and none of my professors used PowerPoint or Blackboard in their classes (I don't think Blackboard even existed).

Now with the abundance of technology that can be used, we as researchers and educators have a duty to find out what works, what doesn't and what is just bells and whistles. When the time came and I was able, I applied for graduate school at the University of North Dakota and am now working with Mark Grabe, an expert in the use of technology in education.

So that is a short (too late) version of how I got to where I am now, and why I decided to do what I am doing. I have thoroghly enjoyed my Graduate career and in another post I will describe more of what these past four years have been like. But for now, you know a bit more about me.


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