The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: Student testimonials

From student to commencement speaker to alumna

In 2015, Brandeis GPS profiled Kara Wasnewsky (Noonan), a now alumna of our Instructional Design and Technology master’s program. We spoke with Kara again in 2017 as she was getting ready to give her commencement speech last May. Now, almost a year later, we sat down with Kara and talked about her accomplishments and current job as an Instructional Designer at Regis College in Weston, MA.

In her role, she works one-on-one with faculty to design online and hybrid courses as well as offer guidance on integrating technology into the classroom. She also facilitates professional development workshops around instructional design and technology.

Read on for Kara’s thoughts on her journey to instructional design in her own words.


On her journey to instructional design:

Instructional design didn’t hit my radar until I started working for Pearson, an educational publisher. My role at the time was to project manage the development of media for their large courseware products, but what I really wanted to do was design them. Design strategy came from the instructional designers, so I set my sights on becoming an instructional designer. 

As I finished my coursework in instructional design, I started considering opportunities outside of my current company and decided that I would like most to work directly with higher education faculty to design courses.

On what she finds particularly rewarding about working as an instructional designer in higher ed:

I have worked with a couple of faculty who were nervous about teaching online when they first came to work with me. Many of them did not believe that online courses could be as effective as the face-to-face courses they have been teaching. It is so rewarding to see these faculty start to get excited about their online courses and what they can do in the learning management system.

On the impact her Brandeis GPS degree made on her career:

What I learned in Brandeis’ Instructional Design and Technology program was immediately transferable to my role as an Instructional Designer. In the program, I learned the process of designing effective instruction, which is the same process I have the faculty implement for their courses. 

Most importantly, I learned what the role of an instructional designer is and can be, which has been integral to my success. On my first day, it was expected that I knew the role and what I needed to do, and it is up to me to provide the strategy for moving instructional design at Regis forward.

On advice to those considering a career in instructional design: 

To be successful in a role like mine you do need to be knowledgeable about instructional design and the common technologies used for instruction in a higher education setting. My advice for anyone considering instructional design is for them to pursue it. It is a challenging profession, but it is a lot of fun. There are a lot of exciting things happening in this field, especially in higher education.


It’s been great to talk with Kara over the years and see her evolve from student to commencement speaker to an accomplished instructional designer.

To learn more about the part-time, online MS in Instructional Design and Technology, contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) offers fully online, part-time master’s degrees and professional development courses in today’s most in-demand fields. With four 10-week sessions each year, students can complete their degree in as little as 18 months. Courses are led by industry experts who deliver professional insights and individualized support. Brandeis GPS is dedicated to extending the rigorous academic standards that make Brandeis University one of the top institutions in the country to a diverse population seeking to advance their careers through continuing studies. Brandeis is a medium-sized private research university with a global reach, dedicated to first-rate undergraduate education and the making of groundbreaking discoveries. The university’s 5,700 undergraduate and graduate students are motivated, compassionate, curious, and open to exploring new and challenging experiences. 

From Brandeis, to Brandeis

After starting his master’s as an undergraduate, a Brandeis University alumnus proves that full-time work and graduate school can co-exist.

Three days after graduating from Brandeis University with a BS in Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) and a minor in Economics, Allan Chuang (class of 2017) enrolled in the university’s Health and Medical Informatics (HMI) program — a master’s of science degree offered through the university’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. Brandeis GPS caught up with Allan to learn more about his new life as a part-time graduate student and what motivated him to continue his Brandeis education.

The first time Allan Chuang learned of Brandeis GPS was through an email sent by the university’s registrar during the first or second week of his senior year. After reading that graduating seniors could enroll in GPS’s online graduate courses, he began researching programs and discovered that the HMI program and Brandeis GPS offered courses that would expand his current access to health policy education.

“I found that HMI is very similar to HSSP and since GPS was offering the program’s intro course, I just decided to give it a shot,” said Chuang.

This past spring, Chuang enrolled in Perspectives on Health/Medical Information Systems. Despite taking four other courses during this last undergraduate semester, he found the workload manageable and enjoyed the flexibility of online learning. In addition to setting aside blocks of study time and finding new coffee shops to work from, he also stressed how discipline and self-motivation were critical to his academic success.

“Taking a GPS course is like going to the gym,” said Chuang. If you go to the gym every day with a routine schedule, you get in the habit of putting in your work.”

After graduating from Brandeis last May, Chuang accepted a position at a travel tech start-up in Taiwan. Despite working 50-60 hours each week, Chuang enrolled in a second GPS course and recently applied and was accepted into the Health and Medical Informatics program.

“People in my classes aren’t just students, they are also very experienced healthcare professionals — some have been in the industry for more than 15-20 years,” said Chuang. “We have very vibrant discussions. It’s a good opportunity to network and get to know people in the healthcare fields.”

Those vibrant discussions are at the heart of each GPS course. Chuang looks forward to the weekly feedback he receives from his instructor, which challenges him to engage even more deeply in peer-to-peer dialogue.

Chuang decided to continue his education at Brandeis GPS because of the university’s dedication to academic excellence and high reputation in the greater Boston area. The fact that students have up to five years to complete their degree, and that Brandeis GPS gives Brandeis alumni a 15% tuition discount on online classes, also motivated him to enroll.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Army Reservist shares his GPS experience in his own words

Faces of GPS | Steve Boardman

In 2014, I was in pursuit of a career plan for the next 20 years of my life and chose to leverage my IT experience as a software developer to shift into consulting as a business intelligence and big data analytics expert. In search of a graduate program to help propel me into that evolving field, I spent more than 100 hours researching many data science and analytics degree options.Boardman Military - Brandeis GPS Online Education - Brandeis GPS Blog

I found the Master of Science in Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) to be the best fit for my life situation for many reasons:

  • The core curriculum and available electives seemed to be a well-balanced mix of business application, management, and technical disciplines.
  • The industry-experienced GPS faculty was a benefit because it enhanced my learning based on my prior undergraduate experience.
  • As an Army Reservist, the ability to conduct coursework online is an essential benefit. Moreover, the 10-week terms with a significant break between them promote a good work, school, and life balance, enabling students to complete the program in only 2 and a half years,  taking one course at a time.
  • The tuition fees were lower than other competing schools, and would be covered by my Post-9/11 GI Bill® VA benefits by 90 percent.

Since I started the Strategic Analytics program with GPS in spring 2015, I have completed seven courses toward my degree thus far and plan to graduate in the summer of 2017. Much of the knowledge that I’ve gained from the coursework has been directly applicable to my current position as an archival data systems development consultant. From what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to conduct more focused data analysis and produce more meaningful results to management, which has helped me earn their confidence and trust. As a result, I was given the lead role in spearheading my client’s business intelligence and data management strategy for analytics in September 2015. My return on investment is being realized even before completing my degree requirements.

Boardman Military 2 - Brandeis GPS Online Education - Brandeis GPS BlogCharging through the academic rigors of the program’s coursework and research has been achievable without a major sacrifice from family time and other activities. Living and working in Charleston, SC, with my wife and five-year-old daughter, my evenings during the week and weekends are well-balanced. Not every evening is spent doing school work, which my wife is very happy about. While taking at least one course per term, I am able to work a challenging full-time IT job, lead a platoon size unit in the Army Reserve part-time, play drums in a professional local rock band, and spend plenty of quality time with my family. I am grateful to my employer who pays for my remaining 10 percent tuition out of pocket. Now that GPS offers a 15% discount on tuition for active military and veterans, that saves my employer and the VA around $500 per course. Choosing the MS in Strategic Analytics at GPS was one of my best decisions, as it has proven to better my quality of life.

Steve Boardman is a software development professional with over 20 years of experience providing leadership in developing IT solutions for a variety of industries. He specializes in Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Intelligence (BI) Strategy, Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Implementation, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Systems Integration, Application Development, and Legacy System Migration.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

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