We know that pursuing a master’s degree can be overwhelming, particularly for students who work full-time and are already balancing professional and personal commitments. We also know that every student has a unique reason that drives him or her to return to school and complete their degree.
Last fall, we held a scholarship competition and asked our students to tell us their story — their why — behind their decision to enroll in a graduate program. This series will profile our scholarship winners.
Graduate Professional Studies: I’m here with Tara Holderith, a student in our Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program. Congratulations on winning our first “What’s Your Why” scholarship! Tell us where you’re from.
Tara Holderith: Thank you! I’m from Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania.
GPS: How many courses have you taken with GPS so far?
TH: I’ve taken four courses. My first term was this past summer, and I took Principles of Online Instructional Design and Professional Communications. In the fall, I took Learning Analytics, which was a new course, and Advanced Instructional Design. This term I also enrolled in two courses.
GPS: Could you tell us about your day job?
TH: I’ve been teaching for 18 years. I am currently a sixth grade mathematics teacher in New Jersey.
GPS: What was the main driver in helping you decide to go back to school to get your graduate degree?
TH: I had both professional and personal reasons. Last winter, our school principal approached me and started a conversation about pedagogy and instructional design. He realized my passion and challenged me to go back to school. At first I was like “with what time?” But after careful consideration and some research, the rest is history.
GPS: What do you hope to gain professionally with this degree?
TH: Professionally, I want to gain more cutting-edge skillsets. My passion is designing innovative pedagogy according to best practices, so I’m hoping to develop even more skills in addition to those I have already learned in just four classes here at GPS.
GPS: Glad to hear! What do you hope to gain personally out of the program?
TH: I’ve come to the program to be a lifelong learner and learning for learning’s sake. I already have a master’s degree so getting another one isn’t going to directly benefit me financially. However, in terms of my personal growth and my desire to continue learning, this was the perfect opportunity for me and it was directly aligning with what I was looking for.
GPS: Awesome! Why do you think you will be successful in graduate school?
TH: I was just having this conversation with one of my supervisors and I said that when it comes to work ethic, there is no limit with me. Time is never an issue because I will do whatever it takes to complete the workload. I do have three children so it has cost me sleep on different occasions, but because I love educating and bettering myself it is really no bother to me.
GPS: Can you think of an example of any course assignment that you have directly utilized in a current or previous role at work?
TH: I was thinking about this question recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are so many different assignments that have actually been relevant. As a mother of three working full-time, time is very limited so I’ve been combining a lot of my work duties with my school responsibilities. I’ve found there is a lot of alignment, which has enabled me to give 100 percent to both my job and school.
GPS: Now a couple of fun questions. What do you like to do outside of work and school?
TH: Two of my children are USA swimmers so I spend a lot of time at swim meets. When I’m not doing that, I enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on, and I like to exercise and hike.
GPS: Are you a swimmer too?
TH: I was, but I always say that even though I am not a swimmer now, chlorine still seems to be my perfume and colleagues have even said that they can smell it on me.
GPS: Anything else you would like to add?
TH: Just that I’m extremely grateful to be part of this program. It has been such an opportunity for me and like I said before, I’m doing it because I love learning and so far it has been exactly what I expected plus more. I’ve developed a great cohort of classmates already and I really enjoy the diversity in terms of our professional experience.