The Brandeis GPS blog

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

Tag: student testimonial

#WhatsYourWhy Wednesday with Heather Ryder

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.

GraduDadnMe-169x300ate Professional Studies: I’m here with Heather Ryder, a student in our Master of Science in Information Technology Management program. Congratulations on winning our first “What’s Your Why” scholarship! Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Heather Ryder: Thank you! My name is Heather Ryder. I’m originally from Freeport, Maine, and I currently live in Newton, Massachusetts.

GPS: Tell me a little about your day job.

HR: I work at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company in Cambridge. I’ve been here for almost five years, and I manage our help desk team. We have a team of six people here in the U.S., and we support our employees all over the globe. I also do some system administration, and act as a liaison between different departments on projects involving IT.

GPS: Great. Let’s switch gears a bit and talk more about why you decided to go back to school.

HR: I kind of went back and forth with the decision for a while. I wanted to continue learning outside of the workplace, and I had just moved into a managerial role at work — that was something very new to me so I wanted to build my skillsets in that area. No one in my family has attended graduate school and I have a huge family (my dad is one of five, my mom is one of six).

GPS: What made you choose Brandeis over some of the other schools you looked at?

HR: I was really looking for a program that supported online learning, it’s so much easier for my schedule. Sometimes I work really long hours depending on what we’re doing, or I have nightly calls with Sydney, Singapore and some of our offices on the other side of the world. I was looking for classes that supported those types of hours.

Brandeis stuck out because Janice, my student advisor, was just so incredible with helping me through the registration process. And the fact that I could take a course prior to actually applying to see if it was a good fit for me was awesome. I’m only taking two classes per year right now, just because of work and everything, and Janice has been great about making sure I don’t miss my required courses and setting me up for success. That was something really important to me because I’m going on this journey that nobody in my family has gone on before, and it’s so valuable to have someone give me advice on being a working professional who is also in school. Her advice is so hands on point and I absolutely love that.

GPS: What do you hope to gain professionally with the degree?

HR: As I mentioned, HubSpot has international offices that we’ve opened over the course of the past three years. This is a huge area of growth for us, we really want to go global as a company. No one on our team has a lot of experience when it comes to taking an IT team global. How do you handle communications, organizational structure changes, management and leadership? I realized there’s so much expertise that I don’t have, so many things I’m going up against that I have never experienced before. A lot of the courses in my program specifically tackle these challenges. I’m really excited about all these changes on my team, but I know that I could really benefit from talking to other professionals who have gone through a similar process.

GPS: Do you have anything to expand on in terms of personal goals or how you think this degree will fit into your life outside of the office?

HR: When I first started at HubSpot I was incredibly shy. Now that I’m in a management role and help motivate people on my team, that’s like a new world for me. Just working with other professionals in my classes has helped me come out of my shell. They’ve really helped me figure out how to balance my personality versus the personalities of other individuals. This is helpful not only at work, but with personal relationships, too. I also want to show the young women in my family (my cousins who are much younger than me), that the option of getting a master’s degree is available to them. And show them that they can really do anything: they can go to grad school or undergraduate school, and work, and start a family.

GPS: Why do you think that you’re going to be successful in completing this program?

HR: Hands down, it’s because of the program’s flexibility. As I mentioned, my advisor has been great about keeping me on track with my courses. And because we have five years to finish the program, I know I don’t have to worry if something major comes up at work or in my personal life. Right now, I’m planning my wedding for this fall, so I know that I can skip a term if I need to.

GPS: Can you think of an example of any course assignments that have directly impacted anything that you’re doing at work?

HR: Absolutely! In one of my most recent classes, Strategic Information Technologies, we wrote a paper about the pros and cons of software that we want to implement into our work environment. I used the format covered in my paper to look at six different processes we’re currently using at HubSpot, I measured the benefits of each technology, and evaluated the benefits of each one. That helped us move from six knowledge-based software that we were using to three.

GPS: Tell me more about your hobbies outside of school or work.

HR: I have a six-year-old stepdaughter that I enjoy spending my weekends with. I’m also learning Russian kind of on my own. I love to write and to read, and I play board games and video games to decompress. I also really like to bake and cook, and I love watching baking and cooking shows. So a lot of different options when I have free time!

 

My Student Experience

By: Ingah Davis-Crawford, Student in the M.S. in Instructional Design & Technology program

The fall semester 2014, was my first semester at Brandeis GPS.  The last time I had attended grad school was in 2009, when working on my Master’s in Distance Education from the University of Maryland University College.

Believe me when I say that I had no plans to return to school.  But, in the five intervening years I began to think that maybe I should advance my knowledge explorerof instructional design. At the same time I did very much enjoy not having to spend time studying.  I had gotten back into the swing of having a social life and just being able to watch television or read when I wanted was great and let’s not even mention sleep.  Still, every now and again I would surf the net looking for an online grad instructional design program.

That’s what I was doing when I found the Online Instructional Design and Technology program at Brandeis.  I saw it was a new program and that the first cohort would begin studies in the fall.  It was one of those “now you don’t have any excuses” moments for me. If I didn’t apply who could I blame?  My friends and family would understand.  I could dvr my favorite TV shows.  And sleep, well I have gone without it before and survived.

I enrolled in two courses, Principles of Online Instructional Design and Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. I was beginning to get the hang of things when real life intervened.  During the third and fe-Learning Concept. Computer Keyboardourth weeks of the semester , our father, who had been sick for quite some time, was taken into hospice care and began his journey home.  Needless to say that meant I had to put my classes on the back burner, Dad was the priority.  Of course, I messaged my professors to inform them of my circumstances and they were both very understanding. However professor Salerno was particularly kind and encouraging.  In the end after returning my attention to studying, I made the decision to drop Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in favor of concentrating on Principles of Online Instructional Design (ID).

I really enjoyed the ID course, and it was no walk in the park either.  The course offered an education on two levels – first, it was a thorough overview of the methodology behind instructional design.  Second, it was very enlightening to be able to observe and experience professor Salerno’s teaching method and how he structured the course, respectively.  For instance with respect to teaching method, I noticed that he would use the discussion forum topics to get us to think about or practice a specific instructional design technique prior to the assigning a task that would incorporate that technique on a broader scale.  This I found to be quite useful for my own development throughout the course and I also view it as a practical example of best practices.  The course layout within the classroom was very easy to follow.  Course materials for the weekly modules were clearly placed.  Instructions for discussion forum topics and course assignments were clear and concise.  And, professor Salerno was always available to answer questions or offer feedback on a timely basis.  So, there again he was teaching by example.

In closing, I found the course to be challenging, but I know that I learned a lot and I’m glad to have had the experience.  Overall, I’m very satisfied with the learning experience I have had so far at Brandeis GPS, and I’m looking forward to next semester.

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