Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My passion

At the end of the day -- why am I here? I think that's a question we each ask ourselves from time to time. And if we don't, perhaps we should. It's easy to just keep going with the flow without even knowing why.

So, why am I here? Why am I still in school? I chuckled when I realized that today is my second day of 18th grade. Why am I a graduate student?

In the simplest sense possible, my passion is helping people. I want to do work that enriches others' lives. Although I respect the need for theoretical constructs and high-level thinking, those are not my passions. When the rubber hits the road, my goal is to do research that will have a direct and positive impact on people's lives. When I was an undergrad, I pursued this by doing work with educational technologies. I thought this work might continue in my graduate career, but it seems I am now called to a different path. This time, I am drawn to the community. And what is the basis of the community? Individual families.

Beyond my hopes of making an impact on the lives of people that I may not know, I believe my primary mission in life is to serve my own family. My husband and I are excitedly looking forward to being parents. The more I learn and understand, the better I will be able to educate my children. Pursuing graduate studies is part of my overall journey of seeking what is true, beautiful, and good. One of my favorite recent quotes is from Pope Benedict XVI:

Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy.
Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

My academic persona

In my previous post, I was careful not to reference my academic life. Although I have a deep commitment to education and lifelong learning, I try to keep my academic self at least somewhat separate from my personal self.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I have a bachelor's degree from YSU in Computer Information Systems. Currently, I am a second-year graduate student in Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State. My journey to this field of study was certainly not a straight path! I began college as a biology major, hoping to eventually go into neuroscience. Upon discovering that I don't like lab work, I switched to finance, only to quickly realize that business wasn't my calling, either. Finally, I changed my major to computer information systems. At that point, I wasn't terribly familiar with computers, but I liked the idea of combining logic and creativity. I quickly discovered that computing gave me the opportunity to use my talents in organization, writing, and management.

My undergraduate advisor, Dr. Karen Duda, had a huge impact on my academic life. She was the chair of my department, and my boss, as I worked for her under an Ohio Learning Network grant. Dr. Duda's passion was using technology for education. She was especially interested in distance learning. I helped her to implement a four-week online course for YSU faculty on how to teach via the web. She strongly encouraged me to go to graduate school. Our department suffered a tremendous loss when Dr. Duda passed away in May 2006.

In many ways, I see my graduate school pursuits as my humble way of continuing Dr. Duda's legacy. When I first started the IST program at Penn State, I imagined that I would continue my work with distance learning. This has not happened. Instead, I've found myself gravitating towards work in community informatics and supporting families with technology. Even though the subject matter is different, I still feel that this work falls in line with the work that Dr. Duda cared about most: work that helps people and makes their lives better.

Despite the separation that I typically maintain between my academic and personal selves, I have created one bridge between them recently. I wrote my candidacy literature review on how parents of children with developmental disabilities use the Internet to find information resources and social support. The inspiration for this project came from my own life, as my brother has autism. I hope to expand this research to my own projects in the future. In early August 2008, I attended the National Autism Conference at Penn State. It was a high-energy, well-attended, expertly-planned, highly informative event.

Let's get personal

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Louise, a quirky, inquisitive individual who finds most situations to be highly amusing. I have been married to a wonderful man, Colin, for a little over a year. My interests are highly varied, but some of the most prominent ones include literature (especially classic novels and poetry), writing, the piano, theology, cooking, and nature. I am a very family- and community-oriented person.

I am originally from the Youngstown, Ohio, area, and I miss it terribly. I graduated from Youngstown State University in 2007. My college years were wonderful. I met many amazing friends, had a great academic experience, and enjoyed working for various departments on campus, particularly my home department, Computer Science and Information Systems. During the last two years of my undergraduate career, I served as a student member on the YSU Board of Trustees. I also served as a member of Academic Senate, Student Government Association, University Scholar Trustees, Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, and the Catholic Student Association. Having the opportunity to be active on the campus I loved was a very enjoyable experience for me.

As a happy bride, my activities are now mostly centered around my home. My family is the center of my life and always will be. My husband is a joy! I miss my parents and my brother, who still live in Youngstown, and we visit them and our wonderful friends (whom we also miss!) from back home as often as possible.

Most importantly, I am a practicing Catholic who loves her faith. I live every day simply trying to do God's will and to seek what He wants for me and from me.