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.