January 14, 2014
Tomorrow I have an interview for the Senior Associate Dean of Graphic Design position with my school. Thus tonight’s five hundred words of grammatical excellence will take a detour from my own readings and be devoted to gathering my thoughts around that most grand event—with a generous dose of gratuitous, education utopian fluff thrown in for good measure.
So, yes indeed to catch up everyone…I am currently one of three Associate Deans with the undergraduate graphic design online department of a technical college in the States. It’s a job that is totally in keeping with what makes me excited to be alive (namely creating new things + seeing people come into their own areas of perceived giftedness.) I’ve been in this post for about a year and a half and in addition to teaching I train new adjuncts, mentor anywhere from 120-150 students, and write/revise curriculum to better align with the trajectory we as a department see for our students.
My choice to pursue my EdD has come out of having this position and interacting with our students. The strata of students we are reaching (namely adults, little to no higher ed experience, GED over high school diploma, etc.) are totally worthy as learners yet totally unfit for the traditional system of higher education. My students come to the program, thinking that they’ll get a chance to, finally, pursue their dreams and get their fabled degree and then a few months into it, realize that online is perhaps even harder than brick and mortar because you don’t leave your life to learn in a special, safe studio space…you learn situate right in the midst of your dirty dishes and your barking dog and in between shifts of your job and when your toddler is napping. When reality once more collides with dreams…the dreams shatter and students leave much the worse off both financially and psychologically.
It’s an issue that I wish had a simple answer—some simple instructional design change or better trained instructors, or a psychic switch to make all the difference and make the students believe in themselves…And yet it doesn’t. Almost three years in at times I feel the only thing that really has changed is the sharp increase in my own level of cynicism about the long term sustainable potential of any educational structure, whether online or on-ground.
So tomorrow I have an interview to stake my claim even deeper into the program and potentially become a Senior Associate Dean. Why do I want to be the Sr. AD? Why not just say enough and be a designer and make stuff for clients rather than trying to make new designers?
Because I believe in the system as a whole. I believe in the power of online/distance education to empower students and give back agency to those who never knew they had agency before. I believe that our program has the ability to nurture and call out the creative voice so many people who, for whatever reason, gave up in their past. I know there are no easy or clear answers but I’d love the chance to explore what might happen if students were more connected in communities together and more connected to the design community as a larger entity. I’d love the chance to shift the program to not only nurture students analytical/critical skills but also nurture their creative thinking and design thinking skills to a much greater extent. I’d love for students to begin from where they are…both geographic and experiential…and blend that into their learning process rather than try to learn in some weird suspended virtual classroom.
And will it work? Who really knows…and yet I think it is valuable to ask and to explore. This arena is all so, so new that who really knows what might happen? But perhaps it could change a bit for the good…perhaps I could nudge it a bit more toward the positive. Perhaps…