Faculty: The stewards of self-discovery
Beginning my University of Phoenix journey
My educational journey began with burning questions—about what it is to be human, to create meaning, and to contribute to the greater good. As an academic, I’ve dedicated my life to the pursuit of answers—and to helping others formulate and address their own burning questions.
When I began teaching part-time at University of Phoenix 15 years ago, I had two successful careers behind me—as an executive at a world-renowned publishing house and as a senior administrator of a private East Coast university. What attracted me to University of Phoenix was the opportunity to join the vanguard of what seemed to be undoubtedly the future of higher education. When I moved to Phoenix, my office was across the street from the first University of Phoenix campus. The founder and then-president of University of Phoenix, Dr. John Sperling, used to speak with faculty and students in the courtyard. I was drawn to the colloquium-style conversation that he cultivated, and was mesmerized by the guiding principle of educational access, which represented Sperling’s passion. I share that same passion to make higher education accessible to a geographically and demographically diverse population in ways that are innovative, inclusive and engaging.
Meaningful online experience
Fifteen years later, I am still pursuing my passion by teaching and mentoring doctoral students at the University’s School of Advanced Studies. I still consider University of Phoenix the forerunner of 21st century higher education—and I cherish the traditional educational values the University has always held: collaborative knowledge sharing and knowledge creation; scholarly rigor; and integration of theory and practice. These values have a long, rich history in academe—but University of Phoenix has successfully translated them into degree programs that meet the demands of the 21st-century global knowledge economy.
Although University of Phoenix is known for its groundbreaking online programs, I have taught and still teach in the University’s local classroom settings. When I added online courses to my teaching repertoire many years ago, I did so because the flexibility of teaching from my home office allowed me to stay with the University when my husband’s job relocated us to another state. I find that my energy and enthusiasm for teaching are drawn from the same well, whether I teach online or in a local classroom. In either setting, my mission in teaching remains the same: to support students in identifying and researching their own essential questions—and in the process, to discover and shape not only knowledge in their disciplines, but knowledge of themselves.
One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching online is challenging and overcoming the perception that technology-mediated learning environments are somehow less vibrant, intimate, and meaningful than traditional classroom settings. On the contrary, I find that online forums foster the same rigor, engagement, spirit of inquiry and dialogue as traditional classrooms. Because faculty and students write instead of speak in the online environment, their dialogue reflects holistic critical thinking that brings the whole person to the narrative. The conversation is deeper, richer and more expressive than it would be if we expressed the first thing that came to mind. This depth was a welcomed surprise to me.
My enthusiasm for teaching is carried through cyberspace via the rich, often intense conversations the online medium supports. The capability to have such meaningful dialogue allows my students to know how deeply I care about what they are thinking and writing.
Exploring the big questions
I often use my passion for posing and pursuing life’s deepest questions to challenge my students to discover and explore not only their own personal and professional interests, but the questions that face their communities, our global society, and future generations.
With the exultation of graduation comes the responsibility to contribute to the greater good. Each time I attend commencement ceremonies, I have the privilege of reliving my own doctoral commencement. As the students walk across the stage at University of Phoenix Stadium, I relive the experience of climbing up the stairs to the stage in Carnegie Hall, where my graduation from New York University took place. As University of Phoenix officials hood new doctoral graduates, I can feel the weight of the hood being placed on my shoulders; I sense the swell of excitement and accomplishment my students feel when they are called “Doctor” for the first time. In those moments, I trust that the new graduates—now future leaders in their fields—will retain their curiosity, humility and passion for inquiry. I hope, they too, will inspire others to ask and pursue life’s burning questions.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.