WRD recently caught up with former faculty member Laurie Alfaro as she begins a career at the City Colleges of Chicago. Below, Laurie tells about her new position and shares about her experiences as a student and teacher in WRD’s New Media Studies program.
-Tell us about your new position at City Colleges. What will you be doing?
I am the new Faculty Co-Chair of Computer Information Systems at Wilbur Wright College. In addition to teaching web development courses, I have all the responsibilities of a department chair: scheduling classes, ordering textbooks, facilitating meetings and training for faculty, and helping students with issues as they arise. The Computer Science, Web Development, Networking Systems & Technology, and Computer Security & Forensics programs all fall under the CIS umbrella. Wright College is the IT hub for all seven of the City Colleges of Chicago, so the other schools look to us to take the lead on curriculum, technology, and similar issues.
-What are you excited about as you begin your new position?
For the first time, I am making decisions that have a wider impact than just within my own classroom. The curriculum changes for which we are advocating will affect students at all seven City Colleges of Chicago as well as satellite campuses.
-How did your degree in New Media Studies contribute to your plans to go on for a doctorate or teach at the university level?
I knew when I had finished my BFA that I wanted to teach, and in order to do so, I would need a master’s degree. One of my favorite undergraduate courses was called Intro to New Media, so when I discovered that DePaul had a Masters of New Media Studies degree, I raced to apply.
One of the most beneficial aspects of the NMS program for me was the ability for me to pick and choose courses from other majors to earn credit towards my degree. This allowed me to assemble a more customized course of study geared specifically towards teaching multimedia design classes.
The other aspect of the NMS program which has been hugely beneficial to me was the faculty. I have maintained ongoing relationships with many of my professors since my graduation. Dr. Karl Stolley (now at IIT) and Dr. Peter Vandenberg have been mentors to me throughout career as a college instructor. There were times where I had questioned whether I would ever find a full-time teaching position, but Pete and Karl never allowed me to give up. I don’t think I would have achieved this career milestone if not for them. I’ve been trying to pay it forward by taking a similar role with some of my former NMS students, some of whom have also become college faculty at other institutions.
-What will you remember from your years teaching in NMS at DePaul?
I showed up for my first day of teaching in NMS with a purple Mohawk. My students were a little surprised. Many of them said, “Uh, where’s the teacher?” But after that first day, I think I really clicked with a number of my students. I’ve tried to remain in contact with some of my former NMS students, and some of them are doing some really amazing things in their careers. It’s been very gratifying to have contributed a small part to their successes.
-What advice do you have for current or prospective NMS students?
Network, network, network! Trade contact info with your fellow students as well as faculty, and then keep in touch. A classmate today may provide a potential job opportunity tomorrow. You just never know what doors will be opened to you through your network.