We recently spoke with Kevin Lyon and Bridget Wagner, both alumni of the MA in WRD program who now work in Faculty Instructional Technology Services (or “FITS”) at DePaul. Kevin and Bridget are two of several MA in WRD alum who are now putting their degrees into practice at FITS!
FITS isn’t the only DePaul experience Kevin and Bridget share: Both worked as peer tutors in the University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) and currently teach classes in DePaul’s First-Year Writing program. In FITS, Kevin works as an Instructional Technology Consultant to the College of Computing and Digital Media and College of Communication, and Bridget works as an eLearning Content Developer.
We’re happy they took the time to share a little about their experiences!
Describe your career and research interests as you were going through the MA in WRD program. How did you customize the program to meet your needs?
Kevin: Going into the MA, I knew I wanted to teach writing, but I also developed an interest in document design and technical writing. I was actually able to take courses on both tracks, earning what was unofficially a dual concentration in Teaching Writing and Language and Technical and Professional Writing. On the Teaching Writing side, my work in the UCWbL gave me a lot of time working one on one with students to develop their writing skills, as well as opportunities to work closely with colleagues on various writing pedagogies and strategies from an administrative standpoint.
On the Technical Writing side, I was able to use my skills from the MA to do documentation and web development while working at the UCWbL, which gave me a strong foundations in usability testing, communicating instructions to new users, and conducting training sessions—this is directly tied to my work at FITS now.
Bridget: At the beginning of my MA in WRD, I was really into genre, and especially the ways that genres shape and are shaped by rhetorical situations. That stuck with me, but I was also excited about the Teaching Apprenticeship Program (TAP) and the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I ultimately wanted to teach composition and rhetoric. So, I took as many classes as I could that related to pedagogy, tutoring, and TESOL—and when a genre or discourse-focused class was offered, I took that as well. I actually had a lot of quarters where I couldn’t decide what to take because I wanted to take everything!
Tell us a little about the job search. How did you learn about the opportunity at FITS?
Kevin: I learned about a job posting at FITS from Lauri Dietz, the Director of the UCWbL. At first, I wasn’t sure I was quite cut out for the job, since my background was in writing, and the job, at least on paper, seemed to be more based in Information Services. I did a bit more research and talked to others I knew who were more familiar with FITS and found out the job was more based on providing support, training users, and writing documentation, with one of the key skills required being strong written and verbal communication—something the WRD program and UCWbL provided me in droves.
After working at FITS for a few months and learning more about the position, I actually applied for a second position in FITS and was offered that position, moving from an eLearning Content Developer to an Instructional Technology Consultant after a few months with FITS.
Bridget: WRD, UCWbL, FITS…I’m really drawn to departments with odd acronyms.
I was working at the UCWbL on Kevin’s last day before he began work at FITS, and I remember not having a good idea of what he was leaving to do. However, the more I talked with him, and others, I started to realize how the department was kind of the perfect mix of things I was interested in: technology, web, research, tutoring, and teaching. It seemed like everything I had done up until the point I first applied was in preparation for working at FITS. After getting jazzed about that, I actively looked for positions. I started part-time as an Instructional Technology Assistant and a few months ago was hired in a different full-time position of eLearning Content Developer.
Tell us about your work at FITS! What do you like about your job?
Kevin: In my current role as an Instructional Technology Consultant, I primarily work with faculty in the College of Computing and Digital Media and the College of Communication on developing new online and hybrid courses that best enable learners to engage with the material through digital tools and services. I provide support for existing courses, such as revising and rebuilding them as the instructors make major changes to them from quarter to quarter, and I run training workshops on using new tools or systems within D2L, Digication, or other tools FITS supports.
The thing I like best about my job is that I get to work with faculty from all over the university to learn more about their philosophies of teaching, and use their ideas and experiences to develop ways to enable learners to connect to the material while working across the city, country, or world. This allows me to play with new apps, websites, and services along the way, imagining new ways for students to engage with the material, their peers, and their instructors.
Bridget: I like a lot about my job! One part involves working with instructors before a quarter begins to help them prepare their online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses in D2L. This part is fun because I get to see content and course structures from many departments. It gives me inspiration for my own teaching.
I also help instructors to use D2L, Digication, and other DePaul-supported tools throughout the quarter via one-on-one appointments, workshops, and other avenues. My experience tutoring at the UCWbL has served me especially well here.
Generally, the department is dedicated to something I’ve always been interested in: helping people learn. And a bonus: I’m also able to teach in First-Year Writing while working at FITS. You should see how much my D2L course has changed since I started at FITS!
Any advice for current or prospective MA in WRD students?
Kevin: Think broadly about the skills you are developing in the program. The MA in WRD will prepare you for a variety of careers, some you couldn’t even imagine would relate to what you are studying now, yet they have a distinct need for strong and clear communication, careful and detailed research, and balanced, rational argument.
A second bit of advice would be to keep in touch with your colleagues in the program—several of the professionals I work with now, both in FITS and across various programs and universities, have come from the MA in WRD program and provide a great network of support and ideas!
Bridget: Take on as many “extra” opportunities as possible, or find ways to actively apply what you’re learning to what you do in your day-to-day. Working at the UCWbL, teaching in TAP, observing at the English Language Academy, serving as a research assistant in WRD—all of these positions and opportunities were enhanced by my coursework and vice versa.
And make friends! This is just good for you, but also I’ve drawn heavily on the people I met during my MA in WRD while preparing job applications, seeking new positions, training, and marketing my experiences.