I am so excited to share that after 4 years, I have completed my Masters of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL) from Boise State University!
Over the past weekend, I was fortunate enough to give myself the graduation gift of traveling to Boise to mark the milestone. The trip allowed me to meet some of my professors and classmates in person after working with them for the past 4 years.
While winding down my time in the program, I took some time to reflect on my journey in learning over the past 10 years (yes you read that right, 10 YEARS!).
A Look Back
When I was growing up, my father always told me how much he regretted not going to college. He always said that his greatest wish for me and my sister was for us to follow through on our potential and continue our education. In his eyes, education equals opportunity and it is something that no one could ever take away from you. I always remember how much I enjoyed our conversations how they’ve stayed with me through the years.
Looking back, I never was a good student in school. I struggled through math along with a ton of other subjects. Throughout my K-12 education, I actually failed classes along the way (math and spanish). Studying for me was so hard! I always thought something was wrong with me that made learning more difficult for me than others. I often had to lock myself away in my room growing up. I would sit in complete silence with flash cards, repeating things out loud in order to get the information in my head. It wasn’t until my first year of college that I learned that I was undiagnosed with ADHD throughout my entire childhood. The diagnosis was a huge sigh of relief as it made me realize that all of the techniques I’ve been teaching myself over the years to get myself to focus had actually helped me without me even realizing it.
Finding her passion
If i’m being honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I arrived at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for undergrad. I just knew that I wanted to give it all that I could. During my second year, Wendy Gilmore gave me a life changing opportunity when she hired me as Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader for freshman photography students during my sophomore year. The experience allowed me to share some of the study techniques that I’ve been teaching myself over the years to a group of students. During that same time, I was spending my time working as a student employee at RIT’s Disability Services Office, in addition to being a Resident Advisor (RA) to freshman students.
These experiences, allowed me to see first hand how education and technology can have such a tremendous impact on peoples lives. At that time (now 9.5 years ago), a switch went off in my brain, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to making education more accessible to others.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I started in the industry as an Instructional Design Production Assistant where I designed print training materials for instructor led training classes. At the time, it was a good fit for me because of my undergraduate degree in publishing and print media, but in the back of my head, I knew that I wanted to do more. With some major encouragement from my second mom and manager at the time, Dottie LaMark, I decided to apply for my masters and certificate program at Boise State University.
It took me 4 years to complete my masters program along with my graduate certificate. I worked full time throughout the length of the program, taking only one class per semester. Over my time in the program, I’ve missed countless nights with friends and family, I spent weekends and evenings doing homework and on calls with classmates. During my most difficult time in the program, I juggled school on top of starting a new job at Pluralsight and recovering from a fractured ankle. This sometimes meant spending 12 hours a day in front of a computer doing work (At that time, I felt like my soul was going directly into the computer screen). Despite all of the difficulties along the way, I kept pushing through because I believed in the higher mission of making education more accessible.
Master Level, Unlocked
To say that i’m most proud of this degree is an understatement. I am now the first person in my family to receive my masters degree. To top it off, I have no additional student debt because of how I took one class per semester and work at such amazing companies.
Overall, my time spent in the program was invaluable. I found something that I never expected to gain, my voice. I’ve come such a long way over the past 4 years. I went from designing print based training materials to now owning a product line at a learning company. I started my blog, spoken at countless conferences and web events, won a 30 under 30 award in learning, and even mentor others in the industry.
To this day, the words of my father this still echo in my head, that education equals opportunity. To my very core, I believe that education is a fundamental human right and that every person should have access to education and learning opportunities. You should not be bound by mental or physical ability, income level, social status or anything else.
Moving forward, I hope to continue my mission in my current role at Pluralsight. I also hope to spend some much needed down time with friends and family! I’ve made learning my life’s mission and I truly cannot wait to see where I go from here.
Authors Note: I owe all of this to my parents, Andrea and Robert Dombrowski who snagged me off the mean streets of Bogota during ’91. My grandparents, Andy, Linda, Marjorie, and Robert. My sister Nicole and my life partner, Scott Edwards.
I also have to thank the countless mentors who have helped me over the past 10 years. They took time out of busy schedules to have mentoring and coaching sessions that have impacted me to my very core. Specifically, Wendy Gilmore, Dottie LaMark, Matt Poepsel, Brian Madge, Maribel Olvera, Lisa Giacumo, Cheryl Lockett Zubak, Krishna Kannan, Sarah Bedrick Neverly, and Michael Riordan.