My favorite stories have always been the ones that come full circle – my lifelong passion for design has proven to be one such story. I was one of the many that fell into their love of design through a series of seemingly serendipitous events. Long hoping to be a geneticist, I spent my freshman year of college balancing my science classes with work on freelance websites for clients back in D.C. It took a full year (and my best friend’s urging) to focus on web design as my new academic goal. At a time when web design was not offered as a major, I cobbled together a strong foundation for my future work with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Studio Art.
After graduation, I spent a full decade focusing on the intersection between design and usability, imparting my love of clarity in communication into my work. My education afforded me positions at the Department of State and the Foreign Service Institute, along with contracts for think tanks, film companies, clinics, commercial and non-profit organizations, on both the east and west coast. My web design work has been seen on both CNN and Nightline. Strong communication and organizational skills were critical in my management of a series of large-scale site website redesign projects. As the Director for Web-Based Communications at The City College of New York (CCNY), and as the Webmaster for Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, I maintained the content management systems running the web presences for each college, and was responsible for the full design, layout and creation of the templates (which, in the cases of CCNY and Barrett, were a 40,000+ and 6000+ page web site, respectively). In that I had worked as an instructor, a faculty developer, an instructional designer and a fine artist prior to these positions, I was adept at switching between techie and trainer in coordinating with faculty and staff to provide instruction on maintaining the content and design of their unique sites. Key to my success was creating a supporting and collegial working environment – at CCNY, we had over 200 web editors concurrently working on various aspects of the website, and it was imperative that all were able to work together as a team. Being able to communicate with various stakeholders and guide them through challenging processes is a skill in which I take great pride.
Though I remained in higher education throughout my career as a web designer, education technology remained a passion. Having taught hybrid and online courses and workshops for both students and faculty, I was fascinated with the many similarities between web and instructional design. Additionally, I was baffled by the lack of design work that focused on the support of user engagement. My M.Ed. in Education Technology began as a way to support this burgeoning interest, but it was here that my story came full circle. The answers to many of my questions about design to support effective teaching and learning came from research in the field of neuroscience. All of the design “best practices” that I’d taken for granted throughout the years were rooted in human psychology and the way the brain responds to the presentation of media. Though I hadn’t become a scientist, it was science that informed all that I successfully created as a designer. It was at this time that I was finally able to understand the unique relationship between design, usability and communication, and it continues to inform every aspect of my work.
I currently serve as an instructional designer for Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute, bringing my work full circle in serving the same student population where I first began my design career. My past experience working on large-scale, high impact projects prepared me for my work at ELI – our team of designers support over 550+ unique courses and over 600 faculty members. Our structured process is built around design best practices, technology for student engagement, and the Quality Matters Standards. It’s gratifying and humbling to be able to work with a group of brilliant colleagues, all of whom inspire me to seek out new ways to design and innovate. In addition to my online course design work for NOVA, I am able to feed my passion for emerging technology and open educational resources in serving as a peer reviewer and member of the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT.
My free time is spent attending to my food blog, Spice or Die, to include the crafting of hundreds of original recipes, cooking the dishes and photographing the food for featuring online. I am a Featured Publisher on Daily Buzz Food and Recipe Lion, and co-write several culinary-themed blogs with fellow food writers across the nation. I am one of the founding members of a non-profit fundraising group for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society called MS is BS (Mind Strong is Body Strong). We have raised over $100,000 to fund multiple sclerosis research, programming and education for the NMSS National Chapter, and continue to fight for a cure to the disease that has touched the lives of so many we know.