The Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program in the College of Education has received the 2022 Outstanding Graduate Program Community Award. The annual honor presented by the Michigan State University Graduate School recognizes programs that proactively meet the educational and professional development needs of its students.
“From the moment I began my graduate journey, I could sense I was stepping into something larger than a degree program,” said 2022 graduate Juli Okal in a nomination letter for the award. “What I discovered was a community the MAET staff host so effortlessly. They offered a welcoming, inclusive, and forward-thinking environment even as the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding in front of our collective eyes.”
The program is “thoughtfully and intentionally designed” to have a learner-first approach, according to Program Director Liz Owens Boltz. Leaders over the years have shaped the program to engage with Spartans—before, during and after their studies—to be thoughtful toward individual career and professional development needs. The pandemic shaped the program, which is offered in fully virtual, hybrid, or overseas formats, even further.
“Empathy and flexibility are paramount to support learners and their well-being,” Owens Boltz continued. “We have always shaped the program based on students’ needs … during the pandemic, their lives were changing dramatically. We listened, we adapted.”
Based on feedback, the program debuted virtual open houses and open mic nights to give space for questions, share about projects and more.
Program leaders have also made mentorship a priority. As students apply to the program, advisors answer questions on navigating the application process. A robust Twitter community is available for current students and graduates alike. For graduates, program leaders offer to review resumes, conduct mock interviews and write letters of recommendation.
“We believe in supporting learners before they’ve even paid their application fee and beyond when they’ve graduated,” Owens Boltz said.
For example, as 2018 graduate Mara Deutch was looking for a new job, they sought help from Brittany Dillman (MAET graduate certificate program director) and Candace Robertson (MAET assistant director) for advice and support.
“I would get feedback almost immediately,” said Deutch in a nomination letter. Deutch is now an instructional technology coach and library media specialist at South Redford. “I feel that I would not have been able to move into my current position without the knowledge, … feedback and support I received from the MAET staff. I constantly talk about how well the MAET program prepared me for this and advocate for my team of teachers to consider getting their master’s in Educational Technology at MSU.”
The sense of community is part of the program’s core principles, which are to:
- Provide support from before application to beyond graduation. Applicants, students and graduates receive resources, communication and connections from their initial inquiry about the program to their status as alumni.
- Value diversity of resources, perspectives and communities. The program is continuously reevaluated to look at it through a social justice lens, ensuring lessons represent individuals from diverse backgrounds and industries who innovate and design.
- Promote growth as curious learners and transformational leaders. The program is built on the concept of helping nurture the mindset of its students in how to be flexible in approaches to educational technology; not to rely on specific tools.
“It can feel intimidating to sit in a Zoom room with mentors who have so much knowledge and so many accomplishments,” said Sarah Kramer, a 2021 graduate who formerly served as a Student Advisory Council Representative from the program to the department. “I was consistently reminded that we [students] were the reason [the program leaders] were there, and that our voices mattered. Much of the way I approach my current work has been informed by my experience with MAET, such as looking at situations with positive intent, focusing on equity, listening to understand and considering colleagues and students as a whole person.”
As recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Graduate Program Community Award, MAET will receive $5,000 from the Graduate School to support program activities in 2022-23 and an honorary plaque.