My history with UWF goes back more than 30 years. After leaving the Marine Corps and coming back to Pensacola, I decided to pursue a second bachelor's degree in biotechnology. But instead, I thought that maybe I'd like to pursue a course of studies leading to science and elementary teaching. My original degree was in zoology with a healthy dose of aerospace engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, etc. So one day, early in the semester, I took a short walk to the Teacher Education Department, where I met Dr. Carl Backman, and the rest is history. I dropped my biotech course of studies and pursued a career in elementary and science education, as a teacher, second Director of the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center, and district science specialist/supervisor.
My UWF education allowed me to pursue educational technology initiatives for teachers and students in the different positions I once held in the Escambia County School District. Some of these initiatives included the WeatherNet 3 system that is operated by Channel 3 WEAR, weather satellite receiving stations received through grants from FSU's Florida Explorers program, and an image processing and analysis lab at Escambia High School, received through a grant written by Dr. Joyce McMichael (another UWF Ed.D. graduate), who is currently assistant principal at Pensacola High. In 1998 I left teaching to pursue my doctorate full time, and in December 2000 I graduated with an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Instructional Technology.
Today, I serve as the Multimedia Team Chief in the Multimedia Development Branch of the Army Medical Department Center and School at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. I consult with the many different teaching departments on design and content considerations when transforming classroom courses to distance learning. I also manage and guide different teams of instructional designers, computer programmers, multimedia specialists, and graphic artists in the design and development of these computer-mediated courses.
One of the things that I appreciated most when I was at UWF was having access to the professors. Yes, they had specific office hours, but students who caught them in their office were still welcomed. I got to know many of my instructors and professors on a very personal level, a situation one doesn't have at a much larger university, like the state university in California where I earned my degree in zoology. UWF professors always had time to talk with their students. In fact I enjoyed my life at UWF so much that even today I still pursue coursework at the university, although online. I am currently enrolled in UWF's online GIS Certification Program.
Pursuing an Ed.D. is a lot of work and very, very challenging. There were times when I wanted to quit—just because life happens. In fact, one day I headed to the University to do just that. Fortunately for me, my adviser wasn't in the office and I ended up talking to another professor for whom I had and still have, great respect; he convinced me otherwise. If it had not been for his sage advice, I would not be where I am today, a "thorn in the side" of the Army Medical Department Center and School, striving to get them to design their distance learning courses more effectively. Hmmm...maybe I am making a difference. No matter what level one is playing at, we all can make a difference. We may not know it, but it will show up, sometimes much later in life.
As an example, a young Escambia elementary teacher told me that several years earlier she had been a student in an elementary science methods course I had taught and had "caught" my love for science. Today she is working towards a Ph.D. in Science Education, and she just garnered the prestigious National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Presidential Award in Science Teaching for the State of Georgia. Now how's that for making a difference?! And to think it all goes back to that original conversation I had with Dr. Backman many, many years ago.
The point is, if someone is interested in pursuing a specific goal, then go for it! In the words of Randy Paush (the Carnegie Mellon professor famed for his "Last Lecture"), "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." UWF is a GREAT university to pursue one's educational goals.