By coincidence October 30, 2008, marked two very special events in my professional life: my first anniversary at DeVry University in Bakersfield and the day on which I learned that I was hired as an adjunct instructor by National University.

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My tenure at DeVry has been nothing short of life altering. For me, being hired at DeVry marks the moment when I officially became a “real live” classroom teacher. Although I had already been hired to teach online courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix, there was something incredibly validating about being in a classroom.

I suddenly felt like a legitimate teacher — as if I had finally emerged as an educator.

I can partially thank my experience with Axia as one of the reasons why, as a relatively unproven teacher, I was hired at DeVry (though I did teach traffic school, so that must have counted for something, right?).

I must also acknowledge Center Dean Barry J. Bailey for taking a chance on me.  His decision to let me initially teach two courses on a trial basis has fundamentally changed the course of my career (and, to be honest, my life).

Since embarking on my relatively new career in academia, each new school at which I am hired leads to another opportunity. There is something affirming and encouraging about this experience (and it is one that I hadn’t encountered for some years prior to venturing into teaching).

I have also realized how intertwined my experiences have been at every school where I have taught and am teaching: I continuously learn from each situation, thereby improving my overall aptitude as an educator.

Whether it is sharing best practices with colleagues, receiving guidance from my supervisors or as simple as listening to my students, I am in a constant state of learning.

In the year since I started teaching at DeVry there I have taught 16 sections of the following business, computer and English courses:

  • BUSN-115 (Introduction to Business and Technology)
  • COMP-100 (Computer Applications for Business with Lab)
  • COMP-129 (PC Hardware and Software)
  • ENGL-032 (Developmental Writing and Reading)
  • ENGL-092 (Intermediate English)
  • ENGL-112 (Composition)
  • ENGL-135 (Advanced Composition)
  • MGMT-303 (Principles of Management)
  • MGMT-404 (Project Management)

I continue to grow and mature as an individual and instructor at DeVry and look forward to many more years at this respected and forward-thinking educational organization. I am also anticipating teaching some new courses in the coming months, which should provide added energy and excitement to my experience there.

National University promises to be another exciting step in my career development.  Once again, I have Los Angeles Craigslist Education and Teaching Jobs to thank for this lead and Bettina Moss for giving me another wonderful opportunity.

Again, I can’t stress the impact that a few key individuals have had on my professional progress. Their generosity is even more notable considering that other individuals who I already knew and asked for assistance have sometimes been less than helpful. This is definitely a lesson in “paying it forward!”

As explained on it’s website:

“National University is the second-largest, private, nonprofit institution of higher learning in California. Founded in 1971, National University consists of five schools and one college, including the Schools of Business and Management; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and Media and Communication; and the College of Letters and Sciences.”

Additionally, National is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is also non-profit — a notable distinction. I previously had known National University as a resource for individuals seeking a teaching credential and an avenue for active educators seeking advanced degrees.

However, National University also offers more than 50 graduate and undergraduate degrees — with more than 1,200 courses online.

National University courses are a quick four weeks in duration: eight four-hour classroom meetings during the week and two four-hour Saturday sessions.

In comparison, DeVry courses are eight weeks in length (with one or two physical meetings a week depending on the course type) and Axia courses are nine-weeks of entirely online education.

I am also teaching for another school, Florida Career College, which recently launched an online program with six-week sessions.

At first I will be teaching traditional classroom-based courses at the Los Angeles Campus (which is near Los Angeles International Airport), but eventually I might teach in a hybrid model similar to that which DeVry uses.

The courses I was hired to teach include the following (though as of today I have only been scheduled to teach one section of the first course, COM-103, Oral Communication, which is set to begin at the end of November.

And, so it is with great gratitude that I look back to my last year of teaching at DeVry and even more excitement that I look ahead to another year of continued career development!

ampm_logoLast night I had an unexpected experience at the AM/PM on Ming Avenue near the 99 Freeway in Bakersfield while getting coffee for my drive home: comped coffee!

That’s right, a whole $1.39 of coffee for free! Who says good things never happen to nice people? I had just left the DeVry Center where I had stayed late to grade assignments for the two classes I am now teaching — COMP-100 (Computer Applications for Business with Lab) and BUSN-115 (Introduction to Business and Technology) — and was “filling up” with caffeine for the 75 mile drive south.

As I was mixing plenty of creamer and sugar into my coffee the lights went out on the entire corner and nearby areas. At that point the clerk and I were the only people inside the building — which suddenly became eerily quiet without the constant humming of equipment that normally permeates the store.

I was unsure what to do. Despite it being dark outside and very late, I felt no great sense of urgency or panic. The clerk was busy looking for a flashlight and didn’t give me any instructions either. So, I continued making my coffee! Of course, since it was dark I had to use my cell phone as a flashlight while I mixed and stirred my drink, but all things considered it worked out well.

Of course, when I was done and asked the clerk how to pay him, he admitted that, given the circumstances there was really no way he could charge me for the coffee (the register and everything else was locked and had no power). So, I thanked him and graciously accepted my “comped coffee!”

I wonder if a free lunch is next?

A short article titled “Dear Students With Unprofessional E-Mail Handles: Your Professors Notice,” in the Wired Campus section of the Chronicle of Higher Education website calls attention to the importance of e-mail: not just what you say, but the account from which you send your message.

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The article highlights an entertaining thread in the Chronicle of Higher Education Forum in which professors share both the often inappropriate and error-filled content of the messages and the peculiar address from which the messages are sent — one post elaborates on receiving an e-mail from an address titled “Shortysexy!”

This article caught my eye because I’ve experienced my share of odd e-mails from students. Mostly they are harmless oversights, but I have also  received some more “interesting” messages.

Once a student invited me to read his/her blog  (gender obscured to protect the innocent), telling me I would think it was funny. However, when I got there, I found several expletive-filled rants berating this person’s significant other for repeatedly cheating on him/her with someone my student proclaimed was a drug addict.

The posts were full of obscenities, uncomfortable personal details and description, on the injuries my student had and intended to inflict on his/her significant other. I was shocked and have since felt very awkward around this student.

Generally, I get what I call “ghost mail,” which is mail with no clear identification of who sent it, what school the sender attends or the class about which they are inquiring. Usually a “ghost mail” will include a message that reads something like “Mr. G : How come I didn’t get credit for that assignment from the other week?” — which of course does nothing to help that student receive points where they might be due.

Aside from forgetting some basic rules of written communication, I don’t think the senders of these “ghost messages” fully realize that, as an individual earning my income entirely as an adjunct instructor, I could potentially be teaching several classes in addition to theirs. Usually I am simultaneously juggling anywhere from four to eight on-line courses and two to four traditional classroom-based courses — so things can get a little confusing!

To minimize the occurrence of these misguided missives, I stress to my students the importance of not overlooking the obvious when sending an e-mail or even leaving a voicemail for someone. I tell them to always include their name and contact information while making sure to identify the school they attend and the course in which they are enrolled. Usually that helps, but I still get an errant e-mail now and then.

I also encourage students to think about what their e-mail address says about who they are — and to realize that on some level it communicates their “personal brand.” With e-mail commanding such a vital role in how we communicate with each other, having an immature or otherwise inappropriate e-mail can sometimes cause a problem — while a student is in school or, worse, when they are making the transition to a job in the “real world.”

I remember that e-mail was just starting to become more widely used during my undergraduate days at UC Santa Barbara (1992 to 1996). Back then the school automatically assigned e-mail address to students — with undergraduate accounts starting with a “u” and graduate accounts starting with a “g.”

Eventually the naming convention was standardized with some amalgamation of a student’s first and last name, but early-on you could request a specific name (though the “u” and the “g” were still used).

A friend of mine who has a sarcastic sense of humor requested the name “suck” so that his account was “usuck@…” Of course, this sounded funny when he gave his e-mail address to friends, but when a professor asked him for his e-mail address and he had to say what sounded like “you suck,” suddenly the joke was on him.

Likewise, during my tenure in human resources recruiting, I’ve seen some questionable e-mail addresses. I remember one address in particular: the applicant’s last name was “Kaul,” which by itself is just a typical-sounding surname.

However, this candidate wanted to be clever and, leveraging the phonetics of his/her last name used the e-mail address “kaul girl@…” – which is humorous when used with family and friends, but not as agreeable in a professional setting (well, aside from the “oldest profession” I suppose!).

So, what is the moral of this story? Simple: when it comes to e-mail, watch what you say and the address from which you say it!