Thinking outside the box led Cyndy Schroeder to Lamar University’s Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading online program. Earning the graduate degree kept her thinking there.
Schroeder, 55, was working as a manager of clinical services for Animas Corporation, a former Johnson & Johnson diabetes care company, when she enrolled in the master’s degree program in 2016.
“I was starting to see the value of the way that the world was changing and how we need to train and educate patients in a different manner,” Schroeder said. “I didn’t know what kind of degree I would end up finding. I searched for digital education and landed on Lamar University. It was excellent for me.”
She graduated in December 2017 and now works in customer development for Senseonics, a startup company in Boston.
“I’m sitting here at the computer creating interactive models for our Eversense mobile clinic that is going out across the country training physicians,” she said. “I am living what I learned. I feel like I can take the degree anywhere — especially when emphasizing adult learning. It wasn’t just digital education. It was understanding how people learn.”
Animas created a digital education and training position for Schroeder before the company ceased operations. The online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading helped her move forward with her career in more ways than one.
“I changed everything in my life — I moved, sold the house and went to a new startup company,” she said. “Everything was crazy. I believe it was the disruptive technology we talked about in the degree program. Gaining confidence and understanding the value of what I was providing and learning allowed me to stretch out.”
Schroeder saw the value of good nutrition as a runner in high school in Michigan. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics from Valparaiso University in 1984. When Schroeder had her first daughter, Gretchen, her career focus shifted.
“Gretchen was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was a year old,” she said. “It changed my pathway to become a diabetic educator. I’ve been educating all my life — I just haven’t been a teacher.”
Schroeder has worked in diabetes education ever since. When she decided to earn a master’s degree, she didn’t want the focus to be an area she already knew well. Digital learning and leading fit the bill.
“Our company was morphing and changing,” she said. “The capstone project was part of a project I wanted to complete with Johnson & Johnson. It was perfect because work and school were meshing. It was a great fit. My employer at the time was very supportive. The fact that there was so much freedom in figuring out that capstone project allowed me to kill two birds with one stone.”
Just two classes into the curriculum, Schroeder realized she was discovering a whole new world. She had to develop her own website in the EDLD 5303: Applying Educational Technology Portfolio course.
“I was blown away we had to do that, and I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was the biggest confidence booster. They said, ‘This is the class. You develop the website. Come together and we’ll ask questions. Spend your time on this.’ It was awesome.
“We could bounce ideas off each other as peers. We could see what others in the group were doing and what was working. We were going to use that platform the rest of the time in the program, so it made sense to get it right. I loved that.”
Schroeder also enjoyed EDLD 5305: Disruptive Innovation in Education.
“In that course, we determined what our project was going to be and the disruptive technology we were going to present,” she said. “It was figuring that out and seeing what I could actually do to change something I felt empowered to change. That was a big turning point.”
Although Schroeder’s daughters, Gretchen (30) and Anna (28) were both grown when she was in the program, the flexible schedule was still important.
“It was a lot,” she said. “My weekends became my school time. It’s a lot to do one class in five weeks, but for me, it was perfect. I knew what was going to be required of me. It requires some time. Lamar University makes it as easy as possible, but you’re still going to school and still earning credits and there are requirements.”
Schroeder completed the program in 18 months with the help of her family and friends.
“My husband, Mark, was great,” she said. “Everybody thought it was great. My daughters thought it was cool that mom was back in school. I’m really proud of getting my master’s degree.”
That support system extended to Schroeder’s online classmates.
“I was one of the few industry people in an educator-dominated program,” she said. “My peers were so awesome. They loved to hear my experiences, and I loved to hear their experiences. They were in the trenches every day trying to educate kids and change the way people learn.”
Even in an online program, Schroeder didn’t miss a beat in communicating with her professors.
“When I engaged and the professors supported that, it was great,” she said. “Every single teacher took pride in every single student. They were very adaptive. They understood that life happens. They said, ‘We have deadlines, but come to us and talk to us if there’s a problem.’”
Schroeder knows firsthand that the M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading online program is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone in any occupation willing to try something new.
“I would tell anybody considering this program to do it,” she said. “It’s probably outside of their comfort zone, but if you engage in the program, you’re going to get the benefits. Don’t just check the box — actually do the program.
“It gives you the opportunity to choose your new direction — especially for teachers. It gives them the confidence to open doors and go to their superintendent and say, ‘Hey, we need to be doing this.’ Plus, the industry people found that there were additional things they can do to create within their system. It was a cool fit. I was fortunate to find this program; Lamar exceeded my expectations!”
Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading program.