Sharing personal reflections of 50 years of multidisciplinary curriculum

In May 2019, the Open Programme team held a special event to celebrate 50 years of multidisciplinary teaching and learning, featuring presentations from Dr Liz Marr, PVC Students, and members of the Open Programme team. Click here to view a compilation of photographs from the event.

Professor Josie Fraser

Helen Cooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

The event was hosted by Helen Cooke, Open Board of Studies Manager and opened by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Josie Fraser, who gave the following opening address:

“Starting in 1969, when the OU first started, our BA/BSc Open degree was the only degree that you could get at The Open University and remained so for over 30 years; it wasn’t actually until 2000 that we introduced named degrees. And despite the popularity of named degrees, this unique Open qualification remains our largest degree in terms of student numbers and module choice, allowing students to construct a truly personalised qualification from a huge range of undergraduate modules across all of the faculties of the OU.

There’s something so special about that flexible study path that relates to your personal interests or your career-related skills that many, many students enjoy.”

Speakers and presentations

Click on each of the speakers names below to view their slides and presentation content.

Professor Peter Taylor – Chair of the Open Board of Studies (from 2013-2019)

Dr Liz Marr – Pro Vice Chancellor Students (interim)

Jay Rixon – Qualification Manager MA/MSc Open

Professor Martin Weller – Chair of the Open Board of Studies (from 2019-present)

Rehana Awan – Student Communications & Engagement Manager, Carol Dow – BA/BSc (Hons) Open student

Dr Liz Marr – Pro-Vice-Chancellor Students

Good evening everybody. I’m going to be a little bit autobiographical because I want to tell you the story of my own interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary journey and then reflect a little bit on what those things mean for us in terms of not just the Open Programme but all Combined Honours provision.

So, when I went to school many, many years ago, you just followed that kind of single discipline approach. Unfortunately, I preferred ‘multidisciplinary’ so I found sex, drugs, rock and roll – and didn’t worry too much about the school work, so didn’t do very well. Fast forward to the 1980s and I had a very small child and discovered The Open University. I took a course called A101, an Arts foundation course, and I loved it, I absolutely loved it.  I don’t know if any of you remember this course, but it took the theme of the Industrial Revolution and then it took a lot of different disciplines and looked at those disciplines from an Industrial Revolution perspective, and then brilliantly, at the summer school, brought it all together. It’s like anybody would think that they did it deliberately [laughter]. And, for the first time, I realised actually you can make connections between all of these different subjects, and that inspired me so much. Fortunately, I was very, very lucky because grants were available in those days and I discovered that I could go full-time to a face to face University and get a grant, which was enough to pay for childcare as well as get me through the course. I started on a course called the Diploma of Higher Education, it wasn’t a diploma, it was the diploma and it was specifically designed for mature students. It was at Manchester Poly[technic] and the design of it was such that you could defer the decision that you wanted to make about which degree you finally went to when you got to the end of it. So, I went there thinking ‘well I’m going to do 19th Century Literature because that’s what I loved in A101 and that’s what I’m going to focus on’. But when I got there, there was this whole array of stuff that I could do but I couldn’t choose, so I even did some maths for the first time since school and I discovered that I could actually, if I made a special request, do a bit of computing science. So, just to give you a flavour of when this was; in the first year, we had a programming module and we had a systems analysis module, and the systems analysis module only ever used warehouses as an example of what you were designing systems for, so fairly stave.

So, I realised then that actually I didn’t want to do just 19th Century literature and I didn’t just want to do computing science, so actually it would be quite interesting to mix them all up together. So that’s when I really started my combined, or more interdisciplinary, route and I managed to carry that on into a Masters programme at Manchester University which was called ‘Technical Change in Industrial Strategy’ (very 1980s), where we were bringing together kind of theories of innovation with developments in technology and science. So, I did stuff on the history of science, the history of technology, philosophy of science; really, really, interesting stuff. And then my life was full of good luck really because the Poly then decided that they were going to put on a new degree called ‘IT and Society’, which was designed to produce a new type of graduate – one that had the technical skills and knowledge and understanding but could also speak to people in English. So, this was what we tried to do, and I was very lucky that I got that job and we worked on developing that degree. But then, somehow or other, as the way these things happen, I ended up in the Sociology department, really with a focus on Sociology of Technology.

At the time, I was really lucky; it was in those days when you had to teach certain things but sometimes you could teach something that you really liked, so you could put on a module on that you liked. So, a colleague and I put on a module called Science and Literature – we framed it in the concepts of the CP Snow debate about Two Cultures and the Snow Levers controversy about which was the more important. So, we picked 3 novels, it was a short course – he did the literature bit and I did the science bit – so we did Frankenstein, Brave New World and we did.. I loved that course to bits.  I don’t know if the students did, but I did, and it was really good to teach. In the Sociology department, I fetched up alongside some people. Most of them were ethnomethodologists, which I won’t go into at the moment, but they were very much into computer supported cooperative work. So, they were sociologists who were kind of into HCI, the kind of people side of computing. I distinctly remember an event where they tried to bring the computing science people from the STEM Faculty alongside the sociologists from the Humanities Faculty to talk about where they could join up, and it was very clear two tribes divide there. The computer scientists accused the sociologists of making words up, because that’s what they did, but they united in their hatred of the psychologists.

All of these things led me to think about the importance of interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity and all of those other ‘disciplinarity’ things that you can use.

With wireless sleep technology, the people in my dreams can send email and faxes to the people in your dreams! So, completely and utterly ridiculous, but it does illustrate that technology developments don’t come in a vacuum. They come in a social context and a psychological context, and a political context, and an economic context. And if we are going to be able to make things work well and work effectively, we need to understand all of those contexts; how those factors interact.

To be serious for a moment, this is a refugee camp. There’s people, no water, no food, displaced by climate change, by war, all kinds of things. If we’re going to solve those problems, and those are huge problems, really big problems, we need people who understand more than just how to put a water supply in. We need people who understand the people that they are working with to make that effective. There’s a whole load of stuff we need to do, and we can’t do it just with scientists, or just with sociologists, or just with technologists. We have to have people with an interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding in order to at least try to resolve some of those problems.

So, for me, that’s why the Open Programme is absolutely the most brilliant invention ever – really, really brilliant. I love it to bits, and I will support it forever. It does what we need degrees to do for students and so I’m glad that it’s here, I’m glad that it’s staying, I’m glad it will continue and hope it will get better and better- and that’s all I want to say.

Professor Peter Taylor – Chair, Open Board of Studies

I’d like to start by echoing Josie’s welcome to everyone, thank you all for coming, some of you long distances, it really is good to celebrate 50 years of the Open Programme.

Because I’ve been here a long time, I’m often seen as a kind of ‘historian’ of the Open University and I believe that multidisciplinary study at the Open University had its foundations in this 1968 document. So, it’s the “Flow into employment of scientists, engineers and technologists” and it was the Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology. Now, you have to remember that this was Harold Wilson’s ‘White Heat of Technology’, so it was all about technology, but all about the Open Programme as well:

[Audio recording] “We have become accustomed to the idea that the career of an individual spans only one major technological phase. It is almost certain in the future that it will span two or even more phases. To meet current and future needs of employment and to give students of science, engineering and technology some understanding of the society in which they work, universities should consider making the first degree course in science, engineering and technology broad in character, through multidisciplinary approaches to these subjects and by introducing relevant study in other field such as economics, sociology, law etc.”.

Plus ça change [laughter]… that really could’ve been written last week, and is as relevant 50 years ago as it is today. The report was actually chaired by Michael Swan, who was Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh and went on to be Chairman of the Governors of the BBC, hence it was called the Swan Report. That was [19]68 and, at the same time, the Open University was being planned and I believe this document had a big influence on the planning of the Open University. So here we have the 1969 Report of the Planning Committee to the Secretary of State, Education on Science for the Open University:

[Audio recording] “Besides providing fresh and renewed opportunities for such students as we have been discussing, the University will have an important role arising from the changes in, and increasing rate of change, with a modern technological society. The degree of the Open University should, we consider, be a general degree, in the sense that it would embrace studies over a range of subjects, rather than be confined to a single narrow speciality. In our view the OU should not set out to compete with the established universities which can spend 3 years of full-time study in their laboratories and libraries and their specialised school. Rather should the Open University degree be complementary, providing the part time student a broadly-based higher education for which the teaching techniques available to the Open University are particularly suited. Furthermore, we are aware of the great need and demand in the country, emphasised in the Swan Report, for an extension of facilities, such as general degrees”.

So, the Open University had multidisciplinary study at its heart. The BA was introduced in 1970 and was pretty much the only degree until 1996 when the BSc was introduced. The nature of this multidisciplinary degree was nicely described by our first Vice-Chancellor Walter Perry in his book about the development of the Open University and you have probably heard me quote this many times: –

[Audio recording] “The usual criticism is that a student has a free choice of courses that he can take credit for is liable to end up with what is called a miscellaneous ragbag of credits, a second-rate degree with no internal coherence. Such people argue strongly that teachers must determine the pattern of studies that is most suited to the individual and that direction of this kind is the essence of education. Opponents of this view on the other hand argue equally strongly that a student is the best judge of what he wishes to learn and that he should be given the maximum freedom of choice, consistent with a coherent overall pattern. They hold that this is doubly true when one is dealing with adults who, after years of experience of life, ought to be in a better position to judge what precise studies they wish to undertake”.

So, in the early days, it was recognised that our students, particularly as adults, are not blank canvases on which we paint. They bring with them a multitude of skills and knowledge from their life, from their interests, from their work, and they want to do modules that reinforce and help develop those areas to help them meet their goals. These students are brave students, not for them the well-trodden path of a named degree, they plough their own furrow. When I first started as Director of the Open Programme, I was convinced that if I looked hard enough, I’d be able to find certain common pathways that Open Programme students took. I was quickly dissuaded of that fact in that every single student seemed to take a completely different set of modules; it was about what they needed, what were their hopes, and their intentions. Every student therefore is unique, and we should really celebrate that variety.

So much for the way the degree is set up, let’s look at the way the curriculum was developed in those early days and, for this, I have a report from 1974, which is the Joint Working Group on Course Provision, that was chaired by Professor Arnold Kettle [hereafter referred to as ‘the Kettle Report’].

One of the main recommendations was that, as well as having specialist modules, we ought to have interdisciplinary modules and he called those ‘intrinsic courses’ for specialist and ‘less intrinsic’ for multidisciplinary: –

[Audio recording] “Within a University there should be room for a diversity of approaches, nevertheless we believe that it is important that the University should face the need to produce a larger proportion of the more general, less intrinsic type of course. It is a key part of the Joint Working Group’s recommendation that the University should produce a larger number of more general broadly-based courses with minimal prerequisites”.

The student newspaper at that time was something called Sesame and [Professor Kettle] went on to say in Sesame a little bit more, not only about the need for general modules, but some of the challenges in implementing them: –

“Between the relative educational merits of the latter two types of course, there is, as in all universities, a great deal of disagreement within the OU. Some people, students and academics, are suspicious of the broader courses, fearing that they can turn out to be superficial. Others are equally convinced that most conventional university degree patterns are greatly overspecialised and that the OU neither can, nor should, compete in attempting to provide the more specialist type of degree”.

These courses became known as University courses, or U courses, so things like U201 (risk), U202 (enquiry), U203 (popular culture) and the Kettle Report suggested that as much as 25% of our modules should be interdisciplinary. As predicted, there was a lot of discussion about whether we should have more specialist or more interdisciplinary courses, as this particular article in Sesame suggests: –

“We believe that the proposed U courses are bound to reduce the standard of the OU degree. If the OU really means to cheapen it’s degrees to this extent, it might as well go the whole hog and sell them for £12 each, like the Oxford and Cambridge MA”.

But luckily there are other people who thought differently about the value of multidisciplinarity and, maybe, that named degrees were something of the past: –

“It is true that our society needs specialists, the problem is that we cannot predict which types of specialists will be needed in 10- or 20-years’ time. I believe our aim as an Open University is to provide each graduate with the basis of a continuing education in the future, so that our graduates will be able to adapt to this rapidly changing society. Already our graduates are making their mark because our degrees are different”.

As in many universities that have strong disciplinary silos, the ability to sustain interdisciplinarity is often a challenge. In particular, I think the way that we do our costing and income models for the Open University has led to a decline of this interdisciplinarity. Certainly, the U courses slowly disappeared and I’m not sure there are very many left at the moment.

But one last slide to talk about how we got to where we are today. Here we have our timeline – in 1970, the introduction of the BA, and in 1996, the introduction of the BSc. And somewhere between the two, there’s this fresh-faced lad who started in 1978, full of hopes and ambitions, and look where it got him! [laughter]

In the year 2000, we introduced named degrees, but even though students often wanted to do named degrees, still 25% of our students wanted to study in a multidisciplinary fashion. Since then, we’ve had things like certificates and diplomas, we’ve had the whole move from the old framework to the new framework, but more recently we’ve introduced things like the Open Masters, the STEM version of the Open Programme and our first module on ‘Making your learning count’.

So, we’ve come a long way in 50 years. I’m hoping we’re still flying that flag of multidisciplinarity.  As Helen said, I will be giving up the flag and passing it on to others at the end of July, but I’m sure the university will continue in that interdisciplinary fashion and value it.

Rehana Awan and Carol Dowell

[Rehana Awan – Student Communications and Engagement Manager, and Carol Dowell – Open degree student]

[Rehana] We’re here today to talk to you about the importance of community, building a sense of belonging to the University and how important that is to the Open Programme, and we’re very pleased to have Carol joining us today. The way that we’d like to share that story is through using a map as a metaphor.

So, what we’ve got here is the Land of Engagement and Belonging, where our students sit at the centre. But before Open Programme students even become Open Programme students, they’ve done a whole process of thinking, using their compass about whether or not they want to be generalists or specialists; do they want to focus on interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary study, and then once they’ve decided on the Open Programme and that multidisciplinary is their way, they will start to chart their course through the map.

[Carol] Tutors provide an all-important bridge for students. Tutors are key to the student journey as they enable and support the teaching materials, provide context and feedback and are often the face of the university, as they are sometimes the only person from the university the student will meet.

The tutors treat me like a person rather than a student and encourage engagement with the core of the institution. Students can access several further key student support mechanisms, sometimes via ALs, sometimes directly. The transport methods to the ‘Mountains of Support’ illustrate the different means to access these. Here we have MILLS interventions, which are centralised email interventions sent at key points in the student journey; enrolment, TMA deadlines, moving on etc; the Student Recruitment and Support Centres, the Student Support Teams, Educational Advisers, Library Services, Careers and Employability Services. There are other student support mechanisms not shown in the Mountains which are still key, such as IT support.

[Rehana] Feeling part of this community is really important for our ALs. We’ve got the whole of the Mountains of Support there backing up students but, back at the main landscape, you’ll see again that there are some little boats crossing here – we’ve got our yachts, and they are other mechanisms and ways that we use on the Open programme to help students to feel part of this community.

We’ve got student shadowing – we’ve been really lucky this year to work with 4 other students on the student shadowing programme; we’ve also got the work that we do with the OU Students Association, whether that’s through attending the conference, running workshops there, articles in the magazine; but also we’ve got the qualifications site. The Open Programme qualifications site hosts really key resources that help students to make those links that are really important about their learning, that help them make the connections about employability skills, and how they can use and describe their degree. There are forums on there as well where students can chat and engage with each other, which we’d like to increase traffic to. But then there are also online sessions that we run for students with Careers and Employability Services, with Library Services, and we’re about to do a module choice session with Peter and Helen as well next month. So, think about all these different ways that we can kind of help students to feel part of the community. We also have the Badged Open Course – Multidisciplinary studies: the value and benefits – which is on OpenLearn, and what we’re hoping is that there’s something there for the sector as well, to help other students look at their multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary journeys, help them to look at the skills that they’re gaining and how they can help with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and describe the their degree to employers and the value of that degree.

[Carol] I feel that the OU does it’s best to try and encourage community, there are forums for modules and groups. This year my tutor has been extremely active in this and there is a lot of traffic. The destination is the Bay of Contentment where you can see retention, achievement, completion, career development, personal achievement – all of those things that students are working towards in their journeys and the things that engagement and community building can support students in attaining. However, they still need to pilot their way through the informal student communities and support mechanisms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. You can see the pirate flag flying here as a warning, because despite the positive experience I’ve had with social media, I appreciate that might not be the same for all students.

[Rehana] So, also in the Sea of TMAs you’ll see that there are some things that can throw our students off their journey getting to the Bay of Contentment – we’ve got a lack of confidence chart, we’ve got time management, we’ve got disability or health issues, work and family commitments. These are all things that our students have to face to get through to the end and it can throw them off course. But they do get there, and you’ll see that X does mark the spot.

[Carol] There are still so many exciting future possibilities in the [hot air] balloons, growing on the skills that they have gained from studying on the Open Programme. They’re ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to have an impact to shape the world with their problem solving and hopefully carry on with lifelong learning. Studying a genre out of my comfort zone seems to have had an impact on my ability to do my job; I learn faster and I’m more alert, my brain seems to have been kicked up a gear.

[Rehana] And that’s our Open Programme student journey.

Professor Martin Weller – Chair, Open Board of Studies (from August 2019)

So, I’m coming at this from a slightly different angle… My area is ‘open education’ in its new interpretation.

I did my inaugural lecture this year (despite having been a Professor for about 15 years, they finally got round to it!).  I was exploring this question ‘What does the Open in Open University mean?’ and I made the pitch that, up until the mid-90s, ‘open education’ more or less meant the Open University model. But since then, with the arrival of the internet, that definition had changed and there’d been a kind of diversification of interpretations. So, I asked the audience ‘What does the Open in the Open University mean to you’, around things like accessibility, knowledge, bringing the students in, all of the things you might expect.

But I think it’s interesting that amongst that list isn’t ‘freedom’ or ‘choice’. So then I went on to ask some other things. I explored these new definitions of open education, so ‘MOOCs (massive open online courses)’; ‘OERs’ (open educational resources, such as OpenLearn); ‘open educational practice’, which you might classify as what educators do in the Open, sharing practice, that kind of thing; ‘open textbooks’, which are openly licensed textbooks that educators and students can take and adapt; ‘open access publications’ or ‘open access data’ so anyone can take them and use them; and ‘open pedagogy’, which you might describe as using open principles and how you teach, whether that’s getting students to change things or operating in the open.

And I said to the audience on the night: ‘Pretend you are the Vice Chancellor for a year, what would you focus our resources on?’ I think, slightly to my surprise, ‘open pedagogy’ came out as the clear winner there, and I think that has a lot to say to the Open Programme.

I also put forward this model that we’ve been looking at of how universities around the globe are trying to think about openness and flexibility and we came across a number of different perspectives of that. Again, I asked the audience to think about this, so the OU scores quite well on some of those things, like having Open access to content in many ways, but not so well in other ones.

So, of the ones we [the OU] didn’t score very well on, I asked the audience what we should focus on, so it was:

  • Personalised content – so learners can get different types of content to support their needs or interests;
  • Open to further students – so a radical idea might be that all our courses are open, anyone can access them and you pay for accreditation;
  • Use of open content in production – a disappointingly low score [laughter];
  • Open recognition of assessment – so much like we do with the YXM course, enabling students to bring in learning from elsewhere; and
  • Flexible assessment – which is like allowing students to take different types of assessment and at different times.

Again, I was really pitching hard for open content in production which didn’t work at all [laughter], but flexible assessment was a clear winner, and I think, again, that speaks a lot to the Open Programme.

Where we are now in the broader Open education movement is that openness has come to refocus around re-use, being able to take other people’s content and data and adapt it for your own purposes, for the use of things like creative commons licenses; open access, whether that’s open access publications, books, data again, so you can get to the stuff; and just free, particularly MOOCs, that’s the kind of offer they make is free study.  So really, openness has meant the removal of restrictions in many cases.

And I think that’s good and worthy work, but really, it’s just the base level for interesting things to now happen and I think those interesting things are around some of the things that people responded to – around open pedagogy and flexible assessment. I spent a long time, from about 2012 to yesterday, being really annoyed with the way people discovered MOOCs as like “hey look, it’s the first generation of massive online learning” as if no-one’s been doing online learning before [laughter]. And I think there’s a real opportunity that Open choice is the next big thing; having laid that kind of ground work for Open education, I think people will now start to talk about having choice within that, for all those reasons that Liz, Peter and Jay mentioned, to that whole idea of learner agency and tackling all those problems. If you think about climate change and all of those big global problems, you need these kind of things. And I’ve seen at least one article so far, but I can bet within the next 2 or 3 years you’ll see lots of articles of like “hey, so-and-so University has developed this ‘open’ pick and mix module” and “we’ve invented it” and we [the OU] will be saying “hey, over here!”. So I think there’s a real opportunity for us to claim this ground but sometimes it’s difficult when you’ve been doing it for 50 years, you don’t see it as new. And how do you make it a new story?

So, I guess my challenge to us is how we make this seem new and innovative and to meet all those needs, but I think it’s definitely a way forward.

And so, go forth, and talk about Open choice!

Jay Rixon – Qualification Manager, MA/MSc Open

Evening, thank you very much, it’s my pleasure and my privilege to be here. I’m going to talk a bit about my personal reflection of my journey into the ‘Open’ curriculum.

I’ve always been drawn to the creative – the artistic alchemy of materials, techniques, skills and passion, the ability to visualise a piece of work, cross creative boundaries and take contrasting elements and put them together. My background is in the Arts – I did a Visual Arts degree and at the time I had no idea but I’d now call that an interdisciplinary experience. In my degree, I learned about textiles, about glass and metal work, with no barriers across these disciplines. So I could knit with wire if I wanted to, I could use fragile kiln fired glass with hand dyed plastics to produce 3D structures and, as much as I loved and valued this experience, I came out of my degree very much feeling like I was a ‘jack of all trades and a master of none’, which is often how people describe the Open degree. However, my technical repertoire was broad, and I had learned to work across so many creative disciplines, which I only really learned to value when I became an art teacher in a Further Education environment. It was in this setting that my broad creative experience really bore fruit, using techniques from one discipline and skills from another. There was little of the wide-ranging arts curriculum that we delivered there that I could not teach, and when I look back on this experience now, I recognise that interdisciplinary and the multidisciplinary methods that I used. And now I see the value of that approach and this has no doubt influenced my contentment and my passion for inter- and multidisciplinary curriculum.

That picture is supposed to represent what is going on in my head most of the time [laughter]. In the same way that I look back on my education in my teaching experience with a new level of perceived value, I can also reflect on another facet of my experience – I’m dyslexic. This was something that was never properly recognised in my formal education and I do wonder whether I respond to inter- and multidisciplinary experience because of my dyslexia.

I know that my learning journeys are often different from those around me and that sometimes I have to go through a maze to get where I want to go. And it’s also true that I sometimes get lost and end up going around four sides of the square when other people can just cut straight across it. But I also know that in my approach, there is value and there’s worth. I see what other people don’t see and I process information and tasks in a way that other people don’t.  And this transferable skill set, the ability to not think in swim lanes but across them, is not a learning difficulty. It’s not a disability but it’s an asset, both personally and professionally. Given the diverse needs of our students – we also know that we have the highest proportion of students with a disability on the Open Programme, who are bringing strategies to their learning that helps them press on with their education – our role as the Open Programme and our wider university is to help our students with this barrier to learning and unique ways of looking at the learning concept.

In the same way our students on the Open Programme often feel like they have to justify their journeys and learning experiences to friends, to family or to employers, the Open Programme team often seek to find ways and interventions to help our students explain their experiences, their reflections, and why this type of curriculum helps them stand out from the crowd in the work environment. And that this is a valid form of learning and way of exploring the world of education.

So, I feel that this type of learning makes me, and our students on the Open Programme, exactly what this visual shows – it’s the ‘t-shaped’ student. The fully-rounded learner or employee. The ready-to-hit-the-ground-running-individual, with multiple ways of looking at the world around them.

Students that participated in an Open degree consultation a couple of years ago said themselves that learning on the Open degree enables them to succeed in a wide range of disciplines, that they can also be flexible to changing jobs and the demands of those jobs as well. So, it’s great that at least some of our students are starting to recognise the importance of this, but there is, of course, much more work to do to help students and employers reach the same conclusion that our students have done.

I’m proud to represent the Open Programme and I am proud to support our students in this way of learning; this type of curriculum. And ready to champion it in the coming times, as colleagues are as well. And with the Fourth Industrial Revolution coming around the corner, this type of curriculum is more relevant than ever. So, it is absolutely my privilege to work on the Open Programme. It has also given me the chance to reflect on my education and my professional experiences and I see that the way I learn might be different from others around me; and I see that I might take a different path or route, but it is equally as valid. And my journey is endlessly rewarding, and I sincerely hope that our students feel the same way.