Part one of a four-part series featuring Rachael Santopietro, Learning Design and Technology concentration.
Rachael Santopietro received support from her employer to advance her education but struggled to find a program that would fit her needs. She knew she needed to clarify her goals before committing to a program, and practical applications were a priority. This led to the decision to pursue an education doctorate.
“I was making decisions during the first summer of the pandemic,” Santopietro says. “The ability to complete the program in four years and completely online was very attractive to me. It gave me the opportunity to spend my time efficiently while still being present at work and with my family.”
Santopietro was interested in the ability to complete the dissertation throughout the program. She was also intrigued by the cohort model that would allow her to meet students who worked in different fields. In her role as an instructional designer at BJU Press, she knew the learning design and technology concentration would give her tools for career success.
“As an educational product provider, we were innovators in the field of online textbooks,” Santopietro says. “I knew I wanted to advance our potential in educational technology. Since I began the program, we have developed a whole department around these ideas, and I have been able to share expertise during that process.”
Santopietro shares that one of the most unexpected experiences of the program was how quickly she could put her learning into practice.
“In my design and development tools course, I would learn a concept in class and use it at work the next day,” says Santopietro. “Part of my role requires leading and speaking at conferences, and I’ve already given workshops based on some of my courses. It’s been amazing to use my coursework to help teachers in the field.”
She also shares that the personal connections she’s built throughout the program have been vital to her success.
“Our cohort has had the opportunity to interact with students in other concentrations,” Santopietro says. “I was able to meet another student in my area to work on group projects. I think of her as my ‘doctoral sister,’ and it has been fun to go through this together.”
Santopietro is always looking for ways to share her learning with those around her. When writing her chapter on data analysis, she was able to share new tools with the data department at work. She also makes sure she involves her family.
“I took a class on games and simulations and was able to play with my family and use their experiences for some of my papers,” Santopietro says. “They have really been involved. I love that I can introduce them to new ways of learning, and they help me achieve my goals.”