Lifelong Learning

Tuesdays are busy for me this semester. In between my regular work tasks, I tune in for “Social Media for Environmental Communications” from the Duke Executive Education Program, take a break, then drive to the University of West Florida for back to back “Academic Strategies” and “Strategic Communication.” By the end of the evening, five hours of the day will have been completely devoted to communications courses. I love it.

I’m a huge proponent of being a life-long learner, especially in our environmental field. I took as many classes as I could at the Nicholas School, but still I feel there remains so much more to learn. I specialized in forest ecology and community-based environmental management; yet now I find myself working exclusively in the communications field. The result? Additional communications classes!

Online classes can be very effective or ineffective, depending on the instructor. That’s why I appreciate the Duke Exec Ed courses so much; professors and professionals creatively use the platform to give presentations, elicit comments from participants, break students into small groups, and discuss assignments. I especially enjoy garnering feedback from my classmates, most of whom are other professionals in my field. I learn from their experiences as much as I do from the course material, with an added networking element. As a bonus, I was able to TA online for a professor I TA-ed with when actually attending the Nicholas School!

Despite serious advances in online classroom technology, I also still like learning in a real brick-and-mortar classroom. At the University of West Florida, I can follow a pathway of communications classes, building my academic blocks to match my professional experience.

Are you thinking about taking post-Duke classes? A few tips and tricks from the perpetual student are found below!

– Try one class at a time first. Balancing school and work is always difficult, and it’s helpful to know your limits before pulling all-nighters again.

– Check out your local community college or public school. Classes are usually less expensive, with more options at night.

– Ask if your workplace has a course funding program. Many agencies, corporations and nonprofits will partially pay for additional training. I definitely take advantage of a workplace program at the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance!

– Don’t do extra work. Most classes are fine if you tailor your assignments to meet the needs of your job.