One thing that I think is really important about the school where I work, K-State Polytechnic, is the fact that we value industry experience for the faculty. In fact, having industry experience is often one of the required criteria when hiring a new faculty member.
I think sometimes teachers have forgotten what it is like to be a student or a non-expert. I also think that some teachers have no real experience outside of an academic environment. They’ve spent their whole lives in school, either as a student or later as a teacher.
Industry experience is one way that we at K-State Polytechnic address both of these concerns. Before you can teach in one of our specialty areas like computing or aviation, you have to have had some work experience in the field of that particular area. You are also encouraged and expected to keep that knowledge fresh, which puts you squarely in the world of the lifelong learner.
Before I worked as a college professor, before I even went to college, I worked as a professional in the field of computing. I joined the US Navy right after high school where I was trained to repair and operate the automated computer systems that control the weapons of my country’s fighting warships. I had two years of computer and electronics training followed by four years of sea service in the fleet.
After getting out of the Navy, I returned home to Kansas where I found a job working as a graphic designer in a screen printing shop. I was able to secure that position, because my ship was one of the first in the fleet to install an “off-the-shelf” civilian local area network of PCs and Macintosh computers. At that time, there was no Navy specialty training for office information technology, so anyone with an interest in building and supporting a computer network could assist with that effort, so I did. There I learned about computer networking and about making computer graphics, two skills I still use today as a professor.
I had no knowledge of screenprinting when I took that job, but was able to demonstrate in my interview that I was very comfortable using a computer and its graphics programs. So I worked for several years making designs for what was essentially an advertising specialty company that made custom imprinted apparel. I created the artwork and prepared the screens for printing but other workers did the garment printing. I did a little bit of the printing early on so I would understand the process, but really I didn’t actually print enough to develop real expertise. But I learned the basics and have always kept it back of my mind.
We did a final project in one of my digital media courses with screen printing. In a future post, I will outline the process we used.