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UC Employee's Career Climbs with Distance Learning

Date: May 14, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Photo by: Dottie Stover
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: Campus News

Melody Clark can't get enough of the University of Cincinnati. Twenty-five years ago, she was a new Western Hills High School graduate just starting a secretarial job at UC. Now she's the academic director of the new Office of Distance Education in the College of Evening and Continuing Education (CECE). She's also a doctoral candidate in the College of Education. Melody Clark

Those familiar with Clark's intelligence, drive and creativity would say her career path was simply pre-ordained, but she chuckles at the suggestion. "I applied for the job, because someone mentioned there was an opening," she says, pointing out that she "didn't go to college right away and was basically kicking myself for that decision."

She does concede that she had given the thought to the possibility that her secretarial position might be the first step toward some kind of career path - even though she had no idea of its destination. And when she enrolled in CECE, she proved herself right.

Ten years after enrolling, Clark received her bachelor's degree in administrative management in 1995. During her undergraduate years, she "got married and had a child and was still working at the college. There were a lot of challenges."

Many of those challenges, though, were in the form of new opportunities - particularly those due to the vision of the Dean Jeannette Taylor. "Dean Taylor and the College's leadership have always made a point of recognizing talent," she says. "Her mentorship has been invaluable. In fact, one of the reasons she started encouraging me to pursue my interests in the beginning was because even then, she had her own vision of what distance learning would be in the future. And that was close to a decade ago."

"Melody is a real asset to CECE and to the University as a whole," says Jeannette Taylor, dean, College of Evening and Continuing Education. "She is one of the most capable persons I have met in my 25 years in higher education. She is intelligent, energetic, and focused. She is a very sensitive person with excellent interpersonal skills which help her interact very productively with a diversity of groups and individuals. She has an admirable sense of humor that includes an ability to laugh at herself and with others. In summary, I believe that Melody is the kind of employee that productive organizations try hard to attract and retain. UC is very fortunate to have her."

Clark continued working at CECE after earning her bachelor's degree. Her academic path next led her to the College of Education. She earned her master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on higher education, and she is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Foundations. She is quick to point out that going in those directions wasn't deliberate as much as the result of her developing professional interests and capabilities.

"A lot of people I know who were successful in completing their graduate work felt that they found a really good match with what they were doing professionally," she says, "and I think that's also what worked for me."

Clark is currently co-teaching an online graduate seminar in education with Dan Wheeler, associate professor of educational foundations. The course explores the cognitive and social aspects of online learning, something Clark herself has researched and actually experienced as a graduate student taking classes online.

Her research experiences included a project last summer - surveying distance learning programs across the West Campus - which was part of an administrative internship under the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost of Baccalaureate and Graduate Education. The internship was part of UC's Women's Leadership Program.

"The assignment came from the Provost who wanted to understand how to further develop and support distance education on campus," she explains.

"Melody Clark's internship in the Provost Office was a great success," says Anthony Perzigian, Senior Vice President and Provost of Baccalaureate and Graduate Education. "Her understanding of the West Campus landscape increased significantly. The focal point of the internship was a study of distance learning programs. The information and recommendations in her report are already informing the implementation and development of distance learning initiatives across the West Campus. A consummate professional, Melody Clark makes contributions to UC's mission that increase in scope by year."

Clark says she values the experience not only because of its part in encouraging the university's role in distance education, but because it connected her with a number of members of the university community itself. She said that boosted her confidence immensely that UC's distance education initiatives will succeed.

As the academic director of the newly created office of distance education in CECE, Clark will continue to explore the many facets of distance learning. "The physical campus is the cornerstone of higher education, but there is a demand for access that is surely provided by distance education, which will be an integral part of the academic environment in the 21st century."

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