Written by Jennifer Levy, Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer
As Kettering University Online’s (KUO) Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer, I have the pleasure of working with our Contributing Faculty members, many of whom are subject matter experts for the courses they teach. Coming from a wide range of educational, career, and geographical backgrounds, KUO faculty unite in the effort to link transformative experiential education to rigorous academic standards with real-world applications for learning that lasts a lifetime.
This time, we are happy to shine the Faculty Spotlight on Contributing Faculty Member, Viola Sprague, MBA, PMP. Professor Sprague is the Vice President for Instructional, Administrative, and Information Technology at Kettering University and teaches Project Management for Kettering University Online.
Following are excerpts from our conversation:
JL: First, thanks so much for making the time to chat.
VS: Of course!
JL: The first question I always ask is, where did you grow up?
VS: I grew up in Goodrich, Michigan.
JL: I’m curious as to what you think drew you to the information technology field?
VS: I changed my major to IT after working as a computer lab assistant in
college. Helping other students use the machines was fun and I decided
I would like to do this as a career. Then, I began my Information Technology career at Wayne State University supporting the School of Medicine. During this time, I held many roles; Network Administrator, Database Administrator, Help Desk Support, and IT Manager. I also became a certified Project Manager. This experience allowed me many opportunities to grow both professionally and personally.
JL: What did you do after you left Wayne State University?
VS: After Wayne State University, I worked for a seven-hospital system in Grand Rapids, Spectrum Health. I held the title Clinical Applications Manager, which made me responsible for all computing devices that were designed to interact with patients. This included the EMR (Electronic Medical Record), BMDI (Bedside Medical Device Interface), as well as many others. This role was extremely exciting. I was able to experience emergency management, leadership, and system support for which lives were dependent.
JL: Males have historically dominated the information technology industry. What has been your experience of being female within this male-dominated industry?
VS: The experience has been both exciting and challenging. I have truly
enjoyed my career but have had experiences of inequity in regards to
being heard by my colleagues and leaders.
JL: How have you overcome the many challenges of being female in a male-dominated industry?
VS: The key for me has been to keep a positive attitude, do the right thing for
the right reason, and be persistent.
JL: It seems whenever I ask the question about overcoming these types of challenges, the word “persistent” is in many an answer!
JL: Let’s shift gears and talk about teaching. In brief, what is your teaching philosophy?
VS: My teaching philosophy is to bring my industry and professional experience into the classroom and enrich the learning for all students. Through leveraging my real world experience, I aim to make the course material more robust and meaningful to every learner. Availability to learners is a fundamental component of my classroom. I like to create an environment in which all students can feel comfortable asking questions and know that their questions will be answered quickly and concisely.
JL: How would you describe your Kettering students?
VS: The students are very motivated, focused, and determined to be successful. It is truly a joy to work with the Kettering students.
JL: KUO has many students for whom this is their first time in an educational online environment. What advice do you think you would you give to someone who is taking his or her first online course?
VS I would recommend they attend office hours. It is also important to read the material in advance of the week. The toolbox has what they need to be successful and leveraging all of the tools will help them succeed.
JL: Yes! We are always encouraging students to use office hours. Not only does it help them with course content, it’s great for relationship building and perhaps even future networking.
JL: Speaking of office hours… What is the best advice you’ve ever been given by a professor or mentor?
VS: I was once told to take risks in my career and not to let people decide your path for you.
JL: You have such an impressive career. Please describe any particular career achievement or highlights.
VS: I have been able to serve on various boards and organizations to give back to the industry. For example, the Merit Advisory Council, PMI Thumb Chapter Vice President of Finance, Leadership Board for CIOs in Higher Ed., American Council on Education Women’s Network – Institutional Representative (for Kettering University), Society for Information Management, and the Michigan Council of Women in Technology.
JL: That is quite a list!
JL: Another question I ask each subject of our Faculty Spotlight is, who has influenced you the most in life?
VS: The person that influenced me most was my mother. She was extremely
supportive and gave a lot of positive reinforcement.
JL: Now that we seem to be coming out of the pandemic, what surprising things have you learned about yourself during the COVID-lockdown?
VS: I was surprised to discover that I actually enjoy the solitude. I stayed very busy before the lockdown and having to slow down and stay home provided the realization that I do enjoy peace and quiet.
KUO honors and appreciates Professor Sprague for her contributions and highly regarded work with students.
If you are interested in becoming a member of our award-winning faculty, or a subject matter expert for course development, send your curriculum vitae and cover letter to Dr. Christine Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming a student, visit Kettering University Online for information about our graduate degree programs.