Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Tawnya Means, M.Ed. (‘03), Ph.D. (‘09)

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Photo of Bruce Jamison courtesy of Dr. Tawnya Means.

Photo of Bruce Jamison courtesy of Dr. Tawnya Means.

Photo of Dr. Tawnya Means courtesy of University of Nebraska (Lincoln).

Photo of Dr. Tawnya Means courtesy of University of Nebraska (Lincoln).

Dr. Tawnya Means has a unique connection with Townsend Hall, the home of the MU School of Information Science & Learning Technologies. Her father walked the halls of Townsend when it served as both the Education Building and a University High School. Decades later, Means continued the legacy, walking those same halls on her paths to attaining a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree.

From SISLT, Means holds a master’s in education from the educational technology (Ed Tech) program and a doctoral degree from the information science and learning technologies (ISLT) program. She graduated in 2003 and 2009, respectively.

Means is the new Assistant Dean and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) College of Business. Below, she shares details on why she chose SISLT and how her experiences within the programs have shaped her into the leader she is today. She also offers advice for prospective students interested in the Ed Tech master’s and ISLT doctoral programs.

Why did you select to attend SISLT?

Since my bachelor’s degree was from the MU College of Education, I was familiar with SISLT and the master’s programs it offered. Also, I lived and worked locally, so it was convenient to attend. After going through Ed Tech program and meeting faculty, gaining working experience from grant projects and taking courses, I developed relationships that inspired me to go for my doctorate.

How did your program(s) at SISLT impact your career?

Having the ability to customize where (within Mizzou) I took courses allowed me to have a multidisciplinary experience that included the MU College of Engineering and Trulaske College of Business. This broadened my expertise in and exposure to different fields, as well as gave me the ability to develop both the theoretical concepts and hands-on experiences needed to function in fields other than learning technologies.

In a former position at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, the focus of my role was to form relationships and collaborate with colleges in other disciplines, within the institution. I adapted quickly to the business college environment by taking experiences I had with Trulaske and applying them to my new environment. It also helped me with recognizing opportunities to link what was happening in one college to another college.

Developing relationships with faculty at SISLT helped me to successfully work with faculty, which has been a primary component in my former role in Florida and now, at Nebraska. Some colleagues are more focused on the framework for instructional design or implementation of projects, for example, whereas one of my strengths is to do all of those things and communicate those concepts in a non-technical way to various types of constituents.

What did you appreciate most about your experience at SISLT?

Overall, my learning experience was great, but what had the strongest impact was the networking I did and relationships I built with faculty.

What impact has SISLT had on your life?

While at SISLT, I was always pushed to think about things differently and see things differently. That motivation broadened my way of thinking and resulted in me connecting with other ideas. In addition, I developed relationships with faculty that have had a lasting influence, and a few still mentor me to this day.

What advice would you give prospective SISLT students who are considering the following programs:

  • Educational Technology
    Although the Ed Tech program offers great courses, I would advise them to come into it and explore ways to connect the courses beyond just SISLT. Find other classes to take within MU that can provide a different perspective and increase skill level.

    Also, the ability to take classes online is convenient, but I would encourage future students to make a point to go to campus and take advantage of the resources attached to the program.

  • Information Science & Learning Technologies
    It’s important for prospective doctoral students to look closely at SISLT faculty and what their research areas are. After identifying someone whose research area aligns with your interests, ask to work with them in the very early stages of the program.