A passion for teaching adults has taken Danelle Stuart to Munich, Germany, and back home to Oregon. It also led her to return to her alma mater to earn a master’s degree.
“It’s such a great opportunity,” she said. “Southern Oregon University is an excellent school with amazing professors, which I already knew from my experience as an undergrad.”
Stuart completed the online Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a Concentration in Adult Education program at Southern Oregon University (SOU) in August 2022.
Before finishing the program, Stuart landed a position as a learning specialist at Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I am going to move to D.C. and help SEIU develop themselves as a learning organization and develop its internal learning program,” she said. “It’s a new job that they created.
“I got a better job than I would have been able to get without my master’s degree. The amount of personal growth that I got out of the degree was above and beyond my expectations.”
The flexibility of the online format was key to Stuart’s success as a full-time online student. She enrolled in the program in January 2021.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had to go on campus every single day,” she said. “Online made it so convenient. I could work whenever I wanted to — in the middle of the night, early in the morning, afternoon. It was cool.”
Stuart went to Europe to teach English as a second language and explore the continent. She was there when COVID-19 shut down the world.
“I stayed in Germany for the beginning of the pandemic, but then I thought that I needed to get back home,” she said. When she returned to the U.S., everything just fell into place.
“There weren’t a ton of jobs because everybody was staying home. It was the perfect opportunity for me to go back and get my degree.”
Thirst for Knowledge
Stuart was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she moved to Oregon with her family when she was four. Her mother, Suzy Moore, is a retired elementary school teacher and an SOU alumna.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human communication in 2008, Stuart began her career as a lead services coordinator. She then worked for a training organization for four years.
“I have always been a lifelong learner and a teacher, but that’s where I started getting up in front of people and losing my fear of public speaking that led me to teaching adults,” she said.
“I love being with groups of people engaged in learning, helping them develop skills and gain knowledge to help them be more effective in their social roles … and also make their lives a little easier and help them to grow. That’s where I got the bug.”
Stuart enjoyed the five concentration courses in the online MSEd with a Concentration in Adult Education program, especially Learning in Organizations.
“That course got me on the path I am on now,” she said. “I would not have gotten this job if it wasn’t for what I learned at SOU. The adult education classes were great for me because I learned a lot of theory.”
However, Stuart’s favorite course in the core curriculum, Diversity in the Workplace, was the most applicable.
“It was an excellent course that helped me learn about how to unearth and acknowledge my biases, and to help to build strategies for managing those biases so they are not affecting people’s well-being negatively,” she said.
“I have some tools in my toolbox to help support a safe work environment, so that was a wonderful course that prepared me well. I am also confident about my job. For the first time in my life, I don’t have that imposter feeling.”
During her second stint as an SOU student, Stuart had plenty of encouragement from her family and friends.
“They are excited for me to get my master’s degree,” she said. “They’ve been extremely supportive and proud of me to do the work and find a job before I graduated.”
Stuart, who enjoys painting and experiencing culture in different cities in her free time, emphasized the importance of taking the online MSEd with a Concentration in Adult Education program seriously as a student.
“It’s important to recognize that it is a lot of work,” she said. “Even though it’s online, it’s intense and accelerated. There is a high expectation.
“The professors also recognize that a lot of people work while they’re going to school. I was lucky enough to not be working. It’s not an easy program that you can do on the weekends — it’s more intense than that.
“You’ll have to put some things aside for a year. If you know that going in, and if you can motivate yourself to stay on top of things each week and dedicate yourself to work certain hours every day on schoolwork, it’s definitely doable. I would encourage anyone to do this program.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Stuart saw a significant return on investment before she completed part two of her journey as a Raider.
“I did my research, had a plan and had the answers they wanted when I interviewed for this job. I worked hard, but there was a lot of serendipity involved.”
Stuart already loved SOU before returning for an advanced degree. Now, she is an even bigger fan with two great student experiences, a master’s degree and a new job under her belt.
“I got more value out of the master’s degree program than I can say,” she said. “I am so glad that I did this. It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it. I feel lucky that I got this opportunity.”
Learn more about SOU’s online MSEd with a Concentration in Adult Education program.