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Alumna Leslie Huntington Returns to SOU in Online MSEd Program

SOU MSED Adult Education Student Leslie HuntingtonA funny thing happened to Leslie Huntington once she was a paramedic.

“I fell into education,” she said. “I learned a lot with a couple of formal classes, mentorship and trial and error. After a while, I felt like there was something more I could do, and there were ways I could develop professionally in education.”

That realization led Huntington to the online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Adult Education program at her alma mater, Southern Oregon University (SOU). She is on track to graduate in 2022.

“I had been looking around for a master’s degree program, but nothing ever matched up,” she said. “I gave up for a while. In February 2020, I was poking around again and saw this program at SOU. I talked to the advisers. It seemed like it was going to be a good fit, so away I went.”

Huntington is the emergency medical services education coordinator for the Oregon Health Authority, where she has worked for 17 years.

“Earning a degree online works great with my schedule,” she said. “It’s much better than I anticipated. This is the first round I have ever had in an online program.

“I was a bit hesitant at first, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. SOU sets you up for success. They give you a lot of [materials] up front to practice and get familiar with the site.”

Since enrolling in the program in April 2020, Huntington is enjoying the same support from the faculty that she benefited from as an undergraduate.

“I enjoyed the professors when I went through my bachelor’s degree program — they were very personable,” she said. “The same thing is true now. They are focused on our success, which makes a huge difference.”

Dropping Knowledge

Huntington grew up in Ashland, Oregon, where her father, Gary, was an emergency medical technician and a mortician.

“I would hear his stories,” she said. “The funeral home, where the ambulance was located, was on my way to school. When I came home from school, I would stop by the funeral home and wait for my dad to get off work. I was always around the ambulances, and it somehow kind of got into my blood.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from SOU in 1991, Huntington began working as a paramedic and caught the teaching bug. Her father and mother, Sandee, both worked at SOU while she was in school.

“Usually, the person who is the most newly licensed as a paramedic gets the honor of teaching the group because they’re the freshest,” she said. “That’s how I got into it. I thought it was fun.

“The world is changing so much — especially when it comes to education. I felt like I was getting behind. I figured this degree would be a great opportunity to learn more and be more marketable.”

So far, ED 591: Applied Pedagogical Strategies for Engaging Adult Learners is Huntington’s favorite course in the online MSEd in Adult Education program.

“It changed my whole perspective about adult learning in context,” she said. “It was a completely different way to put a class together. I thought I would try something with an online structure. It was amazing.

“This was when the adult learning theories came to life. There were so many more things I could do based on the theories I learned. This class showed me how to put them together and do something way beyond anything I had ever done in my career.”

Home, Sweet Home

Huntington has already broadened her horizons with the information that she has learned in the courses in the program.

“It’s absolutely applicable,” she said. “This program doesn’t stop at theory. You can wrestle with the concepts and apply them to your work situations.

“There’s all kinds of exploration that comes with this program. It’s very helpful. Then, you can see different angles to explore.”

Since returning to SOU, Huntington is enjoying the love and encouragement from her family and friends as she works toward another graduation day, more than 30 years after the first one.

“They know my personality, and they have been super supportive about it,” she said. “They’re excited and ask me how things are going.”

Even when obstacles popped up in Huntington’s life outside of school, pandemic included, she didn’t miss a beat with the flexibility of the online program.

“We had a wildfire and had to evacuate,” she said. “I had major surgery. It’s a meaty program in a good way. If you want to learn from it, make sure you dedicate the time to digest the information.”

Huntington is eager to see what the fruits of her labor can do for her career once she adds a master’s degree to her resume.

“The program has opened my mind to a lot of different possibilities — that’s the greatest thing about adult learning,” she said. “There are so many ways to apply the concepts and theories of adult learning in so many different contexts in the workplace. Wherever I go, those concepts are going to be with me and used successfully.”

Learn more about SOU’s online MSEd in Adult Education program.

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