By the time Mohammad Zamani graduates from the online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Adult Education program at Southern Oregon University (SOU), he will have launched his new career.
“The MSEd program has immersed me in the language of educational culture and afforded me the agency to determine a suitable focus for the application of my learning, so it segues seamlessly into my professional life,” he said. “I am not even done with the program yet, and people want my skills.”
Zamani recently began work with the Southern Oregon Education Service District as an education specialist for the American Indian/Alaska Native Educator CADRE Project.
“The Oregon Department of Education has been putting a lot of messages out about how they want to change academic standards and broaden curriculum, so there is a lot going on here with culturally responsive education,” he said. “I am right in the middle of that and coming at it with all of these teachers that need this training. I am super excited about it.”
Zamani expects to complete the online MSEd program in August 2021. He has been invited to consider developing instructional design aligned with the mission of SOU’s Grow Your Own/Teacher Pathway program. The master’s project he is working on will be a direct proposal for the program.
“Grow Your Own is a direct effort at diversifying the teacher workforce and improving teacher retention rates,” Zamani said. “The program offers financial support and a more student-centered approach in hopes of encouraging folks from historically and politically marginalized communities to take university courses and become teachers within the local communities with which they most identify. It’s about co-generating curriculum that fosters a sense of belonging for students whose experiences and perspectives aren’t typically represented in conventional educational environments.”
Zamani has already worked in other capacities for SOU, including as an education coordinator for the Schneider Museum of Art and as assistant program development coordinator for Native American programs at SOU.
“I enjoy being in the academic environment,” he said. “Knowing that I would go into education in some capacity, I knew that I would enroll in a master’s program.
“I was either going to get a master’s degree in fine arts, where I could specifically teach art, or in education, where I could integrate the creative process into some kind of educational atmosphere.”
Zamani grew up in South Carolina, where he developed a love of photography. He and his wife, Amanda Rose have four children — Asher (17), Lilith (16), Helen (11) and Amon (9).
“Before I went back to college, I was independently practicing as an artist, which means I was working at a lot of restaurants as a waiter,” he said. “I was trying to develop my artistic self and caring for a growing family by working whatever menial jobs I could land.”
The family moved to Taos, New Mexico, to volunteer for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which led them to Oregon in 2013.
“We were working on farms and learning the agriculture trade,” he said. “We got to Oregon by landing on a small ranch here through WWOOF. We were caretaking the ranch while the owners were gone for six months. While we were there, I saw lots of ads for opportunities at the community college.”
Zamani briefly returned to the service industry before enrolling at Rogue Community College. He graduated with an associate degree in graphic design in 2017. He went on to earn a B.S. in emerging media and digital arts from SOU, finishing that program two years later.
“I didn’t take college seriously or understand the value of it until I was older,” he said. “It’s enormously important to me that my kids understand how to access education and access college, how financial aid works, what majors they can look forward to, or if they want to get their certification to practice a trade. Witnessing my navigation of higher ed has helped demystify the academic experience for them.”
The online format was the only way that Zamani could continue his higher education in the online MSEd with a Concentration in Adult Education program.
“I love it,” he said. “The instructors have done a lot of work to provide us with a structure that’s accessible and easy to follow. We’re able to hold discussions with our peers in the class, which affords us a good amount of autonomy in doing our own research and bringing it to the table.
“It’s fantastic that we get these guidelines every week. From there, we’re given that freedom to use them as we conduct our own research and studies on our own time. I usually take Mondays to take care of my errands and family life.”
Zamani is in the final weeks of the MSEd in Adult Education program, but he didn’t have to wait to see the finish line to get a solid return on his higher education investment.
“I didn’t realize how few people know about andragogy [the art or science of teaching adults],” he said. “Not only am I coming into this with the knowledge I have gained through my relationships with Native American studies and programs on campus, but it’s also with this theoretical and philosophical knowledge that people are kind of unaware of. It looks promising that I will be able to find more work as I move ahead.”
Zamani looks forward to weaving art and education together throughout the program’s final two courses. Although he remains an artist at heart, education is now a fixture in his life.
“The program is flexible, and it gives you this great autonomy where you are put behind the wheel,” he said. “It’s important to appreciate that flexibility and autonomy, but also to go into it with an informed sense of social responsibility.
“I have learned from the program that education is a huge responsibility and is socially responsive — it’s responding to what’s going on in the world. You should have some idea of your own values and beliefs about education, what learning means and why it’s important, and then go into the program to develop those values and ideals yourself.”
Learn more about the SOU online MSEd with a Concentration in Adult Education program.