Naya S-Dribinski is all about coming full circle.
The former and returning northern California resident is enrolled in the online Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) in STEM Education program at Southern Oregon University (SOU).
“My family and I are fond of Ashland,” she said. “My children grew up exploring southern Oregon on vacations, so I knew of SOU.
“I learned of the master’s degree program through an online search when I decided to compare SOU to other STEM and environmental education online programs.”
S-Dribinski is an independent informal educator in environmental science and natural history education for community neighborhood groups and schools near Boulder, Colorado.
She and her husband, Vladimir, and children, Nadya (15), Liam (12) and Hanna (9), are in the process of relocating to Scotts Valley, California.
“The foundational courses and elective choices in the program highlight the key areas of the field, and I wanted to gain that authentic experience from the highly regarded education courses at SOU,” she said. “I had also taken one year of professional development online courses prior to this program.”
With the flexibility of the program, S-Dribinski will not miss a beat with schoolwork as she moves back to the Bay Area. She took a term off when a fire in her community forced an evacuation.
“My adviser and my professors have been phenomenal responding to me and working with me,” she said. “The department response was immediate and accommodating to my need to take the term off to handle evacuation and cleanup after the fire.
“The online format has been fabulous. It was a prominent reason why I chose SOU. The 7-week format works well for a busy life with three children and work.”
Rounding Into Form
S-Dribinski was born in New Iberia, Louisiana, but she moved to northern California at an early age. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and wildlife ecology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1997.
“My passion and interest in my profession grew from my undergraduate work, my professional work experiences in science and natural history museums and through being a mom and volunteer for my children in their learning experiences and activities,” she said.
Those experiences also led S-Dribinski to enroll in SOU’s online MSEd C&I in STEM Education program in January 2021.
So far, her favorite courses in the curriculum are Project-Based Learning; Science and the Young Child; Trends and Issues in Environmental Education; Critical Issues in Education; Current Issues and Methods in STEM Education and Diversity in the Workplace.
“I loved each of these courses because authentic and rigorous coursework with ample opportunities for reflections on important issues and peer-to-peer work leads to enormous professional growth and development in the field,” she said.
“Each one also highlighted fundamental needs in education that align with my own educational interests and beliefs. High-quality STEM learning experiences are essential for all students, as early as elementary grades, to improve learning outcomes and foster the growth most needed in the future workforce.”
S-Dribinski is on track to graduate from SOU in December 2022. She looks forward to finishing strong in the final months of the program and celebrating the accomplishment at the end of the year.
“I would love an opportunity to be there in person at SOU for my graduation ceremony,” she said. “My family and my friends all thought it was a great decision and a great program fit for me.”
The information that S-Dribinski has learned in the online master’s degree program so far has been beneficial and even a bit surprising.
“I have been utilizing knowledge gained from each course and applying it to youth groups that I have been working with while progressing through my program,” she said. “The Project-Based Learning course also culminated with a public product in which I could bring together many of my final research work and projects of prior courses.”
Once S-Dribinski completes the master’s degree program, she hopes to continue to broaden her horizons as an educator.
“My ultimate career goal is to have a position dedicated to bringing environmental literacy learning experiences directly to all young learners,” she said. “I hope to foster a knowledgeable stewardship where a future workforce can make informed decisions for real-world issues.”
S-Dribinski, who enjoys meditation and spending time outdoors with her family, is happy that her blast from the SOU past came to fruition.
“I have received solid value with this program as my effort, work, expertise and willingness to connect and share with peers through my courses has led to my recognition as leadership liaison for the program by the Department of Education leadership team,” she said.
“It is an amazing program providing high-quality and rigorous learning opportunities which culminates in authentic learning and growth to build expertise and leadership in the field.”
Learn more about SOU’s online MSEd C&I in STEM Education program.