The professor and the practitioner: Mother and daughter alumnae discuss making it in instructional design, mentoring and membership in AECT
Motivated by mentors
Nancy Hastings ‘05 realized she wanted to attend college while helping her daughter Jennifer Bauman ‘09 — then a high school junior — navigate the admissions process.
“Jenny was trying to decide where to go,” she said. “We had all these catalogs, we were reviewing everything, and I thought, ‘I want to go to college, too.’”
At 37, Hastings enrolled in Oakland University, eventually earning a bachelor’s in human resources management. She said because she started so late, she had no intention of pursuing graduate studies, but because it seemed like the obvious next step, Hastings enrolled in the M.B.A. program. After realizing it was not the right fit, she transferred into the master’s in training and development. Monica Tracey ‘86, ‘97, ‘01 — who was then an assistant professor at Oakland University — encouraged her to consider the Ph.D. program in instructional technology at Wayne State.
“Dr. Tracey called Dr. Rita Richey, and I met with her,” Hastings said. “Wayne State accepted a lot of credits from my master’s program. Dr. Tracey was really the catalyst because earning a doctorate was not something I ever saw myself doing.”
Hastings said the late James Moseley, a former professor of instructional technology at Wayne State, was another important mentor who had a positive influence on her education and career. When she started the doctoral program, she was a student in one of his classes.
“He said, ‘You’re really good at this. Let’s write an article together,’” she said. “Again, that was something I would never have considered until he pushed me to do it. Dr. Moseley was the most incredible mentor, and I mentor my students the way I do because of what he did for me over the years.”
Hastings pursued a dual concentration in instructional design and performance improvement. After graduation, she accepted a yearlong position as a research associate in the instructional design program at Wayne State. Hastings led a team of graduate assistants who helped her create the online master’s program in instructional design.
“It was a really good experience,” she said. “It was helpful for me to have an opportunity to be a practitioner post-graduation. The faculty at Wayne State helped me develop the knowledge and skills to become a faculty member and do exactly what I am doing now. I am fortunate to have had people like Dr. Moseley and Dr. Tracey who encouraged me and made me feel like going further was a possibility for me.”
When the project ended, Hastings became a lecturer in instructional design at Wayne State. In 2007, Hastings accepted a faculty position at the University of West Florida, where she serves as assistant dean and professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies, chair of the Department of Instructional Design and Technology, director of the Doctor of Education in Instructional and Performance Technology program, and director of the Faculty Instructional Design Support Office. She continues to use what she learned at Wayne State in all her roles.
“We use the human performance technology model as the framework for our doctoral students,” she said. “They conduct a performance gap and cause analysis and identify, implement and evaluate a solution — that’s all part of their dissertation. I also use that foundation a lot in the faculty support office to make sure we are aware of — and can meet — the faculty’s needs.”
Hastings said one of the highlights of her career is that her master’s students won the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) University Case Study Competition multiple times.
“My students participated in 2009 and did not do as well as I had hoped,” she said. “They won the following year, came in second in 2014, and won again in 2019. I am really proud of that.”
Finding focus and evolving in design
Bauman admits she did not know what she wanted to do with her life when she started college. She earned her associate degree at a two-year institution in Missouri before transferring to Oakland University to earn her bachelor’s.
“I changed my major so many times,” she said. “I started out as a veterinary medicine major. Then, I considered physical therapy, business, economics, market research and human resources. I kept drifting toward training, and I knew what instructional design was because my mother was studying it.”
Bauman graduated with a degree in general management, then enrolled in the master’s in training and development program.
“I thought, ‘I am asked to do a lot of training, so this would be a good option for me,’” she said. “However, I wasn’t focused.”
Because she loved statistics, Bauman decided to transfer to Wayne State to pursue a master’s in educational evaluation and research. She completed the coursework but did not know what to do for her thesis project.
“Dr. Richey encouraged me to complete the master’s program, then earn an education specialist certificate in instructional design, but I didn’t want to work with my advisor to finish my thesis,” she said. “I switched programs. I focused on instructional design and some aspects of performance improvement, and I loved it. Everything just clicked into place.”
Bauman said she was able to immediately apply what she was learning in class to her career.
“I was working in a process improvement position at Title Source (now known as Amrok), a sister company of Quicken Loans,” she said. “Although we didn’t necessarily do process flows at Wayne, I could see the gaps and conduct a gap analysis to identify the areas for which we might need to design instruction or develop a job aid to support our teams.”
For her master’s project, Bauman designed an online teambuilding course for Hastings’ students, some of whom had been members of the instructional design team who had lost the 2009 ISPI University Case Study Competition.
“I thought my students needed something to help them come together as a team,” said Hastings. “That was the crux of their problem. Jenny developed a course for the next team. They used it to communicate and collaborate, and they won the competition.”
When Bauman graduated and decided to pursue a career as an instructional designer, Hastings said she questioned her career choice.
“I kept asking her, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’,” she said. “I didn’t want her to choose instructional design because I had. I wanted her to be sure that this is where she wanted to be. Over time, I realized that she is definitely in the right space. She has built an amazing career for herself, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Bauman became an instructional designer at Quicken Loans. In that position, she said she was involved in all stages of the design process and had to educate team members on her role.
“My new team knew they needed an instructional designer, but they had no idea what one did,” she said.” They kept telling me to make everything look pretty.”
A few years later, she accepted a new challenge, moving into a role as an instructional designer at GP Strategies, where she focuses only on the design phase. Bauman said working there has taught her that you can turn the design process into a tool that everyone can embrace. It has also allowed her to continue developing her skills.
“There is a lot of focus on design thinking, which wasn’t taught when I was in school,” she said. “As a learning and development organization, GP Strategies emphasizes the importance of continuing education and professional growth so we can keep building upon our existing knowledge. It has certainly been an evolution.”
Positioned to be partners in research and practice
Although they chose different directions, Hastings and Bauman often work together through their involvement in professional associations, including ISPI and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT).
“We have gotten a lot of opportunities to collaborate through ISPI because Jenny was involved with students in the organization,” said Hastings. “Both of us have been very heavily involved in the organizational training and performance division of AECT. We’ve both served as officers in the division, and we have been co-guest editors of three special editions of Tech Trends. Our division is about research and practice, so the rationale is that we should have an academic and a practitioner work on these projects. That is where we kind of come together on everything.”
Bauman admitted she was hesitant to join AECT because she was not a doctoral student.
“I was very apprehensive when I first started getting involved because I was a master's student, and most students in AECT’s Graduate Student Assembly are pursuing doctoral degrees,” she said. “I diminished my worth. I have learned not to do that because my career speaks for itself. I have advanced through a series of performance improvement, instructional design and consulting type of positions to get to where I am.”
Bauman said taking advantage of opportunities to lead and learn helped increase her self-confidence and taught her to advocate for herself.
“Honestly, I don’t think anyone at work would have considered me for the job I have if I had not said, ‘I’m already in this wheelhouse and know this stuff. I can push myself and lead this team.’”
She said working with her mentor Bonnie Beresford also contributed to her professional growth.
“Bonnie is a phenomenal person,” she said. “She’s been a great mentor in terms of helping me develop my team — who are also new to their roles — and getting me up to speed so that I can make the team my own.”
Encouraging future designers
Hastings and Bauman also shared advice for aspiring instructional designers.
“Find a mentor,” said Hastings. “Talk to your professors and colleagues and find those people who can be part of your network and help you make that transition from the classroom to a career. That is absolutely critical. Next, learn to articulate what you do. When someone says, ‘I am getting a degree in instructional design,’ people ask, ‘can you fix my computer?’ There is a lack of understanding and awareness about what instructional designers do. Be able to articulate what you do and the value of your role — and be proud of it.”
Bauman recommended that aspiring instructional designers create a portfolio and trust the process.
“Even if you are not required to do it as part of your program, build a portfolio,” said Bauman. “All those projects you complete in class show a potential employer what you can do. You might not have work experience, but you created this learning product. That really speaks for you. Also, trust your skills and trust that you know the process. You gain new knowledge and develop new skills while you are in school, and that translates into experience. When you go out into the workplace and you are learning this new stuff, it is scary. You will wonder if you are doing it right — and you probably are. You will learn whatever you need to learn, and you will have support in the field, whether it’s from a mentor or someone else.”