Jim Chlebak, MSIT
Creating distance learning solutions for music students
"Marlboro College Graduate Center helped me choose a path, and I like where I'm going," said Jim Chlebak, music director at Springfield High School, Vermont. Jim had taught music for grades K-12 in northern Vermont for several years, but the MSIT program prepared him for taking his work a step further.
Jim was first drawn to MCGC because of the location and the emphasis on technology. "What made the experience worthwhile, however, was the fact that many of the students were quite accomplished at what they were doing outside the Graduate Center - some amazingly so."
"The best part was the mix of those very capable people bringing their life and professional experience to class discussions, providing expertise in all sorts of areas - business, law enforcement, facilities management, finance, sales, marketing, quality control, television, general contracting-and connecting their interests and acumen to the technical skills we were learning together."
Jim was particularly inspired by the Project Management class taught by Lisa Sieverts, a business and project manager for a New Hampshire-based web development firm. "The online discussions for Lisa's class were among the most intense intellectual experiences I'd had since college. The basic construct of the class, too, was appealing: she had a body of knowledge and specific tools to deliver, which was very similar to my experience at a music conservatory. And like my teachers at Oberlin Conservatory, Lisa taught her craft in a matter of fact manner to extraordinary effect, giving us a means to manage extremely complex capstones."
For Jim's capstone project, he worked toward developing a distance learning solution for providing classical private music lessons. While this might have had distinct advantages where he lived near the Canadian border, Jim interviewed for the high school music director position in Springfield the Friday before he had even completed his capstone project. He was hired two days shy of the first day of school, so he had his hands full moving his family south.
"I could say life got in the way, but it might be more accurate to say that my grad school experience was preparation for life's next step," said Jim. "After two years, I was accustomed to stress management. I had just acquired some new tools for risk analysis and mitigation. I had a master's degree, which resulted in a higher salary, and new technical proficiency that made me more marketable."
While his capstone project may not be directly applicable to his new job, Jim used his tech experience to acquire a $10,000 grant for his students to make digital media profiling their local creative economy. "I have a small network of classmates and resources, including a few of the people I now work with, whom I can look to for suggestions in tackling new challenges."