Michael Murphy ’97 felt his career as a database manager and technologist at Alcoa (Aluminum) Home Exteriors in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, hitting a ceiling for lack of a bachelor’s degree. His decision to enroll in one of the first classes offered through EMU’s then-new Adult Degree Completion Program, though, launched him on an entirely different career track.
“It really turned out to be a life-changing event for me. I’m not sure I would have gotten into the education field had I not gone back [to EMU] and gotten my degree, and had some of the experiences that I did,” said Murphy, now an assistant professor in the department of teacher education at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina.
Murphy’s capstone project during his undergraduate studies at EMU involved an examination of the use of technology in local school systems. He was struck by how slowly the schools seemed to be adopting new technologies. As an early user of email and the Internet, he was convinced that these would soon be a part of the everyday working world, and that, accordingly, schools should prepare students to use them.
“It kind of opened my eyes to the fact that there was a huge disconnect between what was going on in education, and what people understood about technology, and how it was being used [in the classroom],” he said.
The experience soon developed into an interest in becoming a teacher himself.
After EMU, Murphy went on to Marshall University in West Virginia, where he worked as director for regional computing and completed a master’s degree in secondary education. At the encouragement of a graduate professor, he kept right on, eventually earning a doctor of education degree in 2008, with a concentration on education technology.
Since then, he’s been teaching undergraduate- and graduate- level courses at Lander University and researching in the field of educational technology. Murphy’s recent research projects have included a study of the use of technology in early childhood education in Montessori schools, and the development of survey software that allows Lander’s education department to collect and analyze data on individual students’ progress through the program. After spending a year setting up the system with the university’s IT department, the system has proved of value to Lander’s process of re-accreditation, Murphy said.
“I love being in a teaching school,” said Murphy. “It’s a real community of learning that takes us far beyond what happens in the classroom.”
Now 15 years removed from his time as an EMU student, Murphy said the example of interactive learning between students and teachers, set by one of his professors, Terry Whitmore ’70, MBA, has proved to be an enormous influence on his teaching style.
“I’ve carried that with me for years, and always try to make my [own] classes interactive,” Murphy said.