Katherine Bandy was teaching English at Harbin Normal University in China when she decided to finish what she started by completing a master's degree program at St. Thomas University.
"I was looking at the education programs and saw instructional design and technology, and I thought that was the greatest thing," she said.
"One of the things I did at the university was create my own courses, which included integrating technology into the classroom, my favorite part of the process."
Two months after Bandy graduated from the online Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology program at St. Thomas University in May 2020, she landed an assistant instructional designer position.
"In January, I was awarded a work study," she said. "We worked so well together, and I worked hard and loved what I did. I got an offer to come to work at St. Thomas full time. Fall was too soon to teach, but I am looking to start teaching classes here in the future."
Bandy enrolled in a different master's degree program at St. Thomas University in 2016, but she had to put school on hold after one year when the facility where she worked closed.
She took some time to re-evaluate her situation and returned to Harbin Normal University, where she had previously taught for two years.
"I loved working with kids so much," she said. "The whole time I was teaching in China initially, I was thinking about what to do for my master's degree, which led me to the elementary education program."
Bandy grew up in Williamstown, West Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in visual and performing arts from West Virginia University in 2005.
She worked for Walt Disney World as a stagehand and at the Walt Disney English Training Company in Beijing and was also a stage manager for productions in Florida and Ohio. Her job stints in the entertainment field lasted five years.
"Working for Disney was fun, but I wanted to do something a little more meaningful," she said. "I started working with at-risk students. From there, I got a position at the university in China."
The online format helped Bandy get started in the instructional design program while abroad. She completed half of the program from China before moving back to the United States to wrap up the degree.
"When I went back to school and got into the instructional design program, I worked hard and got it done in a year," she said. "It was great. I didn't have necessarily have to move back to the United States for an online program.
"St. Thomas does a good job of getting its advertising out there. I had been exploring other universities and other options, but I liked what STU had to offer and came back."
EDU 503: Applied Research Methods and EDT 650: Practicum in Instructional Technology were Bandy's two favorite courses in the online M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology curriculum.
"I loved researching and seeing what's out there and thinking of new things to add," she said. "I apply what I learned in the master's degree program every day at work."
Earning a master's degree was extra special for Bandy because she's a first-generation college student.
"My family and friends are excited for me," she said. "They were already pretty excited about me getting my undergraduate degree. Going to get my master's degree makes them proud. I hope to walk in the commencement ceremony in December."
In addition to enjoying her new job at St. Thomas University, working on her second book as an amateur novelist keeps Bandy busy. She also enjoys biking in her free time and looks forward to building on her education career now that she has completed her higher education journey as a student.
"Having a master's degree from St. Thomas University will continue to create career opportunities for me in the future," she said. "It's exciting."
Bandy also used what she learned in the performing arts world to succeed in the master's degree program as an online student.
"I always shot my professor an email at the beginning of the semester to introduce myself and let them know that I was very serious about my grades and doing well in the course," she said. "I felt that helped.
"I had good relationships with my professors and could ask questions when I needed to and get feedback. It's important to be a person with your [online] instructors. Let them get to know you a little bit. Take that extra step. It's a great program."
As a former stagehand who taught in China and then became an instructional designer at her alma mater two months after graduation, Bandy has the experience – and now the education – to thrive wherever life steers her.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.