At age 37, Nancy Dick (M.A., 2008) had little college experience. She had put a successful publishing career on hiatus to stay home with her young family for 10 years and had recently re-entered the workforce. Following a layoff, she attended Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) to hone her multimedia software skills, and soon found herself recruited to teach because of her industry experience.
“Not everybody takes the university path for their education. I didn’t,” Dick said. “I wasn’t a traditional student and I wanted to make it easier for others to do what I was able to do.”
After earning an associate’s degree while teaching part-time, and later full-time, Dick earned a B.A. at City University. Taking the advice of a supervisor who reminded her that “no one values education like people in education,” she had her eye on a specific Master’s program.
“The [Master of Communication in Digital Media] program was, at that time, the only program like it, probably even nationally, and certainly locally,” Dick said. “It was really the fact that it was communications based and that it involved digital media, because that was my subject matter and I was teaching both online and in the classroom. I understood technology really well, but I wanted to be able to predict the future better.”
Steve Ater, lead faculty in Applied Design at LWIT, said he respects Dick for going back to do her graduate work when she did, especially after selecting the MCDM program.
“She chose kind of a hard road and I really admire that,” he said. “I think it’s made a huge difference in her impact in moving more into an administrative role in higher education. She’s doing some really hard and important work in a really unexpected place, and at a critical time.”
Although Dick found that many of her classmates were professionals from large corporations, like Microsoft and Amazon, and those working in government and in education, she discovered that they were all dealing with the same issues.
“I was really interested in what was happening with digital disruption if you look at many industries – journalism, TV, music – that underwent really incredible disruptive transformations,” Dick said. “I kept thinking this was going to come to higher education and I wanted to be ready for it.”
As a faculty member at LWIT teaching in the multimedia program, Dick didn’t intend to go into administration, “but three months after graduating from MCDM, I found myself with an opportunity to move into administration to launch the college’s new bachelor degree,” she said. “So my MCDM degree led to a job that I never anticipated or expected.”
As the Dean of Instruction for Design, Information Technology and eLearning, Dick manages several programs that involve about 45 faculty and staff and 800 students.
“I love my job. I always say I have the best design job in the state,” Dick said. “We’re the first public two-year college in the state to have a design-related baccalaureate degree and I get to manage that. We do amazing things in the two-year system. We help people transform their lives, we serve a lot of non-traditional students, and my goal is always to hire the best faculty to help these students reach their goals.”
Although she enjoys gardening and traveling in her spare time, Dick said she spends a lot of her energy thinking about higher education. She is interested in the transformations taking place in higher ed such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), prior learning assessment, competency based education, and online learning.
“If you look at the invention of the telephone, there were patent disputes and lawsuits,” Dick said. “Alexander Graham Bell may have gotten the credit, but there were others along the way. I was struck when I was studying in the MCDM program by the parallels to stuff that is happening now. As someone who is trying to look into the future and figure out how to train our students for jobs not invented yet, it was somewhat comforting to know that these messy transformations have happened before.”
One way that Dick stays interested in her job is her through her involvement with Adobe. She taught Adobe products for a long time and was an Adobe certified instructor and print master. She was one of the original subject matter experts for the Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) Photoshop exam and recently worked with Adobe on the first ACA InDesign Exam.
“Above all, Nancy is a knowledgeable, professional and generous educator and leader,” said Tacy Trowbridge, Education Programs Lead at Adobe. “We count ourselves lucky to have been able to work with her over the years and value her participation and contributions to Adobe’s Education Community. Her impact on our programs and offerings is deep and broad and always informed by her commitment to serving the students in her institution and to preparing them for their futures.”
Nancy Dick is a 2013 inductee to the UW Communication Alumni Hall of Fame.