Faculty Focus: Dawn Smith

Dawn Smith Brings Adventure to the Virtual Classroom

By Stephanie Edwards |   October 2010

Dawn Smith , Faculty

Computer Information Technology
School of Undergraduate Studies

Dawn Smith has been teaching undergraduate computer  information technology at UMUC for two years now, but says she’s  been working in and teaching technology nearly all of her adult life. Also an  avid traveler and a former online student herself, Dawn is able to provide great  advice to her students on how to live an exciting, yet disciplined life.

After taking the necessary courses for teaching, and with  some experience under her belt with consulting, Dawn reveled in the idea of  combining the subject matter with her medium of teaching.  Since she had received her second master’s  degree in training and development almost entirely online, she thought it was  appropriate that she should teach online.  “I was intrigued with the potential of  distance education.  I found UMUC where I  can combine both my technical background and experience with online delivery — a  perfect fit!”

Teaching  online also accommodates Dawn’s taste for exciting adventures outside the  classroom. For the last four years, Dawn has visited Asia  at least three times each year. She has also seen the pyramids and tombs in Egypt, gone on an African safari, explored the  Galapagos Islands, and watched the Caribbean World Series in Caracas. Dawn is also an accomplished sailor who  has sailed in the Great Lakes, Florida, Philippines, Thailand,  Australia, and the Caribbean.

Smith says that one of the things that inspires her to  travel is her husband of 20 years. Before she met him she had never been out of  the country. But since their first trip to Hong Kong,  he has been challenging her to try new things and expand her  horizons, much to her enjoyment. In fact, Dawn says that her marriage has been  the adventure of which she’s most proud.   She said, “He is always challenging me and getting me outside of my  element, my ‘comfort zone.’ I like to think that’s what I do with my students―to  challenge them to try something new, think about things in a different way,  challenge their perceptions of how things are or should be, and expand their  horizons.”

Dawn says that she likes to bring structure as well as  challenge to the classroom. “Some of my students are out in the trenches,  jumping out of helicopters, and dealing with situations I could never handle –  many already have enough ‘adventure’ in their lives.  I try to also bring a little structure, sanity,  and safety into the classroom.”

The key to balancing full outside lives and a successful course  load is discipline, according to Dawn. Speaking to her ability to travel  extensively and teach, she explains that when taking online classes it is important that students  set aside specific days and times that they will  devote to their studies. Coming from an experienced online student, professor,  and adventurer, this advice is clearly the key to success!

Dawn says that part of the reason she travels is, "to take  advantage of a gift I am privileged to have. Most people I meet either don’t want  to or for some reason just can’t  travel.  I want to do this for as long as I can – every trip is an adventure – it keeps  me young" But her adventures never distract  her from her main focus—teaching. “I am definitely the type of person that  needs to get her work done first before she can relax and play.”