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College of Education

Jacqueline Verkuilen ’23, ’24MED: ‘Learning Design and Technology Has Perfectly Allowed Me to Thrive at My Talents and Hit on My Interests’

Jacqueline Verkuilen in graduation regalia.

When Jacqueline Verkuilen ’23, ’24MED was an undergraduate student, discovering the College of Education’s Learning Design and Technology program changed the course of her academic career.

She switched her major and decided to earn her master’s degree, too, which she was able to complete online while traveling the world. Now, she’ll be back in Raleigh to attend her graduation. 

Meet Jacqueline:

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Degree: Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Throughout my time at NC State, obtaining my undergraduate degree and then my graduate degree in learning design and technology, I was an active member and served in many positions in Delta Zeta. I was also a part of the Botany Club and Psychology Club. I spent the spring semester of my junior year studying abroad in Florence, Italy, where I caught the travel bug!

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

I chose NC State because after visiting the campus, talking to current students, and learning about the many opportunities NC State had to offer, I knew that it was the place for me to develop my education and prepare me for my career. During my five years obtaining my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I have made countless incredible connections with students and professors, experienced NC State’s amazing and engaging student culture, and was able to be involved on campus through my sorority and clubs. 

After applying to the Applied Education Studies: Learning Design and Technology major, I was able to speak with the heads of the department to plan my major change and switch into the College of Education. They were helpful and intuitive to my needs and guided me effectively through the process. I am so incredibly grateful that NC State offered me the opportunity to fast-track my education to gain both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the Learning Design and Technology program. The professors and staff within the program have helped me tremendously throughout my time, and I couldn’t have asked for a better support system throughout my educational experience.

Why did you choose your concentration? 

With the Learning Design and Technology major in the College of Education, I found that I could combine many of my interests by pursuing a career in the field of instructional design. By utilizing psychology, graphic design and my love for learning new material, instructional design perfectly blends all my interests into one. Throughout my time studying learning design and technology, I have taken a multitude of courses focusing on education, educational technology, learning theory and graphic design. 

Throughout my time obtaining my undergraduate degree, I was able to declare my original majors – psychology and biological sciences – as minors. I am incredibly proud of the education I was able to gain throughout my time at NC State.

After studying abroad in Florence, Italy, during my junior year of undergrad, I became incredibly interested in traveling and exploring the world. Because my graduate coursework was fully remote and flexible, I was able to take the opportunity to live and work abroad during my first semester of my graduate degree program. I lived and worked in Lucerne, Switzerland, for the first couple months of my journey, and then solo-traveled to France, Italy, Spain, England, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. During my time abroad, I was able to bring a newfound mindset to my coursework after experiencing a multitude of different cultures and people. It was an incredible and life changing experience, and I truly encourage everyone to travel if they have the opportunity to do so. 

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation? 

Throughout my time studying at NC State, I was able to gain a lot of professional experience working in different roles related to instructional design and organizational development. This includes two instructional design internships, a part-time role as a thought leadership designer, a talent acquisition and development coordinator role and a graphic illustrator position. It was my education through my coursework at NC State that fully prepared me for these corporate experiences and, in combining my academic knowledge with my professional work, I was able to build my background to be varied and layered with different experiences. 

After graduation, I will start a position working as an instructional designer with Spring Health, an organization focused on providing comprehensive mental health solutions for employers and health plans. I am ecstatic to work on the operations enablement team to provide learning solutions for employees to internally advance team members. Along with my corporate position, I plan to keep exploring the world in all the ways that I can. I am currently traveling through South America, and I am excited to see where my next steps take me. 

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step? 

The College of Education has prepared me immensely for my next steps after graduation. From the intensive coursework I have taken that truly gave me real-world projects related to instructional design and organizational development, to the meaningful relationships I have created with my fellow classmates and mentorship I have received from my professors, the NC State College of Education has given me nothing but unwavering support. 

One mentor I would like to personally shout out is [Associate Professor] Julia McKeown, who has truly taken me under her wing over the past two years of her being my advisor and professor for many of my courses within my major. Dr. McKeown has been an amazing resource for all my questions about coursework, career advice, traveling tips, etc. and is one of the main reasons I continued through to obtain my master’s in learning design and technology. Her incredible and dear support to me is just a sliver of what the College of Education offers to their students, making it an amazing and meaningful program to be a part of. 

What do you eventually hope to accomplish in your field? 

My biggest aim for achievement in instructional design is to shift the negativity focused on corporate training and bring a new perspective to how learning and development can be approached in a company setting. My goal for creating online learning has always been to design engaging, beautiful, fun and human-centered experiences that truly progress individuals for lifelong learning and continuous development in their field. Personally, I love to learn, so this field is incredible as you interact and collaborate with many professionals in different fields of study to spread their knowledge effectively. I hope to one day either open my own business or firm specializing in creating engaging and beautiful learning experiences, or lead a team effective in doing so, for an organization I am truly passionate about that makes a difference in the world.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

During my senior year at NC State, I was completing most of my coursework online, which included interacting with my classmates and professors virtually. Although it was helpful and I had a lot of flexibility, it was lonely sometimes not going to class in person.

The Learning Design and Technology program then hosted a Spring Social, where members, students and professors were invited to Pullen Park to talk, eat and meet each other in person! I was incredibly excited to attend, as I was eager to meet the faces behind the screens. The social ended up being incredibly fun and insightful, as I was finally able to meet my professors in person, talk with students I had similar courses to and give advice to freshmen who were new to the major and NC State in general. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I really appreciated the program hosting a meet-up such as that one to get everyone to interact and socialize in person. Definitely one of my favorite memories of the College of Education!

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career.

I would say the experience that I had with the College of Education that has had the biggest impact on my career was the time in my sophomore year when I decided to transfer into the Applied Education Studies: Learning Design and Technology major. Unsure of what instructional design was or what opportunities were available in the education space, I reached out to the College of Education, and they put me in touch with Dr. Kevin Oliver, who is currently head of the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences. In our meeting, he gave me an introduction and full explanation of the field of instructional design and the opportunities available within it. He was very helpful and patient with my questions and needs, and it was after that meeting where I decided to make the switch. I was also in close contact with my new advisor after switching into the major, [Director of Advising] Amanda Beller, who gave me a clear pathway on how to achieve my major(s) within my remaining years of college, along with incredible advice and guidance on how to navigate my new experiences. Throughout my time, I would say that the mentorship I have received from all these individuals truly had the biggest impact on my career, because if it weren’t for their help, I would stay hidden from this incredible journey that has taken me through my college experience and into my career.

Why did you choose education? 

Although I am not in the traditional route of becoming a teacher or professor, I still feel as though I am well ingrained in the field. Learning design and technology has perfectly allowed me to thrive at my talents and hit on my interests, and I am incredibly grateful that I have learned about this career path.

This post was originally published in College of Education News.