Learning How to Learn
By Seth Peery ’03
During my four years at RU, the course of my future was molded into its current state by an unparalleled combination of rigorous and diverse academic programs, engaging extracurricular activities and the deeply transformative influences of friends and faculty.
My academic program at RU was rather unconventional. I combined my computer science major from CSAT with a political science major, an economics minor and a mathematics minor. My intent at the time was to balance a technical skill set with a deeper understanding of problem domains in which information technology is applied. But from the experience of combining course work from these disciplines into a coherent academic program, I came to realize the importance of being prepared to take the initiative and find unique ways to maximize the potential of opportunities or even create new ones.
I’m currently at Virginia Tech, where I serve in a faculty position in the IT organization and am responsible for managing the university’s Enterprise GIS system. This is a system (and a job) that I designed as a graduate student when I realized that a need existed and was not being met. After developing a prototype, I pitched the idea to the university’s CIO, in a process very similar to starting a new business. I was able to create an opportunity where none had previously existed, and I credit my experience at Radford for developing the mindset that I could be a primary agent of change in my own fortunes.
A self-directed approach to academics turned out to be excellent preparation for graduate school. I’m working on a Ph.D., where I’ve used the same approach to combine course work, research methods and even committee members from a variety of disciplines, all strategically chosen to complement one another and inform my understanding of my research field. Beyond academia, the understanding that one can create opportunities by creatively recombining the assets at one’s disposal becomes a habit, and it’s a life skill that has served me well.
We live in challenging, sometimes discouraging times, and prospects for the future seem uncertain. However, as our economy changes, a premium is placed on the creation and application of new knowledge. A degree from RU, regardless of one’s major, imparts the technical tools to create this knowledge and add value to one’s world. The skills, confidence and life experiences gained through the other dimensions of the Radford experience, including participation in campus organizations, athletics, research, volunteering and many others enable us to see beyond problems, know which tool from our academic toolkit to apply in a particular situation and develop the creativity to improvise a new one as the need arises.
I fully credit my years at RU for helping me to learn how to learn—and learn how to live. I find great encouragement in the fact that my story is one of many thousands from alumni around the world who have lived the Radford experience.
Seth Peery ’03 is a senior GIS architect in the Center for Geospatial Informational Technology at Virginia Tech.