Hybrid MA format a perfect fit for working professional

June 28th, 2022   |   SIT Graduate Institute, TESOL

For Nadezhda Braun, the part-time, hybrid design of SIT’s MA in International Education is a perfect fit. The format enables Nadezhda (who goes by Nadia), to advance her career—she currently teaches English in South Korea—while interacting with a cohort of learners and teachers around the world.

Originally from Minnesota, Nadia holds a BA in Russian from the University of Notre Dame. We reached out to her in Seoul, where her class of adult learners is transitioning from online to in-person classes. For the first time since she started her teaching position in August, Nadia said she’s able to see the “lightbulb moment”—when she writes something on the whiteboard, for example, and watches a student’s expression change as they make a connection.

It’s the best of both worlds, she says: enjoying the advantages of face-to-face learning while pursuing higher education in an online space.

How did you decide on the SIT MA program?

I went to the University of Notre Dame for undergrad—I did Russian and education schooling and society, and then did the Fulbright English teaching program in Russia. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated but I knew I wanted to do something in education. After the Fulbright, I did Teach for America in Oklahoma City for two years.

I looked for programs in international education that had a focus on social justice and equity. I also wanted a practical component; an emphasis on applied learning was important to me. SIT fit all those boxes ...

Being in Russia and then doing equity work in K-12, I knew I wanted to teach higher education with adult learners, and I knew I eventually wanted to do something in administration. So, I looked for programs in international education that had a focus on social justice and equity. I also wanted a practical component; an emphasis on applied learning was important to me. SIT fit all those boxes and would allow me to continue to work at the same time.

What helped you decide that you wanted to work with adult learners?

Part of the fun of working with K-12 learners, but also part of the challenge, is that you’re helping students discover what motivates them as they learn how they learn. That’s really joyful and fun, but I found that with adult learners, usually they know how they learn and have an idea of what motivates them. That’s a real pleasure as a teacher: working with people who have already identified their passions and helping them pursue those goals. That’s the difference for me. I get to work with people who already are pursuing those goals, whereas teaching middle school is more about figuring out what those goals are.

What draws you to the administration aspect of higher education?

Both of my parents are in education, or have been; both moved in and out of the classroom, so I knew the challenges of being in the classroom from an early stage in my life. But I also knew that I wanted to be in the classroom for some period because, in my opinion, the best administrators have some kind of empathy for what’s going on in the classroom.

Since high school I have been interested in the admissions process for universities. That was my first line of introduction into what an administrator could do. I have gone through lots of areas that I’ve been interested—from student affairs to study abroad programming—but at this point I think my career goals are in international admissions. I think about helping my current students work abroad in the U.S., what kind of experience would help them. A lot of them struggle with confidence in their English-language abilities. Would they struggle if they had been able to study abroad?

My dream role would be working for a U.S. institution recruiting international students to study in the U.S., with a focus on diverse student groups, or focusing on countries that aren’t represented in the student population in the United States.

For me, international student admissions and student services—getting students to the U.S. and helping them thrive in a U.S. context—is a way of helping those voices be louder in a global world.

There are a lot of equity issues in the U.S. context, but when we think about it on a global scale—whose voices aren’t being heard on a global scale? For example, an international student from an Indigenous population in Russia; that’s not a population that has a loud voice in global politics. What if that student was able to study in the U.S. and learn about U.S. perspectives and the atrocities that have been committed against indigenous people in the United States. They could take what’s being done now within indigenous communities—to preserve their languages, for example—take that back and apply it to their own context.

For me, international student admissions and student services—getting students to the U.S. and helping them thrive in a U.S. context—is a way of helping those voices be louder in a global world.

What do you like about your SIT program?

I’m about halfway through the program and I’ve really loved it so far. The professors have all been so knowledgeable and wonderful and have such a wide variety of expertise. It’s been a pleasure to get to pick their brains about topics and theories. My advisor, Melissa Whatley, has been really helpful in helping me learn about research.

There were places like SIT that were already doing virtual learning before the pandemic, so my program hasn’t changed a whole lot. It was clearly designed for an online learner.

Virtual learning has become a necessity in our current context, but there were places like SIT that were already doing virtual learning before the pandemic, so my program hasn’t changed a whole lot. It was clearly designed for an online learner.

I’ve never felt like, ‘Wow, I wish this was in person.’ I mean, I wish I could meet my classmates, but that’s because of the wonderful relationships we’ve been able to develop in this learning space. Even as a teacher, it’s been a struggle to create space that feels as authentic as an in-person classroom would be. SIT has done a wonderful job of doing that and leveraging the benefits of having people online. My cohort is all around the world. There are people in the U.S., Japan, and Korea. We get to share those experiences in our classes, which makes for a much richer, deeper experience.