Lisa Madison, teacher at college prep academy in Minnesota.

Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Madison, M.A. in Education

Lisa Madison graduated from Concordia University St. Paul with an M.A. in Education and currently works as a teacher at college prep academy in Minnesota. After 12 years in human resources and two years as a substitute teacher, Lisa decided to pursue a career in education. Hear what Lisa had to say about her time at Concordia University St. Paul.

Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?

On first embarking on higher education, teaching ESL was always in the back of my mind but never came to fruition. I ended up with an English degree and fell into administrative work for many years due to a poor economy where jobs were scarce. After a divorce, I ended up in a small town for a time and substitute taught. This was something I learned about when job searching. After six months of substitute teaching, I realized that this was something I really loved. I ended up going back to school as a result of this positive experience.

Why did you choose Concordia University St. Paul for your master’s degree in education?

As someone who had been out of education for about ten years, it was important for me to find a program that fit with my life. I knew I needed to continue to work and that I needed flexibility. At the time, Concordia University St. Paul was the only university that offered a program that required only one evening a week online, and I could fit in my observations every six weeks based off my schedule and coordinating with the elementary schools I would contact for observation hours. As I already had an undergraduate degree, I wanted to find a degree that met the licensure requirements to be a teacher and also allowed for the added benefit of a master’s degree.

What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University St. Paul and how do you use them today?

Being a middle-aged adult, the idea of being in school was very daunting. Part of the appeal of the online setting that Concordia University St. Paul offered was that it was conducive to being a working adult. I no longer was looking for a college experience, but a change of career. I met my cohort who were middle-aged adults for the most part just like me. We all had a vision of changing our career trajectory. It was overwhelming to navigate at first, but the support of my peers provided me with much comfort. We were able to talk out our worries and be proactive in the program with the assurance of many minds put together. Everyone’s journey is a little different, but that peer comradery was crucial. There was a great need for self-motivation, and at the time, it was daunting to be in charge of so much of my learning, but I realized later it was building in me a more competent and self-sufficient person to be able to meet the demands of the job.

How has your master’s degree in education impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?

The job market is very competitive in education. My advisor had advised me that most teachers who start out work in charter or private schools. It was a humbling beginning to realize that I couldn’t just get a public school teaching job right away. Taking the master’s degree option felt like a good choice, especially considering how many qualified candidates are vying for the same jobs. I was able to obtain a full-time teaching position within eight months of graduation. After hearing stories of licensed graduates waiting sometimes years, I felt very fortunate.

What was a challenge you faced during your master’s program, and who or what helped you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was being a self-starter. There wasn’t anyone to remind me or encourage me to get my work done or go out and find observation hours. It was much more independent than I realized it would be as a program. It felt like I was being groomed for great things, as the rigor was high.

What was the biggest takeaway from your master’s education program?

My biggest takeaway was that I could rise to the occasion and do hard things. It was a defining moment in my life of accomplishment that made me believe in myself.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the master’s education program at Concordia University St. Paul?

I would say that you need to be prepared to put in the work. If you do the online master’s program, you will need to be a scrupulous time manager. On the bright side, in two years you could change the trajectory of your life. You could finally be doing something that you love, and doors will open that never did before.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would encourage those who feel like they are not master’s degree material to reconsider. I came from nothing and worked for what I have today. There are opportunities to be had, so do not be your own greatest obstacle.