UC Graduate’s Passion for Helping Students Led Her to Student Success Coordinator Role

Tiarra Owens is enthusiastic about motivating and helping people. As a Student Success Coordinator (SSC), she supports students enrolled in the University of Cincinnati (UC) Online’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Instructional Design and Technology program.

Tiarra assists students from across the country as they make their way through the 100% online program. She’s their cheerleader, connector, and confidant. “I bring several aspects together as I cheer students on, like linking them to campus resources to help them find success here,” she says.

As a former teacher, Tiarra easily connects with educators who make up more than half of those enrolled in the instructional design and technology program. Other students come from corporate settings, where they chose the master’s program to enhance their positions or career goals. Tiarra relates well to these students, too. And as a UC alumnus herself, Tiarra’s unique perspective on how to successfully complete an advanced degree program inspires everyone she works with.

Student testimonial: “The IDT program has greatly helped me in my job. I use the instructional design methods, online collaboration practices, and website design skills you taught in class.” – Nathaniel H.

When the Perfect Career Opportunity Appears

When Tiarra was an undergraduate, she attended and worked for Ohio University, working as a campus tour guide and research scholar.

After graduating with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in African American Studies and Psychology, Tiarra was selected from among 40,000 applicants to join the 6,000-strong elementary teacher corps with Teach for America, a nationwide education program that assists urban and rural schools. Over one summer, Tiarra worked with Atlanta Public School district students. Then, later for three years, she developed instructional design curriculum based on Ohio and Kentucky education standards.

During this time, Tiarra attended UC’s master’s program in counselor education/school counseling and guidance services. She graduated from UC in 2017 to begin a career in community theater programming. Later, she moved to nonprofit fundraising. “In this role, I had the opportunity to provide unrestricted cash to hard-working families that experienced financial hardship,” she says. “I was able to raise my own family while working remotely. After doing this for a few years, I wanted an opportunity that would allow me more time in an office setting.”

As she researched new career opportunities, Tiarra discovered an opening for the SSC role at UC Online. She felt it would be a great fit to marry her passion for helping students stay involved in school with her positive experience at UC.

Tiarra applied, interviewed, and was hired in the fall of 2022. Speaking with fellow SSCs during the interview process sealed the deal for her. “I asked them what brings you joy about the job,” Tiarra says, “and they all said it was the strong connections they made helping students.”

Student testimonial: “Being in the IDT program helped me build on my undergrad degree and opened so many doors for me that I never thought possible. Because of this IDT program, I now am working full time and have a career where I know I am making an impact on thousands of students every year.” – Carmen R.

Personalized Attention Builds Strong Relationships

When a new student is confirmed for the M.Ed. Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) program, Tiarra greets them with a welcome email. She introduces herself, explains her role, and encourages the student to schedule a 30-minute phone call with her. Tiarra uses this initial call to establish rapport and provide program details, course information, and the required technology components. “During our first conversation, I like to ask what piqued their interest in the instructional design program,” she says. “Asking an open-ended question helps me discover what they want and need from the program and informs the personalized support I offer.”

Tiarra says most students she works with hope to increase their income by getting a master’s degree. Teachers are generally looking for more pay, and every student is interested in increasing their marketability at work. In some cases, obtaining a master’s degree in instructional design can immediately lead to a pay increase. If a student is interested in other post-graduation opportunities, such as interning somewhere, Tiarra contacts UC Online’s program staff about possible opportunities.

Tiarra’s SSC role is somewhat unique in that she has two responsibilities here. She says, “I also serve as their advisor and help students during registration. I recommend coursework and help them establish their schedules, whether they’re studying part- or full-time. I use the student’s feedback to develop an academic plan for the program duration.”

When it comes to staying organized in her diverse and busy role, Tiarra takes copious notes and sets numerous reminders. “I schedule first-time check-ins after the initial phone call,” she says. “If students want more support, I make a note to check in every six weeks or more often, if needed. I use these calls as opportunities to mention resources students might need and follow up on things from prior conversations.”

Student testimonial: “The Instructional Design and Technology program granted me enormous freedom to pursue my interests with hands-on, project-based assignments. This flexibility allowed me to tailor my work and resume according to my interests in the IDT field.” – Mitchell C.

Positive Mindset and Key Skills Help Students Thrive

Busy work and life schedules can sometimes leave M.Ed. IDT students feeling overwhelmed. Tiarra is there to help with the emotional side of school, too. She acts as a sounding board and encourages students to maintain a positive outlook. “I remind them that while today might be tough, they can surely make it to tomorrow,” she says.

Because Tiarra recognizes students can sometimes feel isolated, she makes a point of reaching out to remind them of the vast network of contacts and resources available at UC Online. Tiarra doesn’t want students to feel like they don’t know where to turn or what departments to reach, studying virtually. So, in certain situations, she often takes the next step for a student by making a call or sending an email on their behalf.

Another area where Tiarra shines is encouraging students to adopt time management and organizational skills to keep on track with their online studies. As she mentors students, she considers each student, their school schedule, and college experience. Some undergrads entering the instructional design and technology program are familiar with managing college life and join the program full-time. Others come to the program part-time because of their work in the classroom or a corporate setting.

Tiarra Owens, SSC at UC Online

A personalized approach is key. I consider each student’s situation when recommending study strategies for them. Since students often juggle heavy workloads, I help them implement the schedule that best suits their active lives. My focus is to guide them successfully through each semester, then reevaluate at semester-end how to proceed in the following semester.”-Tiarra, SSC at UC Online

Benefits of Choosing UC Online’s IDT Master’s Program

Tiarra describes the M.Ed. IDT degree as a perfect blend of advanced instructional design and technology. The program curriculum focuses on designing, developing, and evaluating instructional materials and programs using technology. Courses are taught by world-class professors who are experienced, instructional designers and technologists.

Here’s what else to know about the IDT degree master’s program:

  • There is no GRE requirement.
  • The job placement rate is 100%.
  • No campus visits are required.
  • The program can be completed in under two years.

Ready to learn more about how the M.Ed. IDT degree helps you become an experienced content designer and developer with sought-after skills? Connect with an enrollment advisor. You can ask any questions on your mind, including about upcoming start dates, tuition assistance, or resources for active-duty service members, veterans, and their dependents.

Tiarra looks forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the program!

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