Our latest Student Spotlight features Kristin Evans, a student in the online Free-Choice Learning MS program.

Kristin EvansWhat attracted you to this program?

I was attracted to the program for a few reasons, the most significant being the faculty and professors. Having been in the field of informal education for a long time, I had followed the research, writings and movements of many of the core faculty and was definitely (still am) a big fan. Another significant reason I selected the Free-Choice Learning MS program over others is that it was online, had a diverse and interesting breadth of courses and was designed specifically for professionals such as myself. 

What was your undergraduate major?

I attended UC Davis where I earned a BS degree in Anthropology (think monkeys/apes, and not homo sapiens). It was a great fit for working in a zoo. As I progressed up the career ladder, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend workshops, classes, lectures, etc. that extended my professional learning. At the time, (early in my career) the only higher degree I could get that even remotely related to my career was a MS in classroom-based science education. To me, this was a total mismatch of interest, need and benefit. 

How did you get interested in Free-Choice Learning? 

In college I volunteered for a small local zoo, where I spent much of my time assisting with husbandry duties. I then had the opportunity to give a "keeper talk" in front of a primate exhibit. That was it, I was hooked. From there I got a part-time job assisting with summer camp courses and eventually worked my way into a full time job leading programs and providing husbandry for a collection of education animals. I stayed at that small zoo for just over seven years before moving on to "bigger and better" opportunities. 

Describe some of your previous and current work experience (if applicable)?

Currently, I am the Director of Education for Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. I have been with the aquarium for nearly 11 years and love what I do. My responsibilities primarily focus on establishing the vision and strategic plan for the education and volunteer units,  which includes operations, budgets, personnel and programming. The aquarium is a unique blend of traditional aquarium and science center, with dynamic living exhibits and interactive science exhibits. The aquarium is the public exploration center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. As such, we are charge with interpreting Scripps' science in fun, innovative and engaging ways. 

What do you enjoy or find most beneficial about in this program? 

What I  value most about the FCL MS program is that it has lived up to all my expectations (and I had high ones). Though rigorous, the online program works well for those with a full time job. At first I found the asynchronous interaction a little intimidating and distant, but have found that I have been able to engage and interact with my course mates almost as easily as if I were in a classroom– it just takes some getting used to. I also found the course offerings, both core and minor, to be very interesting and relevant to my career. The faculty is wonderful and focused on making the program successful for every student. 

Tell us a little more about yourself.

I am a California native, an avid learner and a nature enthusiast. When I am not outdoors with my dogs and husband, I am spending time reading a good book or enjoying a delicious meal with friends or family.  I enjoy traveling and try to visit new places as much as I can, be them near by or far away.