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Faculty Spotlight

Sean Cordes University Libraries Instruction Coordinator

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Sean Cordes, Western Illinois University Libraries Instruction Coordinator, believes that education is important, especially for professional development. So when you see his six diplomas on his wall, you know that he has the paper to back up his claims.

“My background is in English and psychology, as bachelor’s degrees,” Cordes said. “From there, I went to graduate school and I got a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in educational technology and at the same time in library and information science. I kind of work with developing training materials and instructional materials in an information science setting.”

After receiving two master’s degrees from Missouri, Cordes started working at Iowa State University as an assistant professor of libraries.

“At that point, I started on the Ph.D. program in human computer interaction, so my education kind of makes up a pyramid,” Cordes said. “I started at the basics of writing, communication and helping people think and how they use information with technology.”

In addition to his two master’s degrees at Missouri-Columbia, Cordes earned his bachelor’s degrees at the University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology, a third master’s degree in instructional design and technology here at Western and his doctorate at Iowa State. “Two bachelor’s, three master’s and a Ph.D., so six,” Cordes said. “I would be what you would be called a lifelong learner.”

Even with the large number of degrees, Cordes believed that it is important to continue with one’s education.

Cordes found connections between his degrees and courses do overlap in the different programs.

“One thing lead to another,” Cordes said. “I started out in English as a technical writer, and then I was supposed to teach K-12 English and I decided to go to graduate school instead, so while I was planning that, I picked up my psychology degree. My English degree is in technical writing and my psychology degree is what they call human factors, so how people use technologies and systems and interfaces.”

Cordes did put his English and psychology bachelor’s degrees to work during the early days of the Internet back in the late 1990s.

“For psychology, I used basic navigation principles, used ability principles, I learned those things,” Cordes said. “For my English degree, it taught me layout and design on webpages, where we were doing them on print, so the last two years of my English degree, I got permission from my instructors to turn in all my homework in HTML and that’s what I did. I didn’t type out papers anymore at that point; they kind of understood that this is where things are going and they let me do that.”

The education that Cordes received helps him with his job in University Libraries, where he uses video editing software and other information systems technology.

“It gave me professional experience starting,” Cordes said. “At my first graduate school class, our professor announced that they’re working on a project at the Truman library and museum, developing education materials and said that there would be opportunities for people to join for that project. I bugged in week after week until I got on there, and so that was my first paid position for a grant. I worked on that grant project for three years for the Truman library, and that gave me experience in turning my course work into a professional project, so that’s how it’s supported that initially.”

He continued on to be a Webmaster for the University of Missouri in order to pay his way through graduate school and to support his family. He said he was always looking for new opportunities to develop his skillset.

“When the opportunity came for internships, apprenticeship, those types of things, that goes along with school, I think are very important,” Cordes said. “The coursework is important because you got to know your subject, you got to know what you’re doing, but that practical experience is indispensable.”

Cordes said that he does not have plans to earn further degrees, but he still plans on further professional development in his career field from workshops, webinars, conferences, even open education opportunities.

“If you want to stay in tune in what is on in your field, whether it is law enforcement or technology, it doesn’t matter, you got to keep maintaining skills,” Cordes said. “You got to keep updating your skills, and that’s what I do.”

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