Intercultural Literacy

May 21, 2003

Introducing WAOE's de facto Networking Information Officer Maggie McVay Lynch, as her university is now WAOE's Internet Service Provider:

Greetings from the beautiful Pacific Northest in Oregon, USA. I am very happy to see actual pictures of people! It helps to make this virtual world more real to me. I also appreciate learning much more about the wonderful members in WAOE. It is refreshing to find a group of people that share some of my passions about online learning and are willing to share something of themselves and their culture as well.

My given name is Marguerita, but I go by Maggie. Though I am a third generation Scotch/Irish American, my family roots are still very much in the celtic traditions. A recent visit to Scotland and Ireland in 2000 reinforced so many of the stories, music, and experiences I grew up with. It is wonderful to visit ones roots and to immediately feel at home.

I have been involved in education for over 30 years, and specifically in online education for 25 years. Yes, I was even doing online education before the Internet and before personal computers -- age does have its virtues. (I used to work in the mainframe software industry). In the past six years I have personally taught over 20 different online courses and developed more than 60 online courses. I now spend most of my time helping faculty to understand and use online learning effectively and help to shape the strategic direction for online learning at Portland State University (PSU). I moved to PSU two years ago, after spending some time in Ohio. In the past I did a great deal of consulting with universities and businesses in the U.S. around online learning issues. However, since moving to PSU two years ago I've cut back significantly on my consulting and only take on two to three jobs each year.

I began my academic career in psychology and counseling, getting a B.A. and M.A. in that field. For the first five years out of college I did some clinical practice, but it was always combined with education. I worked with families with special needs children, helping to counsel the families and to build effective programmed instruction for them to use with their children (a pre-cursor to computer-based-learning in the early 70's). After leaving psychology and counseling, I spent some time in the software industry getting a better understanding of computers and their capabilities and pitfalls. Later in life (in my 40's) I returned to school (mostly online) to pursue another Masters and finally a Doctorate degree in Instuctional Technology and Distance Education with an emphasis on web-based learning. I have had a passion for virtual learning for 25 years. In particular, I have seen the benefit it can bring to those who do not have the financial or time resources to spend in the traditional college classroom pursuing a degree. I have also seen it work very well for non-traditional K-12 students -- whether in alternative schools, home-schooled, or needing extra attention because of learning difficulties. For myself, I began working at the age of 15 and finished my high school education and undergraduate college education while working at least 20 hours per week. My graduate education was all done while working full-time. There is absolutely no way I would have obtained a doctorate degree without the majority of my work being done online. I very much believe in online education and have a passion for providing it at low cost to the millions around the world who may have no other way to get an education.

Last Fall I spent some time in Sri Lanka working with the university system there. The government has wisely made an undergraduate education free for all of its residence. However, this only means free of tuition. It does not mean free books, free transportation, free babysitting, free food while attending school, etc. So, even though it is "free" there are many who are still too poor to take advantage of this education. They must choose between eating (thus working) or going to school. They are hoping that online education will provide one means for reaching the rural areas and allowing people to take classes at times that can be worked around their work schedules. They have set up 6-8 learning centers around the country that have computer networks with the idea that students can go to these centers to access classes (as most cannot afford computers in their homes or even have the electricity or connections to use them). This develoment is very much in its infancy. When I was there last Fall, they had just begun building the infrastructure and I was beginning to train some of the faculty. It will be a long road, but it has certainly renewed my faith in online education's ability to meet the needs of many different people.

My travels in business and consulting have taken me many places in the U.S. and Europe. Sri Lanka was my first venture into Southeast Asia. I have an abiding interest in all cultures and most importantly in what we have in common and how our differences make us stronger together. Unfortunately, I do not have much facility with languages so I ask forgiveness in advance that I only speak English fluently. I know a small amount of Spanish and French. Fortunately for me, my husband is fluent in five languages and I rely on I travel if he is able to come with me.

I am at that stage of life where I'm happily watching my children grow up and leave home. One son is 19 years old and a sophomore at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. The other is 17 and a junior at Sandy High School, here in Oregon. He is planning to go to Oregon State University in the Fall of 2004. I live in the foothills of Mt. Hood in a beautiful, quiet, rural community. Though I commute an hour to downtown Portland to work, it is well worth the peace and tranquility I feel when I am home. This is definitely where we will spend the rest of our lives. My family and I enjoy the outdoors and there is an abundance of beauty in this area. Outside of hiking, camping, arafting, nd being outdoors as much as possible, I enjoy celtic and bluegrass music. My husband plays guitar and I enjoy singing, so we enjoy jamming whenever we can get a group of people with like-minded musical inclinations together.

Maggie McVay Lynch, Ed.D.
Portland State University
Instruction and Research Services