When Elton W. Dean collected his Bachelor’s degree in Computer & Information Technology during the recent spring Purdue University North Central commencement ceremony, he completed a journey that started several years ago when he decided it was time to pursue a career that utilized his talents and creativity.
The Michigan City resident explained that when the company he was working for downsized, “I decided to return to college to develop skills that would last longer in a field that was growing and changing. The technology field is always shifting, so there will always be something new to learn. I hope to grow and advance along with my degree.”
He is exploring a number of career options, but his “dream jobs” include working with websites and mobile applications as a website designer, project manager or information technology consultant.
He earned a minor in Human Resources to broaden his career options.
Hands-on classroom experience
Dean gained valuable career experience in his Computer & Information Technology class as a member of a student team assigned to develop a website for La Porte Superior Court No. 3 Veterans Treatment Court.
“This is a problem-solving court focused on addressing the needs of veterans in the criminal justice system, similar to a drug treatment or mental health court,” he explained.
For this assignment, Dean and his team were asked to build a dynamic, ever-changing site that would be a resource for veterans, as well as an informational tool for the public and a place for volunteer mentors to sign up to offer their help.
The students appreciated that this was a hands-on, real-world experience that presented an opportunity to utilize their computer skills to create a much-needed web site and web applications for their client. It also helped them to develop “soft skills” of communicating, listening and collaborating.
Dean noted, “I learned how to ask the right questions for the situation.”
Additionally, for his senior project, he was part of a team that developed a mobile friendly website for the Michigan City Area Schools’ lunch menus. He anticipates that it will be implemented this fall.
“These projects were a great learning experience. By working with a real-world client and project, I was able to learn fundamental skills and values that employers seek from college graduates, including communication, like writing, speaking and building interpersonal relationships,” said Dean. “I developed great analytical abilities and learned the importance of teamwork, multitasking, organization, leadership and problem-solving.”
Building valuable relationships
The hours he spent on campus to attend class, to study and to work on projects, provided him the ideal opportunity to develop strong friendships with his fellow students.
“With all the friends I’ve made, we were in class together and we went through this journey together,” he recalled. “One friend convinced me to take a dramatic performance class, something I would have never done on my own. Even though I worked behind the scenes during our play, it was an enjoyable experience, and I learned to tap into my creative side even more.”
Dean credits a number of faculty members with helping him during his time at PNC. He singled out Bethany Lee, continuing lecturer of English, saying, “She gave me great advice and worked with me during a difficult time so that I could get my coursework done and graduate on time. I worked under her direction on a play, and I learned so much from her in a business writing class. She provides students with current information and skills for the real world.”
Dean held a job throughout his time as a student, so he had to carefully plan his study time and when he could work on various projects. His hard work paid off as his grades earned him placement on the semester academic honors list.
“It is important to make a list of realistic goals and treat your academic career as a job,” he advised. “Plan ahead. Your family and friends will understand that your ultimate goal is to earn a degree so that you can join or re-join the workforce. Use your time wisely. Study or do homework during breaks at work or off days. Take advantage of every moment to get ahead of the game. It leads to a stress-free academic lifestyle and helps prepare you for a balance of academic/work/personal life.”
“Do not be afraid to ask for help, that is what professors and the campus resources are for—your success.”