Why is it that some people have an insatiable appetite for learning? To find out the answer, I asked two people at Sheridan, each of whom have a minimum of six degrees and/or credentials to see if they could shed some light on this topic.
For Dr. Edward Sykes, Program Coordinator for Sheridan’s new Bachelor of Applied Computer Science (Mobile Computing) degree, amassing six degrees was not pre-planned, nor was it an accident. Sykes initially set out to become a high school teacher in math and computer science, so his first two degrees were a Bachelor of Computer Science and a Bachelor of Education.
During his first teaching job, flying to remote communities in Northern Ontario to teach math and computers over the radio to students gathered in even more remote places, Sykes realized a need to improve methods for distance education. He eventually went on to complete a Masters of Education degree with a thesis project that focused on the electronic video classroom.
Sykes is so passionate about learning, that not only did he continue to pursue his own education, but he focused it on figuring out ways to help others learn better. His thesis topic for his PhD in Education centered on building an intelligent tutoring system that would be responsive to the way that people learn. Realizing he didn’t have the technological rigor required to do it justice, he started a Masters in Computer Science to gain the knowledge required to finish his Doctorate of Education. Fascinated with the fields of artificial intelligence and modeling user interaction to best support people as they navigate through tasks, Sykes recently completed a PhD in Computer Science.
“We miss a lot if we only surround ourselves with people who think like we do or share a similar background” – Dr. Edward Sykes
As for his biggest take-away lessons, Sykes says, “We miss a lot if we only surround ourselves with people who think like we do or share a similar background. There’s a lot to learn about the world beyond our own.”
Similar to Sykes, Dr. Bill Holmes, Vice-Provost at Sheridan, never set out with the intention to get five degrees and another five professional designations. While he admits to being a lousy student in high school, he says that learning got easier and more interesting the further he went on. Describing learning as “exponentially cumulative” he suggests that having a base of knowledge and some life experience gives you the necessary context in which to place new learning. This makes it easier to see new linkages and to discover how much you don’t know and still need to learn.
Holmes is also a big believer in the idea that people should study something that really interests them. “Chasing a credential just for the sake of getting a credential will never do you any good,” he says. “You really have to want to learn the material.” Holmes studied economics and philosophy in his undergraduate days, which sparked an interest in ethics – the focus of his first Masters. This led to a Master of Arts in Philosophy, which together with ethics, influenced the specialization he chose for his MBA. In his doctorate, Holmes studied corporate environmental policy, bringing ethics and business to bear on an emerging interest in sustainability.
“The nice thing about degrees and credentials is that they automatically provide you with a framework and a timeline in which to do your learning,” he adds. “There’s also a certain element of risk that you have to be willing to take. You don’t know if you’ll be really interested in something unless you try.”
Above all else, what keeps Holmes learning is a strong desire to understand how the world works and why things are the way they are. Even though he’s a self-proclaimed ‘professional development junkie’ Holmes points out a great side benefit to learning. “It’s a great way to meet really interesting people. People who share your thirst for learning, and who are innately curious are not only great to listen to, but they are also very interested in listening to you too.”
Written by: Christine Szustaczek, Director of Communications and External Relations at Sheridan.