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Shawna Bu Shell

“ I don’t know what it’s like not to be active,” says Shawna Bu Shell, an Ed.D. student in the Instructional Technology and Media program. That explains the many hats that she wears here in the TC community—student, instructor, advisor, and community assistant for residents of TC housing. But perhaps even more impressive than her ability to successfully play and balance these many roles is the road that Shawna traveled to get to this particular point in her life.

"I don't know what it's like not to be active," says Shawna Bu Shell, an Ed.D. student in the Instructional Technology and Media program. That explains the many hats that she wears here in the TC community-student, instructor, advisor, and community assistant for residents of TC housing. But perhaps even more impressive than her ability to successfully play and balance these many roles is the road that Shawna traveled to get to this particular point in her life.

To understand where she is today means to start at the beginning, that is, Shawna's high school years. After becoming pregnant at age 15, she was no longer permitted to continue attending her high school in Palo Alto, California. Determined to further her education, she later began taking classes at the College of Notre Dame, tenaciously enrolling in one class per year while raising two sons as a single parent. Her interest in education led Shawna to the Palo Alto Times Tribune where the children's tabloid that she created for schools sold more than 200,000 copies after going to press 14 times. Later, her acumen for computers caught the eye of the principal of her son's technology magnet school, and she was asked to lay the foundation for what would become its computer lab. The following year, Shawna started the school's library, coordinating all aspects of that project from ordering the books that would fill its shelves to determining how best to utilize the available space to ensure students' engagement with the facility. As Shawna's abilities proved boundless, new challenges at the school of which she could take control of the reins were assigned to her with the hope that they, too, would benefit from her Midas touch.

In fact, Shawna's positions at the school ran the gamut. From her beginnings in the school's computer lab, she eventually became a teacher of both kindergarten and 5th grade students, all the while pursuing her degree. The recipient of a scholarship, Shawna studied elementary education with an emphasis on teaching students with limited English-speaking capabilities. One professional assignment of which she is most proud is her development of an afterschool program for which she enlisted the aid of corporate partners such as Hewlett Packard for 41 participants. As the sole overseer of the program, Shawna merged the community with area industry to provide an array of services and activities for children, including gymnastics and cooking classes. During her final semester of undergraduate study, the school at which Shawna worked received Microsoft's "Road Ahead" grant. This launched Shawna into another role, as she acted as project manager and worked to mentor teachers at other schools in the areas of computing and technology.

In 1996-17 years after she first began-Shawna graduated from CND. She then went to California State University, Hayward to earn a multi-subject teaching credential; however, the exposure that her professional experiences had provided her had made Shawna determined to attain a Master's degree. She attended a college fair to learn more about graduate school opportunities, and it was there that she learned about Stanford's at that time new Learning, Design, and Technology program. Although surprisingly discouraged from applying to Stanford by the administrator of her son's school who had first recognized her talents and had subsequently offered her multiple positions, the support of family and friends inspired her to submit her application.

Shawna was accepted into the program, and was later selected as graduate student of the year and as speaker for her graduation exercises. In the audience that day were her husband and two sons who heard her tell the story of her determination to further her education, a story of how the two lane highway spanning the distance between her high school and graduate school formed the widest two lanes of her life that took her 20 years to cross. Ironically, both she and her oldest son graduated on the same day-- she with a Master's from Stanford and he from the high school that had turned his mother away years earlier when she became pregnant. It is a story that she has told as speaker of the San Francisco Mayor's Post-Woman's Summit for 3 years, and continues to tell as a speaker for women's groups. That son is today a recent graduate of Grambling State University with an honors degree in journalism, while his brother is in his second year at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Knowing that she wanted to earn her doctorate led Shawna to TC, particularly because of its solid reputation as one of the best schools of education in the country. Like every other goal that she has had in life, Shawna had to work hard to support this dream. She and her husband, who re-located with her from the West coast to the East in 1999, delivered newspapers in the City at 2 AM each morning to support themselves when they first arrived in New York. From those beginnings here at TC, Shawna went on to work in the Office of Student Aid, and 4 years later plays integral roles in the College community. She is both the Intern Coordinator for the Institute for Learning Technologies and Advisor for Master's students in her program, and is an instructor of three courses for the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology during the academic year as well as for the intensive summer program in computing and education. Not only is she visible in these positions, but residents of TC housing easily recognize her as a hardworking community assistant to whom they can turn with questions regarding housing policies and procedures, and on whom they can count as the mastermind behind social events such as excursions to Atlantic City and progressive dinner parties. She thrives on these contributions that she can make to the lives of others, and says she "can really help people" because of her own past personal experiences.

Shawna anticipates graduating in 2005, focusing her dissertation research on the ways in which laptops provided by school districts for students in urban settings influence the home environment, particularly when the provision is made without parents' knowledge. She will explore how usage of these laptops becomes a variable that ultimately impacts the contexts of these households, ranging from financial matters like electricity and Internet connectivity costs to issues concerning what might be perceived as district-level usurping of parental authority within the home. She is particularly interested in parents' involvement in their children's education, especially since she herself was shunned from participating in her sons' schooling as a young parent. Upon completing her program, Shawna hopes to become a coordinator of pre-service teacher education programs that aim for placements in urban locations, as she believes that there is a different methodology that needs to be employed to equip individuals to teach in that climate. As far as her specialty in technology is concerned, Shawna says, "I would like for my skill in integrating technology to become commonplace," meaning that doing so will become innate to teachers' pedagogy. Certainly, Shawna's myriad of experiences have equipped her to inspire others to see their dreams become realities, and her own track record of accomplishments proves that her personal long-range goals will no doubt soon be realized, too.

Published Monday, Sep. 15, 2003