For the second edition of our new series of Saylor.org staff interviews, we spoke with Devon Ritter, our Special Projects Administrator.
So, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. well, like today’s D.C., I am sort of from all over the place. I grew up in, and identify myself as being from, Wisconsin (which accounts for my politeness and charm), though I was actually born in the oil rich regions of Texas, and went to high school and college in North Carolina (UNC fan and alum, not DOOK). I’ve also lived in Europe on two occasions, and I certainly attribute my moving to various places without having any roots there for giving me the confidence to move to D.C. despite not having a job here initially.
Wow, you’ve really moved around. So what brought you to D.C. then?
Grand aspirations to better the world I suppose. I studied International Conflict Management and Prevention, i.e. how to stop angry groups of people from fighting wars against each other and pretty much ruining everyone’s day. D.C. seemed like the natural place to go to work in that field.
We do have a lot of angry people. Oh! You mean that D.C. is a center for international policy. Riiight. You know that Saylor doesn’t really do conflict management?
Yeah, I didn’t end up pursuing that to a great extent, though I did learn an awful lot about American craft brew beer between landing in D.C. and starting work at Saylor.
How’d you find out about us?
To be honest, bad restaurant ownership and crappy reality television. Prior to Saylor, I was working as Server/Manager at a local, and no longer existent, bar and restaurant. The inevitable closing of that establishment sort of re-invigorated me to look for a more fulfilling career. When I actually applied to work for Saylor, it was a result of waking up early one morning to find my normal routine of watching SportsCenter hijacked by my roommate, who was watching some variety of horrible reality TV. So, instead, I did some job searching and applied for two positions which seemed interesting to me. I was offered both positions, but chose The Saylor Foundation, as it seemed to be more aligned to my interests, and had better long-term potential, which I believe has proven to be true.
We’re glad that you have chosen to work with us.
So, what is your typical day at Saylor?
My role here at Saylor has really evolved over time. The title “Special Projects Administrator” sort of derived from my designing and overseeing the development of our ePortfolio system, which was a true special project at the time. We now do a lot of things aside from straight course development, and I don’t work on all of them, so that title has lost some of its utility (though I do try to take advantage of its vagueness to work on Skunk Works–like projects that are of interest to me). My responsibilities are now more aligned to the goal of pairing our courses to tangible college credit.
College credit, you say? That sounds pretty cool!
Yeah! In detail, I work a lot with our own internal content team, as well as administrators at colleges and universities that have established themselves as leaders in prior learning assessment and competency based learning, to align our courses to existing credit-bearing exams. I also research and strategize other ways that students can save money by learning from our courses, and work with outside institutions who are interested in adopting our OER into their curriculum. And I still work with our Rails developer to continually improve ePortfolio, and with our Tech Associate to get new features implemented on Saylor.org. Really though, I probably haven’t had a typical day in over a year.
Maybe that’s the new normal? So you’re quite busy…how do you kick back and take a load off?
Age-wise, in the context of the rest of the office, I am sort of the old man. While that is not true from an actual world demographic standpoint, I do consider myself wise beyond my years, and appreciate some of the finer things in life (e.g. reading a good book, taking it easy on a Friday night after a long work week, and drinking Scotch Whiskey out of a decanter…poured over whiskey stones instead of ice).
Cool; let’s re-cap: UNC, beer, failed restaurant, whiskey. Got it! On these quiet Friday nights of yours, have any of our courses found your interest?
I’m just starting to work through PHIL201: The Philosophy of Death.
Wow, that definitely goes on the re-cap list. May we ask why?
Consciously, out of interest; perhaps subconsciously due to the fact that I’m less than a year away from being 30. It may be too early to recommend it, unless someone is looking to join a study group, in which case I’ll attempt to actively contribute. Other than that, I of course recommend any of the courses found on one of our Student Credit Pathway pages (shameless self-promotion of my own projects there).
That’s okay…self-interest might drive economic growth, as any students of our Econ courses know. Okay, we could drop links all day, but now it’s time for the fun questions to get a real glimpse of Devon Ritter.
Bring it on.
First, would you rather have your own private jet or your own private island?
Private island, for two main reasons.
1) I currently don’t have that much time or opportunity to travel, and that is not due to proximity of airports or the cost of flying, which is generally easy and cheap from DC. Also, my apartment isn’t big enough to store a jet, so I’d still have to make my way to some airfield if I ever wanted to make use of it.
2) I do rather enjoy beaches (one of my favorite places to read and relax). However, I’m not a huge fan of people, or rather, the crowds of strangers that typically accompany a public beach. Give me a private island though, and I’d be extremely content.
Sounds like a nice way to escape. And speaking of escaping: if you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit?
I feel like it is theoretically impossible to have a legitimate reason for picking a point in the future, as I don’t know what the future holds, and therefore have no basis for picking a specific time to travel to. I do however like the idea of changing the course of history (current plans of world domination are not working out), or at least doing something memorable. So, if I did have said time machine, I think I would travel back to a time closely leading up to the drafting of our Constitution. Given the fact that I am a traveler from the future, and carry with me 200+ extra years worth of knowledge, I imagine I could exert my influence to be part of that drafting committee. If I got that far, I may as well change it too (it would be a wasted trip otherwise), so I would argue to explicitly include 1 of 2 passages into the Constitution:
1) “This document, as read, affords future readers no space for interpretation. If you disagree with us ‘founding fathers’ use the powers given to the legislature to amend the document” (We’d probably have a lot more Amendments now if that were the case); or
2) “We understand that if this experiment in democracy succeeds, the country, and the world as we know it, will likely change in the future. Given that foresight, future Congresses should view this Constitution as a guidepost, not as a declaration of how the country must be run from here to eternity. Feel free to disregard all antiquated entries.”
If nothing else, this should give 21st Century Congress members less reasons to argue semantics, and more time to do their elected jobs. Sorry, too much of a rant there?
It’s the conflict resolutionist in you. Maybe to get rid of such evils, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Who says I don’t already have it? That being said, do you really think I’d give away my secret?
Darn…guess not, but that gives some clues. We’ll let the readers speculate.. Before we go, are there any other messages you want say to our readers?
Spread the word about OER, particularly to college faculty. I truly think more students can save money if more grassroots efforts were made to get OER included in college classrooms. The cost of a textbook times the 40 or so classes college students need to take to get a degree is a lot of money. People who can make cost-saving decisions should feel guilty if they are not making a real effort to do so — but they need to know options exist.
Also, Go Cubbies! 105th year is the charm.