For this edition of our Staff Snapshots, we chat with one of our Research Assistants, Nathan Thompson.
Alright, let’s begin. Could you please tell us a little but about yourself?
I grew up near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s spectacular in the fall, and I miss the apple butter churns at the park near my house around this time of year. I am happiest when I’m sitting with my girlfriend in the nosebleed seats at the Washington Nationals ballpark, and I’m disappointed that the Nats aren’t playing October baseball this year. I have a brother, Richard, and a sister, Alaina. Their families are growing, and I am very happy to be Uncle Nate. My dad often mistakenly calls me Richard, or Ollie (the family Bichón), and even Rusty. Rusty was our Golden Retriever who passed away seven years ago. In spite of what Scott may tell you and what you may read below, I am not a hipster. You can tell because I dress really poorly, and it’s not even intentional or ironic or anything.
That sounds great. Central PA must be beautiful with the leaves starting to change. What brought you to Washington, DC?
I came to the area four years ago to study Spanish and Latin American Studies at American University. Toward the end of my time there, however, I discovered that my calling is really education. I picked up an Education minor and a certification in TESOL and became very interested in language teaching, comparative education systems, and the relationship between education and conflict. Since I graduated in May, I have been trying hard to shed the transient DC-student rap and become a true resident of the District. I’m not sure what “true resident” means, but I think it involves ardently defending the semantic difference between “Washington” and “the District of Columbia” and taking exciting new Metrobus routes just for fun.
Cool! We’re glad that you’ve discovered your calling. It sounds like a great one. So, what brought you to Saylor?
Well, I can take the D1, D2, 31, 32, or 36 buses, but I usually just walk to work.
Le sigh. So, what’s your typical day like at Saylor?
I am typically involved in uploading courses to the website and/or uploading final exams to Moodle, the learning management system (LMS) that houses our assessments. When I am not uploading, I do quality assurance checks on our courses before they head to iTunes U.
Great! So you must be familiar with our array of courses. Any favorites?
Take an Art History or Philosophy course. Without giving any credence to arguments which try to dissuade students at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities from taking courses in these disciplines, Saylor courses are free and don’t eat up credit hours. “What are you going to do with a degree in art history,” or “How is coursework in philosophy applicable to a job,” they ask. Of course, this kind of thinking is bogus because the humanities teach the exact skills – critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving – that will spur progress in the 21st century. Plus, once you are able to identify and describe your preferred aesthetic, you begin to appreciate the art forms that you already like even more.
Nice! Those are good points for the on-going debate about real-world preparedness and the humanities. We’ll steal them. And now for the fun questions! What is your most unusual hobby?
I have two worth mentioning. First, I love slam poetry/spoken word. I’m happy to see some of this start to be more widely popular – Neil Hilborn’s “OCD” went viral on YouTube in August, and Taylor Mali’s “What I Make” was an instant classic a few years ago, for example. There are some great slam poetry venues in DC, and one of my favorite poets is actually a young, DC-based educator named Clint Smith. Check out his rally cry to struggling students in “Aristotle.” My other hobby has to do with the deaf community, which also has a strong presence in DC because Gallaudet University is here. Deaf issues and deaf culture, including performing arts, really grab my attention. I would love to be an ASL interpreter at some point. Sometimes my interests combine in really cool ways, like when poet Rives discusses the poetry slams he leads with deaf teens in “Sign Language.” There; I think I’ve provided you with enough of a watch list to get started, and I haven’t even mentioned Def Jam.
Poetry and deaf culture, huh? Worthy pursuits! What is your proudest moment?
My proudest moment hasn’t come yet. But it’s coming soon, and I know exactly what it will be. In addition to my hobbies above, I also love my record player and my vinyl LP collection. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt at area record stores. (Buying from Amazon or eBay is cheating.) I am one album away from having a complete set of all ten original studio albums by the now-obscure 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary. I still need their 1968 album, Late Again. Completing my PP&M collection will be my finest accomplishment.
Peter, Paul & Mary, eh? You’re definitely not a hipster…and we hope the tenth album happens for you soon. Next question: what candy do you bring to Saylor staff movie nights?
Easy! Swedish Fish. They contain both sugar and something called “invert sugar.” I’m not a scientist, but I think that means those two cancel each other out. So, obviously Swedish Fish are good for you. And delicious.
MMMM….one of my favorites! Okay, last question: what’s your message to the people?
The adage is true: “Knowledge is power.” But it’s more complicated than that.