Meet Tamerin Dygert, executive director of market development for March of Dimes (Central Florida Territory). For Dygert, the decision to go back to school while raising a family and working full time was about setting aside excuses, putting on the “oxygen mask” and working toward her goals with her family’s support.
What made you want to go back to school?
The short answer is: I love learning – professionally and personally. Even as an undergrad, I couldn’t settle on just one path, so I was a double major in Theatre and English. I also received my Maryland State Teaching Certification. In my career, I’ve held many roles: teacher, program manager and executive director. I recognize the importance of serving the needs of adult learners, and I love identifying other people’s strengths while helping them fill skill-gaps. Over the past several years, as my company has served more remote work environments, I saw the advantage of staying current with technology trends, specifically in the learning and development field. In 2019, I received my Certificate in Instructional Design through UF’s College of Teaching and Learning. This let me explore learning trends to help me not only be a better manager but to fulfill my own desire to learn something new. I love being in service to helping others make and reach goals, regardless of my official title. Pursuing an advanced degree not only makes professional sense but also adds a good deal of personal enrichment.
Where are you obtaining your degree?
The University of Florida (Go Gators!)
What are you studying?
I will be pursuing my Masters in Education (M.Ed.) with an emphasis in Educational Technology.
How are you planning on balancing work, family and school?
With grace and plenty of planning! I am not a very impulsive person, except maybe when it comes to travel. I thrive on self- management (since time can’t be “managed,” I prefer to think of how I manage myself within the time given). Since I recently completed the certificate program while working full time (and still managed a 4.0), I had a good practice run. Because UF offers this program fully online, it’s perfect for working professionals and parents. This is not to say it will be easy, but it’s definitely manageable. To me, it’s really a matter of scheduling – something parents and managers are familiar with! It’s also a matter of setting priorities; start with the important things first like family needs and then calculate how much time to dedicate to study and group work. All but one of the courses in this program are eight weeks long. I’ve found that I can really accomplish anything in eight weeks if I plan accordingly. My life has been spent in non-profit work, which is full of non-traditional scheduling and requires a lot of flexibility. In many ways, I feel like I’ve been training for this for a while.
What do you think will be the hardest part of going back to school, raising your family and working full time?
Sticking to a routine can be challenging at times, so I just need to keep it front-and-center. Tim and I are also about to have a teenager in the house, so I need to remember that there will be new emotional needs. Keeping my own mental and physical health in balance so I can be present for my family will also need to be a top priority. I am so grateful for my regular yoga practice!
What did your family say when you told them you wanted to go back?
They were largely supportive. My daughter, Autumn, was initially concerned about the time commitment. When I reminded her about how I did it during the certificate process, she felt better. She just needed reassurance that this will be a temporary period and that she wasn’t going to lose mom-daughter time. My husband Tim has always been one of my biggest supporters and still is. After all, he and I met and got married during the height of our theatre careers – which were anything but routine.
Why now? Why is this the best time?
Although I had already been thinking about this well over a year ago, it seems like now – even during (or because of ) a pandemic – is the perfect time to learn more about technology. I like to believe our world is on the cusp of great invention and creativity. I also know that anything I invest in like this will make me a better manager and will keep me flexible for the future. I feel inspired by what I see in the training and development field, and I want to be in service to that growth. I am a lifelong learner and imagine I will be like my grandmother who, in her 70s, continued to take classes. Learning is just in my blood. I also want my soon-to-be teenager to remember that you are never too young or too old to learn something new. Education, like travel, is an investment that keeps on giving. If you want it, the time is always right.
If you could share some advice to other moms/dads who are thinking of going back after they have had children, what would you tell them?
Do it! What’s stopping you? There will always be excuses – believe me, I’ve made up many of my own (“it’s a selfish indulgence,” “can I afford this?” “I won’t have time,” “maybe when my daughter is older,” “I don’t need another degree,” etc.). Think of the image of putting that oxygen mask on you first. That oxygen is there to help you, so you can help others. If your desire to get more education is truly important to you, a fire in your belly, you can find a way to make it happen. If nothing else, find a motivational quote to look at each day as inspiration. I constantly collect quotes and rotate them to keep me motivated, especially during times of change. Over my desk now is this one by psychologist Abraham Maslow:
“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
Right now, I choose the path of growth and am excited about this new adventure.
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Photos courtesy of Tammy Dygert
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