Ed.D. student in Curriculum Leadership blazes own trail toward rewarding career

Stacy M. Seaworth
Stacy M. Seaworth

When Stacy M. Seaworth graduated from Rochelle Township High School in 1989, she expected to follow in the footsteps of those amazing educators who had meant so much to her.

Five years later, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Illinois State University and began to fulfill her ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

“My full intention was to do my initial commitment, get out and be a high school English teacher,” Seaworth says. “But, as for many in my generation, Sept. 11 changed a lot of that.”

Her full-time service to the Army would last for 23 successful years during which she was trained as an aviation and intelligence officer.

In her own words, she “flew VIP transport and intelligence aviation missions supporting operations in the Balkans, Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea – deploying three times in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

Climbing the ranks peaked with her appointment as the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion (aerial exploitation) commander at Camp Humphreys in South Korea, where she oversaw 300 soldiers conducting reconnaissance operations along the demilitarized zone.

The dream to teach continued to burn brightly within her as she completed a master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Iowa in 2005. Meanwhile, during one of her stateside assignments, she served as the ROTC commander and chair of the Department of Military Sciences at her alma mater of ISU from 2011 to 2013.

But, upon her official retirement Aug. 1, 2017, as a lieutenant colonel, she realized two things.

“As I finished my career with the Army, I knew I was too young and too motivated to stop working, and when you’re going through the transition process, they remind you of all this free money for college,” Seaworth says. “I always thought of myself as a lifelong learner anyway, and my friends who’d retired before me would say, ‘You’ll know when it’s time.’ And it was time. I knew it was time do something different.”

The native of tiny Holcomb, Ill., a town north of Rochelle, soon learned her second important lesson in the school classrooms where she substitute-taught during the fall of 2018.

“Time had gone by in the classroom. Things had changed,” she says, “and I had not.”

No longer attracted to teaching English to teenagers, Seaworth reconfigured her career path with an idea to combine her experience in training soldiers and in civilian education to build and deliver training programs for the corporate and industrial sectors.

Step One: enrolling in the NIU College of Education to pursue an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Curriculum Leadership.

“Really, I hope to take my education experience and my military experience to provide practical and effective training for adults in the workplace,” she says. “The interesting thing is that the Curriculum and Instruction program at NIU is designed primarily for traditional curriculum and instruction – the K-12 environment – but a lot of the coursework is designed in ways that I’m able to take my assignments and apply them to the corporate sector.”

And “while the Army is maybe not viewed as a business or corporation, I feel there are enough similarities, and I have experience in that realm. It’s a nice fit,” she adds.

“But to be effective, I need to be more current in my understanding of education. The economy has changed. We have greater technology now. We’ve learned more about the adult learning. We continue to have new generations entering the workforce who learn and work in different ways. I want to understand what’s different.”

Elizabeth A. Wilkins
Elizabeth A. Wilkins

Elizabeth A. Wilkins, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is impressed with Seaworth’s drive to succeed.

“Stacy is not only a leader because of her 20-plus years in the military but she is also is leading in the sense that she’s taking her Curriculum and Instruction doctorate degree and using it to work in business and industry,” Wilkins says.

“Because she’s lived abroad, she’s very interested in working large, international companies so that she can continue to travel and use her curriculum and instruction skills in a unique way,” she says. “She’s certainly blazing a trail that others will follow.”

Professor Wilkins isn’t the only one who thinks highly of Seaworth.

Illinois State University’s College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Hall of Fame inducted Seaworth to its honor roll Friday, Sept. 21.

Members of the CAST Hall of Fame have demonstrated outstanding performance and leadership in their professions and communities; have given excellent service to the institution; or have earned statewide, national or international recognition.

Seaworth also has quickly made a new name for herself on campus, where she works for Jobs PLUSand the Writing Center, and in the university community.

During a course taught by Mary Beth Henning, a professor of Social Studies Education, Seaworth was required to interview to two curriculum leaders. With assistance from Wilkins and Chad Glover, director of Jobs PLUS, she connected with a curriculum and training developer for the Burgess-Norton Manufacturing Company in Geneva, Ill.

“He allowed me to interview him, and then he gave me an internship over the summer,” Seaworth says. “I’m taking that material we started in the internship – he’s paying me to continue the project with him – and parlaying that work into my dissertation research, which pertains to growth mindset.”

Feeling comfortable at home in her native northern Illinois – “I’ve lived all over the world but never found a more completing place to land than with family,” she says – she is simultaneously excited to deploy her old skills in new ways.

“As a military leader, you’re asked to have a pretty broad understanding of a lot of things. You’re managing people. You’re managing training. You’re managing budgets – all while balancing that with your technical skills,” Seaworth says.

“While maybe not always in a formal capacity throughout my Army career, I did a lot training and was in charge of a lot of the training that happened for my soldiers. I was working with adults the entire time,” she adds. “That leadership training and experience will help me now.”

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