Staff Interview: Cheryl Diermyer

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Cheryl Diermyer joined UC Davis IET/Academic Technology Services in November 2014. Prior to coming to UC Davis, Cheryl worked at the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), Academic Technology (AT), at the UW Madison as a Senior Instructional Design Strategist, focusing on interdisciplinary education innovation efforts. She is passionate about human-centered design, mixed-method approaches to research, and strategic planning that collaboratively addresses needs in higher education.


Your greatest professional achievement? Personal?

My proudest professional achievements come when I and the people I work with move beyond our own expectations and affect wide positive change. For example, while at UW Madison I was the recipient of a UW-System Digital Storytelling Curricular Redesign Grant that supported statewide efforts (15 campuses) to implement digital storytelling in the higher education curriculum as a way for students to practice skills in research, communication, and digital literacy. At that same time, a UW Madison faculty member was looking for a creative way to teach difficult course concepts while at the same time humanizing her classroom for an enriched learning experience. She tells the story of how she barely knew how to hold a computer mouse, yet after our work together she produced her own digital story. Each semester she uses this story as a way to introduce herself to her students so that her students know her as more than just their professor. The following semester I worked with her to integrate student produced digital storytelling assignments into her course. The result? She and her students won the Hirsh Family award for “imaginative endeavors which showcase a UW Madison initiative, department, or division.” I helped to strategically plan efforts across the state, but it was she that served as an inspiration to all fifteen campuses.

As project manager of the campus MOOC pilot, Office of the Chancellor, I worked on Educational Innovation efforts that included a complex matrix of individuals and committees. The MOOC process led to new and invigorating approaches to teaching, learning, research, and building community. I enjoyed envisioning possibilities and shaping the process. Some of the best moments came when I witnessed the excitement from faculty regarding teaching in this new space. Faculty expressed their excitment of reconnecting with their passion for research and teaching.  Also, reading the MOOC discussion forum thank-yous from the MOOC participants to the professors for offering innovative and high quality education was testimony to the value that good pedagogy design, supported by appropriate technology, can improve people’s lives. One woman shared a story of how she and her husband bonded in deeper and new ways when working through a MOOC on Anthropology, all while her husband was bedridden in a hospital. Anthropology was a topic they’ve always wanted to explore. Making a quality educational space available to them, made a difference in this couple’s lives.

The personal achievements that I am most proud of are my strong relationships with my life partner, the rest of my family, and my friends. My three sons — Harvey, an HVAC specialist, Phillip, a chef and aspiring civil engineer, and Joseph, an international entrepreneur  — are kind, thoughtful, strong, ethical, and adventurous men and they make me very proud.

How do you personally use educational technology?

I’m a fan of Google Applications. I find them easy to use, highly collaborative, and allow for easy access no matter what devise I am on. I am a mobile devise fan. As a former CBS video journalist and professional photographer, I can easily pass an entire day using the video/photo mobile applications. Video and photojournalism are in my blood. While doing humanitarian work in Nicaragua and Guyana, I created short media-rich field training videos on sustainable hydroponic farming using nothing but my iPhone.  That said, as an Instructional Designer I focus on defining the problem first, then I look for appropriate technologies. I start with design research methods to understand the needs of the individual, in this case the learner, and then I consider the instructor’s teaching style, the classroom/delivery mode, available resources, the mission of the campus and Academic Technology, and the campus infrastructure. I also keep in mind state and global possibilities that can connect learners in ways that go beyond the classroom, making learning real and lifelong. I depend on research in the learning sciences and current practices to guide my decisions on the use of educational technologies.

Read any good books lately?

My current work-related favorites are Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning (Tony Bates) and Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (Tim Brown). I was unbundling a leadership lesson on delegation when I met Tim Brown last year. Tim clarified for me the message of “do less and lead more” by recasting it into needing to balance doing, managing, and leading. He said, ”You have to be good at all three.”

I rarely dedicate time to fun reading, but when I do I always rediscover that it’s one of the pure pleasures in life. About a year ago, on a fight from Wisconsin to California, I read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayd). The book consumed my attention to the point of feeling like I on was on the Pacific Crest Trail rather than a long plane ride. Another book that captured me was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel (Robin Sloan), which is a good mix of adventure, suspense, geeky tech stuff, and a small bit of romance. The protagonist is a curious out-of-work graphic designer. The book is definitely a page-turner.

What advice do you give aspiring designers?

Be curious. Be adventurous. Never stop learning your craft. Find ways to ignite people’s creativity. Be Collaborative! Human needs first, learning goals second, technology third, and assessment first, second, third, and fourth. Designers need to be good listeners to identify needs and bridge gaps. Know where and how you can make a difference, then do it. Let others mentor you, and mentor others.

To learn more about Cheryl’s career path and experiences you can visit her on LinkedIn.


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1 thought on “Staff Interview: Cheryl Diermyer

    Stacy Seibert

    (December 23, 2014 - 6:57 am)

    Very impressive! But I knew that from talking and consulting on projects with you. Thank goodness for Skype!


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