Katherine Cennamo

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Professor of Instructional Design and Technology, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA


Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, 1989


When I enrolled at UT-Austin, I was employed as a media specialist at a small college in Ohio. I began my career as an elementary teacher in Virginia. After 4 years of teaching, I got my Masters from the University of Arizona with an emphasis in film and video production. After graduation, I was hired by a small college in Ohio to establish a media production center as well as provide other faculty support. Since we were located in a rural area, we created videotapes for non-profit agencies and industry, as well as publicity and instructional videotapes for the college. Requests for our services rushed in, and after four years, I found myself an administrator, with my employees doing the fun stuff that I entered the field to do. I began teaching college classes in video production along with my regular job, and found I liked college teaching better than being an administrator! I knew I needed a Ph.D.

Why UT?

I talked with faculty at several universities throughout the US and decided on UT Austin because the program seemed to offer me the flexibility to design my own program of study. I was looking for a program that could enhance my skills in video production while offering me the chance to build additional expertise in both computers and instructional design. While in the program, I benefited greatly from working with innovative faculty and students. I also had the opportunity to work for a couple technology companies while a student at UT.

Life After UT

Current Role: Professor of Instructional Design and Technology, Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Virginia

How did those experiences prepare me for my current career? As a graduate assistant, I taught a computer applications course for pre-service teachers that prepared me for my first job teaching a similar course at Purdue University. My coursework in instructional design and learning theories prepared me for consulting and grant projects where I designed technology-based instructional materials based on a firm theoretical foundation. I learned to write as a doc student; I became an instructional designer; and I met some really great people who have remained my professional colleagues to this day. My husband and I had just gotten married before moving to Austin and I had my first child while a student there, so I learned to balance my work and family life at UT as well. UT-Austin was quite simply where I laid the groundwork for who I am– as a professional, wife, and mother.

Advice for Students

The main advice I have for students—and it’s advice I give to my own students as a professor at Virginia Tech—is to be really nice to your fellow students! They will be your professional colleagues throughout your career. For example, I wrote the instructional design textbook Real World Instructional Design with Debby Kalk, another student with whom I took classes at UT. Just last week I was at the AECT conference and spent time chatting with Milt Nielsen, currently Associate Vice-president for Instructional Technologies Support at Texas State University, who was also a student at UT at the same time I was.