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OPWL testimonial: Class of 2014 testimonials

This blog post contains testimonials from students of Boise State University’s online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning (OPWL), class of 2014.


iris carrasquilloIris Carrasquillo, Class of 2014

Manager – Tariffs and Training
NECA North Central Region

As a trainer with 15 years of experience, I was very passionate about employee development. I eventually became fascinated with all things e-learning, but lacked the skills to develop e-learning for my organization. I began researching schools with a graduate degree program with a strong emphasis in instructional technology and eventually selected Boise State due to its long-standing history and accolades in the training and performance improvement industry. I found Boise’s graduate certificate program in Workplace E-learning and Performance Support (WELPS) very challenging, yet thorough. Even the more experienced instructional designers in class learned new techniques and concepts.

Slowly but surely, I was positively influenced by instructors and classmates. I began viewing my job as being more than a trainer and cocooned into a performance improvement professional seeking the best interventions (training and non-training alike) to improve performance. Pursuing the Master of Science degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning helped me learn how to apply methodologies to select and justify interventions, and make a convincing argument based on data and sound judgment.

Get ready. Get set. There will be a lot of work, challenging concepts to apply, and plenty of highly educated and experienced professionals ready to challenge you in ways you can’t even imagine!


erica leibowitzErica Leibowitz, Class of 2014

Distributed Learning Specialist
All Native Inc./Department of State

My experience in the OPWL program at Boise State was exceptional! I was drawn to Boise State because of its world renowned program and professors who are not only teachers but well-known practitioners in the field. The transferability of the coursework to my job has made me a significant asset to my employer. My upward mobility in this field is limitless with my degree and the continued experience resulting from my education. I have spoken to numerous people about becoming a corporate trainer/instructional designer, and I always refer them to Boise State as the #1 program to look at for a degree or certificate.


heather lutzHeather Lutz, Class of 2014

Training Program Manager
Financial Services

After spending many years teaching project management and process management concepts as a side-of-desk activity, I decided to learn more about adult learning, in particular, employee training and performance improvement. When I began the OPWL program in 2009, I had no idea how much I would learn, or how much I would immerse myself in the field of performance improvement!

The OPWL program expanded my perspective on training, employee engagement, managing organizational change, and creating effective, engaging instruction- whether that’s in a traditional classroom, or online. Every OPWL course I took challenged me to think about organizational problems and learning needs in new ways. OPWL expanded my understanding of adult learning theory, instructional strategies, and the intersection between training and performance improvement. As a result of obtaining the WELPS Master’s Certificate and the M.S. in OPWL, I officially joined the field as a learning professional in the spring of 2014. As a training program manager for a leading Bank, I’ve had the opportunity to lead numerous instructional design projects, conduct training program evaluations, conduct organizational needs analysis, and partner with internal clients to develop solutions that help them achieve their organizational development goals. Thanks to the rigorous OPWL program, I am well prepared for my new role, and I also have the skills to be an on-going contributor to the field.


Outstanding Graduate 2014


Lutz, H., & Conley, Q. (2014). Creating participatory online learning environments: A social learning approach revisited. In Proceedings of the 2014 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Conference, Jacksonville, FL.


karen baerlocherKaren Baerlocher, Class of 2014

Peak View Performance Solutions, LLC

My Bachelor’s degree from Portland State University is Social Science, with an emphasis in Sociology and History. My career had been working in the human resources field for over thirteen years and I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted a Master’s degree that would supplement my career, challenge my thinking, and provide me the flexibility to continue working full-time and caring for my young children. In researching programs and universities, I found what I was looking for at Boise State University.

The OPWL program at Boise State University gave me everything; respected professors with industry experience, flexibility, a high-quality education, and course offerings I could tailor to my career goals. It helped me to deepen and broaden my human resources skills, and focus on the holistic picture. It also allowed me to connect with others in different industries around the country that share similar goals, perspectives, and aspirations. I’ve made connections with people that I am confident will span the rest of my lifetime.

The program pushed me to believe in myself in ways I did not know existed. I started my own successful consulting business with a new approach to serve our community unlike any other HR consulting firm. The experiences you will gain from the professional staff and professors in the OPWL program is well worth the investment in your future.

Publications and Presentations


January 2014

Case Study Evaluating a High School Associated Student Body Program


suzanne alexanderSuzanne Alexander, Class of 2014

As luck would have it, I was caught in a lay-off in January​ 2015​ which has precipitated a more earnest job search. I am writing to you from my hotel room in Seattle where I am interviewing for four job opportunities. My first interview was today. In my job interview I was asked to evaluate an e-learning module due for an update, and the person interviewing me wanted to see a writing sample. I shared some storyboards from my past work with her, but what really impressed her were the cases I prepared for my oral defense. The feedback I was able to provide on their e-learning module was I think far more penetrating than what they’ve received prior. In all, I seemed to have made a very favorable impression.

When I originally talked with Dr. Stepich who interviewed me prior to my acceptance to the OPWL program he asked me why I wanted the degree. I told him – which was true and still true today – that I wanted the credential, but moreover, I wanted to actually know what I was talking about. I wanted to develop an expertise in the field. I am proud to say that I feel I have accomplished that. I am able to not only develop well-grounded work, but to provide guidance for other learning and development professionals in best practices. Boise State University’s OPWL program is not only an outstanding program, but it creates outstanding professionals in the field of learning and development, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

From an evaluation standpoint, I add greater value to the organizations that I work for, I have earned greater recognition, and I have become that professional who actually knows what she’s talking about. Thank you OPWL team!

p.s. Suzanne did receive four job offers and her current challenge is deciding which is the best match!


valerie alley dragerValerie Alley Drager, Class of 2014

Organizational Development Consultant
Agri Beef

Part of my role as a Human Resource professional for 15 years was to help organizations solve performance related issues. Although I held a degree in Secondary Education and a PHR Certification I lacked formal education in how to solve or analyze performance issues; relying way too often on intuition and not a systematic approach. I knew that I could be more valuable​, effective and confident in my field if I had more education and so began my journey with the OPWL program.

Before I quit my day job to head back to school, I wanted to ensure the OPWL program was the correct program for what I wanted to do when I graduated. Through a​n ​introduction from Jo Ann, I took it upon myself to go interview a former OPWL graduate who was working as an ​instructional design ​consultant at Boise State University. Through that encounter I was able to secure myself a part​-​time job with the eCampus Department while going to school full time. Not only did I get fantastic experience learning about eDesign and learning the role of being an eDesign consultant, I finished my degree in 5 semesters and happily passed my defense in one attempt!

I am currently the Organizational Development Consultant for Agri Beef in Boise​,​ Idaho. This is a brand new department and I am leading the way with ​n​eeds ​a​ssessments, ​performance i​nterventions and when needed​,​ of course​,​ ​instructional ​design and ​training! I have been able to contribute to this organization day one because of the education I receive through the OPWL program at Boise State University. If you are at all nervous or worried about heading back to school, just know we all began that way but believe me it is worth it!


Tales from the Field

February 2014

Needs Assessment Case Study: Preserving Patient Safety