It took Cara North just one round of training new employees to untap a passion for teaching.
“After the first training sessions, I went home and told my parents that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “It felt right and very serendipitous. I have dedicated my career to learning development ever since.”
An adjunct professor in Boise State University’s online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning since December 2021, North is also in her seventh year of running her consulting business, the Learning Camel, out of Columbus, Ohio.
In 2022, North left her full-time role as director of learning and development for a healthcare company. She moved to consulting to have the flexibility to spend time with her terminally ill mother, Carolyn, who passed away in January.
“I continued to consult full-time,” she said. “Now, I have about ten other consultants who work with me. The client I am most proud of is in the healthcare space. In the last three months of my mom’s life, we relied a lot on home health.
“The work that I do now supports home health and hospice workers in the northeast part of the United States, so that’s very special knowing I can help give them skills and confidence to help take care of other families that went through similar journeys as me and my father.”
At Boise State, North teaches a course she created, Seminar — Building a Professional Social Network, during the traditional school year and Storyboarding and Scenario-Based E-Learning during the summer.
“The social network course helps our students navigate the world of branding in more of a development space,” she said. “Having a good grasp of LinkedIn and social media networking is critical — especially if they go into consulting. Places like LinkedIn feed my business; that’s my marketing.
“I want to make sure students have a real application of that going in. Content is just one piece of it. I want them to be really prepared and hit the ground running if they’re going into a new career or transitioning. I want to make sure they’re competitive.”
The course can help you build authentic relationships with peers and grow social capital, leading to work or partnership opportunities.
Over the Hump
North initially planned on launching a career in broadcast journalism. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, however, finding employment was a non-starter.
“There were no jobs anywhere,” she said. “I did like a lot of people did and took what I could find. That led me to working at the call center. After I had been there for a couple of months, they promoted me into a role where they had me train new employees.”
From there, North earned a master’s degree in workforce development. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational studies with an emphasis in learning technologies from Ohio State University, where she spent seven years working in instructional design.
“This is my 16th year of working in that space,” she said. “The work that I do now fundamentally revolves around good communication, clear directions and sequence of events, so my journalism degree has helped me long-term apply to my career.”
Although North has worked in various roles for her alma mater, this is her first time working as an adjunct professor.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said. “I have seen a lot of students who have absolutely flourished in the LinkedIn space. I am so proud every time I see them talk about what they have learned and watch them apply those concepts. It’s very satisfying.”
Since her course became part of the curriculum last school year, North is enjoying the growing student recognition of the importance of having a strong online presence.
“I had one student who came in extremely skeptical,” she said. “He didn’t want to put his private life out there. I said, ‘If you Google yourself right now, you are letting someone else spin the narrative of who you are and what you do. You want to control that narrative.’ He saw how that makes sense.
“We go from, ‘What is your brand?’ to ‘Who do you choose to engage with?’ and ‘How can you be a professional, productive member of the broader community?’ and ‘What are some of the things you want to contribute?'”
Now that North has a full school year of teaching under her belt, she plans to continue on as an adjunct professor for the foreseeable future.
“I would like to stay at Boise State as long as they’ll have me,” she said. “I am constantly encouraged by not only how great and friendly everyone is that I have met there, but the students are so wonderful. That keeps me even sharper as a professional because I love when they ask me questions.
“It allows me to challenge what I know and my own best practices. If you are not always growing and evolving, you have no business teaching others. They keep me on my toes in a great way. I am a better professional because of it.”
Being part of the faculty in the online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning is especially appealing to North.
“It is the most beautiful blend of theory and practice,” she said. “A lot of programs have that, but if you look at the composition of the faculty, it’s skewed more toward research only. Boise State’s online Master of Science in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning program prides itself on recruiting faculty that has the dual purpose and dual background.
“Ultimately, the students win because they can get multiple perspectives and open up the opportunities for more job placements.
“We want students to have the autonomy to pick what’s best for them and set them up to succeed. That’s been a nice part of it. It’s very special. Not every program is like that.”
North is grateful that she ended up in a position to train new employees and discover her true calling. Boise State is happy that she answered the call, too.
Learn More About Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning
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