Grad Spotlight: Steven A. "Tony" Skaggs

Name: Steven A. "Tony" Skaggs 

Age: 54 

Course of Study (degree being earned): Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching (Specialization: Instructional Technology)

Hometown: San Antonio  

I spent twenty-one years on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, retiring in 2011. I work as an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I dedicated the last fourteen years of my professional life to education, which led to an enthusiastic interest in learner-centered methodologies and integrating andragogy-focused instructional technology. Over the past three years, during my Ph.D. efforts, my investigational interests shifted from traditional course modalities to more progressive didactic strategies. I've also devoted research efforts to the challenging diversity disparity with healthcare education, particularly related to individuals of lower socioeconomic status.

I decided to go to UTSA because it is a great school! It allowed me to collaborate with other highly skilled students and educators, which made me the multifaceted learner and teacher I am today. 

What was your favorite class and/or who was your favorite professor? Why? Dr. Carmen Fies (chair of my dissertation committee) was my favorite professor. As I wrote in my dissertation acknowledgement, she provided me with continual encouragement and unwavering support during. She never told me what to do while I passively stood by. Instead, she guided me across my zone of proximal development with a deft hand, obligating me to be an active learner. I could not have asked for a better mentor. 

What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your studies? It's challenging to identify one "most important" thing that I learned.  Generally speaking, what I learned obligated me to shift my opinion on effective teaching and learning methods. I now question passive educational strategies and find active, learner-centered modalities much more effective and exciting. 

Describe any organizations or activities within COEHD that you’ve participated in. I enjoyed the IST Student Development Days. It was fantastic to network with other students, learn important specifics about my new area of expertise, and meet professionals within the world of instructional technology. 

Describe any professional experiences or internship opportunities you have had. I attended my program part-time (I was employed full-time), so I didn't have an opportunity to take advantage of internships or other professional experiences at UTSA. With that said, as part of an ILT class, I did write and publish a paper in the Journal of Allied Health (Path of a Profession: An Examination of the Physician Assistant Journey). This wouldn't have happened if I wasn't a student at UTSA. 

What is your fondest memory of your time at UTSA? My two fondest memories were, first, being accepted into the Ph.D. program because I knew I was about to start a vast quest for knowledge and self-improvement.  Second, I'll never forget how good I felt after I finished my journey, realizing that I'd accomplished my goals and so much more. 

How has COVID impacted you, either personally or professionally? COVID did have an impact on me, but not in a substantial way.  Like most people in the U.S. and around the world, I quarantined for more than a year. However, while I was a student in 2020, I learned that those committed to education are resilient; specifically, teachers will teach, and students will learn, even during the most challenging situations. 

What are your plans for the future and/or your career? I want to continue researching adult learning and teaching, especially in the graduate setting. I hope to publish as much as possible and hopefully prompt some positive changes within my small corner of the educational world. 

What has brought you inspiration during this time? E.g., music, books, people, etc. My wife inspired me the most; she constantly supported me during the entire Ph.D. process.  My coworkers were there when I needed them and knew when to leave me alone. My classmates were always there for me because they were on the same journey (that is very motivating).  And my four dogs – they are very inspirational.  There is nothing better than a dog when you are stressed out – they provide much-needed mental clarity along with a perfectly pragmatic perspective. 

You’ve been given the opportunity to have coffee with any notable figure from your field, alive or dead. Who is it, and what does each of you order? I would want to sit down with Lev Vygotsky, and it would probably be at a bar rather than a coffee shop. To explain, the first learning theory that I was exposed to when my journey started was social constructivism, along with Vygotsky's zone of proximal development. It blew my mind.  His theories are now a central part of my educational approach.  I don't know what we would talk about. I think it would just be cool to meet him.  Also, I think he would have vodka, and I would imbibe a bourbon.

Congratulations to all of our 2021 COEHD graduates! See more COEHD graduate spotlights here