Graduate Solves Treasure Hunt for Perfect Degree

05/27/03    Portland, Ore.


Dana Director loves to find hidden treasures. Director and her husband, Aaron, are caught up in a new craze known as geocaching, a type of high-tech scavenger hunt in which participants use Global Positioning System receivers and other gadgetry to find prize packages stashed around town by fellow enthusiasts. Director roams about seeking clues that will guide her to a carefully hidden trinket.

On June 4, Director will collect her latest bounty, a master's in management in science and technology from OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering. She will be among more than 850 graduates at Oregon Health & Science University's 2003 Commencement scheduled for Wednesday, June 4, at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland.

Director didn't need the help of a GPS to find her prized degree. The 39-year-old Aloha resident spotted the graduate school she was looking for just across campus. As the senior administrator of OGI's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Director knew she wanted to take her management skills to the next level.

As the administrator of OGI's largest department, Director felt she needed training aimed at managing high-technology operations. Her career goals, she said, are not to move from OGI, but to become better equipped to deal with its inevitable growth. With responsibilities ranging from human resources to the allocation of office and laboratory space, Director's job description is comparable to that of a manager in a private-sector organization. And whereas for-profit companies can hire additional staffing to deal with the challenges of growth, OGI and OHSU are currently in a challenging budget cycle and are not in a position to add resources, she said. She felt she needed the management skills to cope with these issues while keeping the department on a growth track.

A former English major, Director was initially intimidated by the program. "With my background in the nonprofit and academic sectors, I wasn't sure I would fit in," she said. Most students in management in science and technology programs are professionals with technology backgrounds and plenty of real-world experiences to draw from in class. Eventually, she realized that each student contributed unique perspectives to the class that promoted teamwork. "Throughout the program, I never encountered a 'bad' student or someone who didn't have something interesting to say," she said.

Director emerged as a leader in her graduating class. At OGI, the collaborative approach to management education culminates with the Capstone project, where in lieu of a thesis, the students in her program form teams to conceive of a technology-based product and formulate a business plan to bring it to the commercial marketplace. Director led the winning Capstone team, helping to pitch its concept for a data storage and tracking technology to a panel of local business leaders and venture capitalists.

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