Carolyn England knows that learning extends beyond the classroom.
"Learning is experience and learning is being able to work with others," she said. "It's important for me to help my students get to the next level, whether they are retraining for a new job or transferring to earn their bachelor's. I want to make sure that they never stop learning."
England's own curiosity has served her well in a diverse career. After attending Moraine Valley Community College, she earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees in industrial engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For 10 years she worked in the manufacturing, insurance, and financial industries before starting as a part-time instructor at College of DuPage. Her industry experience at Andersen Consulting, Covia/United Airlines, and O'Connor and Associates transformed her engineering degree into experience in software design and development.
England's early career focused on applications of artificial intelligence in rule-based and object-oriented systems for the manufacturing, insurance, and financial industries.
"I've always been curious about knowing how things work and making things more efficient," she said. "It was a natural progression from engineering to software development."
During her tenure at Andersen Consulting, England participated in seminars at their former St. Charles training facility and realized she enjoyed the process. This was the incentive she needed to begin teaching at College of DuPage part-time before a full-time position opened up in the Computer Information Systems program.
It's this varied real-world experience that she brings to her students.
"Selfishly, teaching allows me to pursue areas of interest that I would not be able to do if I was working in industry. For example, I like the changes that technology brings, such as mobile development, and I've turned that interest into a class," she said. "More importantly, teaching allows me to give students information that will help them when they secure a job."
England still maintains contact with one of her UIUC professors, Judith Liebman, a role model who continues to provide inspiration.
"Professor Liebman balanced the responsibilities of being a university professor, president of the Operations Research Society of America, thesis mentor, wife and mother," she said. "As a graduate student, I was in awe of a woman who had achieved so much and made it look effortless!"
England believes that much of what she learned from Liebman still rings true today as she hopes to prepare her own students for their future careers.
"Community colleges are in a good position to help students, especially with the real-life learning that they need to succeed," she said. "And quite frankly, getting to know the students, and making a positive difference in their lives, is the real reward of teaching."