Project Description


Making Learning A Lifetime Pursuit

I could recite my ABCs backwards. I had also memorized several words and could even count to one hundred. As I sat near the back of the classroom waiting for the first lecture to begin, I thought, “This class shouldn’t be too hard. After all, I already speak three languages.” Then, without saying one word, the professor began. Raising her right arm, she lightly tapped her forehead with her hand as though saluting a superior officer.

Her hands blurred every which way – diagonals, zigzags, circles – her eyebrows raised and lowered, her body occasionally tilted as her facial muscles expanded and contracted, all the while her lips mouthing words devoid of sound but interrupted by short bursts of laughter as the class acknowledged that they comprehended. But it was a blur to me. Week after week, I struggled through every lecture of my American Sign Language (ASL) class.

Had I known the nuances, that slight variations in mouth and eye movement are adverbial and adjectival modifiers, that American Sign Language uses facial and body language to communicate grammar, and that head and eyebrow motions also affect meaning – I might have understood those lectures. Perplexed but undeterred, I continued studying as my grade fell. While it would’ve helped my G.P.A. if I had simply dropped the class, I stuck with it because I’ve found that challenging situations often lead to powerful learning opportunities.

I have yet to master American Sign Language, but taking that class, as hard as it was, helped me gain insights I wouldn’t have experienced had I just given up. Not only did I become more familiar with a culture that communicates in such a passionate, visual manner, because of the difficulty I had in learning the basics, I also gained an appreciation and empathy for them that I never could have achieved in any other way.

Experiences like this have greatly influenced my personal learning philosophy, one I’ve developed through years of formal education, hands-on learning opportunities, and dedicated self-study that have taken me across various industries and disciplines, providing different perspectives and feeding my insatiable appetite for lifelong learning.

Wallace D. Loh, President of the University of Maryland, had his photo taken with every graduating student for the class of 2015 during the December graduation ceremony in College Park, Md. It was my privilege to be part of the first graduating class for the James E. Clark School of Engineering's Master of Professional Studies in Technology Entrepreneurship.


Formal Training & Education