St. Paul, Minnesota – 1984-1986
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor
Working full time to support a family necessitated my finding a college that supported working adults. Metropolitan State University (Metro State) did that and more. Besides offering courses in the evenings and Saturdays, it allowed students to design their degree plan. I had the desire to become an attorney. As such, I thought I should follow a pre-law type of curriculum, so I designed a degree plan heavy in political science, speaking, and writing.
Particularly Interesting Classes
Chaminade University in Hawaii had proven to be a fantastic place to take Marine Biology and Oceanography. I needed another science course for my degree plan so took meteorology at Metro State. Few places have more diverse weather than Minnesota, so it was great learning about the weather there. Another enjoyable class was “Acting for Non-actors.” I learned how hard it is for me to memorize lines, but I had lots of energy.
Sometimes there is a class that will completely change your life and that class was “Non-fiction Writing.” I’ll never forget that class nor its instructor, Dana Noonan.
The premise of the class was simple enough; students needed to write several magazine quality articles during the class. The difficulty with that was that Ms. Noonan required her students to write then rewrite, and rewrite again, and again until the quality was magazine quality. My papers came back with red “Awk” (awkward) and circles of problems, which require a rewrite. It was a grueling task in the days of typewriters and I couldn’t keep up with the work. It was one of the most challenging classes I ever had. To keep up with the rewrites, I purchased my first computer, a Commodore 64, word processing software and a printer. With it, instead of retyping the entire article and introducing new typos, I was able just to update the work I did previously and resubmit my significantly improved article. The computer revolutionized my work processes. I found I could use it to do a host of things. Soon, I upgraded to an IBM computer before long and used the computer for everything I could.
When my work office decided to purchase personal computers for office automation, I became a computer “helper.” At that time, I worked as a Quality Assurance Engineering Technician. My job required reviewing change requests then approving or disproving those waivers and deviations as appropriate for the Navy at the Navy Plant Representative Office (NAVPRO) in Fridley, MN. In the back room, we had a Wang 2200 minicomputer. In my work, I needed a program which would track those changes. The existing staff didn’t have time to program the computer for me, so I asked for access to the computer to develop a program that would track those changes. Because I was already a computer helper person, they gave me the appropriate access. I developed a simple program that worked for me. Then was asked by some other folks if I could put something together for them, which I did. My programs, although simple, always worked. I also took a couple of computer science classes at Metro State to help me understand more about computers. A few months later I was asked if I would be interested in moving over to the Computer Team full time. Being a “can do” kind of person, I said, “Same pay? Sure, why not.” I was happy to work wherever they could use me the best.
I never returned to Quality Assurance, but rather continued as a Computer Specialist then on to Information Technology Specialist.
I received my bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University in December 1986. My personally designed degree was in “Governmental Policy and Decision-Making Processes” as a subset of Political Science.
I doubt I ever would have made the shift from Quality Assurance to Computer Support and Information Technology if it weren’t for Metropolitan State University, “Non-fiction Writing,” Dana Noonan, and that first computer I owned, a Commodore 64.