Ever since he was a student at The College of Wooster, Jason Parkhill ’97 has remained at liberal arts schools. After graduation, he took his interest in digital technology and love for small residential colleges into a career in academic technology. As the current director of academic information technology services at Colby College, Parkhill works with faculty and students in a setting similar to the one he thrived in at Wooster.
While Parkhill had a wide variety of academic interests in college, he ultimately decided to major in history. “I was drawn to the subject both by my personal interest in the breadth and diversity of human experience and the faculty members in the department who encouraged that interest,” he said. The Wooster liberal arts curriculum allowed him to explore many fields outside of the history department as well. While I majored in history, I got just as much from the computer science and philosophy courses I took,” Parkhill said. He brought together his varied knowledge and particular interest in historiography, or the study of how historians work, for his Independent Study. “My I.S. was an examination of how the internet was opening new communication channels for academic historians and some of the emerging methods enabled by new digital technologies,” Parkhill explained.
His I.S. research on technology and experience in a liberal arts setting prepared Parkhill well for his first job after college as an instructional technologist at Washington & Jefferson College, a liberal arts school in southwestern Pennsylvania. “Given my experience at Wooster, this was a natural fit. The role allowed me to remain engaged in the world of liberal education and to work with faculty and students teaching and studying a variety of subjects,” Parkhill said. As the first member of the information technology staff to specialize in academic technology, Parkhill established an instructional technology center for faculty development. “That center pretty dramatically increased the technology resources available to faculty at the time,” he explained. “I also participated in the planning and construction of two large classroom buildings while at Washington & Jefferson and, through those projects, was able to begin establishing standards for integrated classroom technology on campus.”
Working at Washington & Jefferson for about 10 years, Parkhill moved into senior leadership positions until Colby College hired him as director of academic information technology services. In his current position, Parkhill works with faculty and academic support groups to assess the effectiveness of educational technology and identify new innovations. He enjoys being able to “engage with bright and creative people every day and to work with diverse colleagues and students on a broad range of challenges” at Colby.
Working with constantly-evolving technological innovations requires the flexibility, curiosity, and problem-solving skills that Parkhill developed at Wooster. “Being able to study a problem or challenge from different perspectives and through different lenses has helped me immensely in my career,” Parkhill said. “Wooster, like all good liberal arts education (institutions), exposed me to a broad range of knowledge and prepared me with the critical thinking skills to face the challenges in my field where change is the only constant.”