Soaring Beyond: Cliff Zintagraff

MEET CLIFF! He graduated in May 2016 with his PhD in Learning Technologies.  He is currently working as the Chief Learning Officer for the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology.

We asked Cliff some questions, advice for current students, and how UNT helped him to succeed and SOAR BEYOND!

When you started at UNT, what were your plans after graduation? How have these plans changed?  I did not have specific job goals, but I very much wanted to continue my research and practice in inquiry learning, strengthening the connection between how people learn and the development goals of cities and regions.  I think they overlap strongly, and I felt the LT program would better prepare me to understand and practice these learning experiences. 

What advice do you have for prospective or current students as they decide what they want their next steps to be?  Think about great fit and doing what you love!  And think about where you can make the most impact on the world, there are a lot of challenges in the world, and people who are great at learning will be the people who solve these problems. 

How did your program at UNT help you to feel prepared for this role? The program gave me a much better understanding of the philosophies that underlie how people learn.  It also taught me to pull together writing and studies in a more direct and more efficient way.  My particular program also gave me the freedom to integrate the core of the program, learning technologies, with my interest in regional development and the priorities of cities.  The experience prepared me to publish my first book, STEM in the Technopolis, advocating for great learning experiences around the challenges we face in cities and throughout the world. 

How did you find your current role?  I helped start a non-profit and served as its Chair for three years and Interim Director.  We merged with another non-profit, and that’s now where I work, helping inspire students toward STEM education and careers around priority industries and challenges in San Antonio. 

What was the toughest challenge you have faced in your role and industry?  One of the hard challenges we face is how to move beyond traditional museum services and make a practical impact on students, families and communities.  UNT helped me prepare me to address that challenge. 

Share anything else about your story/experience if you would like to that you haven’t alreadyI was in the first cohort of the distance learning Ph.D. in Learning Technologies program, started by Dr. Greg Jones, who was also my major professor.  He passed away unexpectedly shortly after my graduation.  It was his vision to make the LT program accessible to students like me…it was the program I had been searching for.  His vision and UNT’s support of the effort has now made a positive impact on multiple cohorts of students bringing their newfound expertise to the world. 

Want to hear more of Cliff’s story? Check out his testimonial video!

Want to see more stories? Check out our full library of Practical Career Advice Videos from UNT Students and Alumni.    Would you like to be featured in our Soaring Beyond Success Series? Email Jeanette Hickl. We’d love to share your story!

By Jeanette Hickl
Jeanette Hickl Jeanette Hickl