meet student & Huffington Post blogger Jesse Seaver

Thursday, January 24, 2013

If there’s one thing to say about 32 year old UWW student Jesse Seaver it’s that he hasn’t had a boring life. This San Franciscan and jack of all trades has been a radio host, stand-up comedian, and... he beatboxes. Currently, he works as a blogger for the Huffington Post and National Geographic, while also simultaneously running a non-profit and a computer consulting business. Here he reflects on life’s amazing journey and what lies ahead. His degree concentration? Information Systems Technology. His UWW advisor? Shekhar Regmi.       

All adult students have a story. What’s your story?
I grew up in western Massachusetts! Heath to be exact. I graduated from high school in 1999, and due to my love of business and computers, I decided to parlay heading to college right away, and instead started a computer consulting business. I worked on everything from repairing customers machines to building interactive cd-rom applications.

I also worked as a radio host at WHAI in Greenfield and WRNX in Springfield, which fufilled my desires have a career in entertainment at the time. This was a part-time gig, and was fun, but not fufilling enough for me. I decided to move to California and try to be a stand-up comic. I did it, and did lots of stand-up too. It was great.

Stand-up comedy however, really doesn’t pay the bills, especially in San Francisco, so I continued my work as a computer consultant after moving here, serving clents remotley all over the world. To this day, I still support myself by freelancing on web development projects. I feel very lucky to work with computers. They are miracle machines.

Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?
The next step for me was to get my bachelor’s degree focused on computers. All my hands on experience is great, but it’s hard to move up in some scenarios without that degree under my belt!

UMass has always been one of my favorite institutions. I have family and many friends who have graduated from UMass, and liked the idea of staying involved myself. Beyond the personal attraction, Umass Amherst UWW offered three distinct advantages to me. First, I could transfer my community college credits from 1999 and 2000. Since it was over ten years, those credits would have been worth zero elsewhere. Second, I loved the idea of getting an online degree from an established, well known university versus a school that was just famous for being online. I felt that at the end of the day, a degree from UMass Amherst will be better respected than an online only school degree. And finally, there is no other program that offers me the disticnt ability to get credit for my existing life experience, as well as opportunities to get credit for the work I am doing presently through practicums and learning contracts. And I'm getting credit towards my UWW degree from training I received from The Oreilly School of Technology. This is a huge benefit of UWW for me.

Something for people to know about me, that might help them decide to go back to school, is that I wanted to do it for a long time and didn’t. For a good  five years, I would say “I’m going to school this year,” and never did. I felt bad about that, but then, once I finally decided to apply and got accepted, I knew it was worth the wait. So, the point here is, it’s never too late, and no matter how you may have procrastinated about going back to school, right now is still a good time to give it a shot. The great thing about UMass Amherst UWW is that you can start slow, and at least be getting the process started. Good luck to everyone out there considering it. For me, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

What was the best part about being a UWW student for you?
My advisor Shekhar Regmi has been very helpful and thorough. Overall, the professors that service the classes online are very involved, responsive, knowledgeable and fun to work with. I was afraid that I would feel like I was on an island, but so far I have not felt lost, and have been supported in ways that have really helped me to learn and become better at being a student, as well as to learn the material I am studying. This is the best part - real access to real smart people. It’s not just an automated online class. That, and the ability to get credit for my previous and current real life work experiences.

What’s been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?
The Experiential Reflections courses are very interesting, and I love writing, so it’s no wonder I like them. So far, Reflections on Technology has been my favorite course. I am taking the Reflections on Leadership class this semester. 

What's been the best part of writing a portfolio to earn life and work experience credits?
The best part of this process was becoming a better writer and learning to be a critical thinker in practice. It’s easy to say you are a critical thinker, but a different story to actually examine your own life experience and try to really write about it in thorough detail. Beyond that, the best part was finishing! Having the series of essays about my life to read was fun. It really made me feel good not just about completing the course, but about my acheivements in life in general because I had a chance to really analyze them. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much good work we have already done.

What have been the benefits of taking your classes online?
My busy work schedule and requirements have made the flexibility of online class essential to my success. I am taking one on-site class now at College of Marin, to become an EMT, and it really is much harder to be at class twice a week at a certain time vs. having the freedom to do my work whenever I can. There are pros and cons, but the convenience factor of online has proven invaluable to me.

How do you balance work, travel and school?  What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?
Well, online classes of course offer so many great advantages for work, travel, and school combinations. But, beyond that obvious point, I think the most important thing I have done is to treat my school like a paying job. I schedule it in my calendar, sometimes go to the library or somewhere quiet where no one knows where I am, and just do my work. It’s very hard to complete all the reading and writing required if the time isn’t properly allocated like it would be for any other real obligation. I consider school a paying client, and I owe it to them to give them the time they paid for.

Tell us about your charity work.
I am very proud of Curry Without Worry(CWOW), a 501c3 that I am president of in San Francisco. We run a weekly food program for those in need, and have been serving every Tuesday for the past 6 years rain or shine. To date, we have served almost 100,000 meals! We also have launched a sister program in Kathmandu, Nepal which serves about 300 people per week and is one of the only programs of its kind in that city.

Charity ATM is a small for-profit ATM business that actually serves as a funding vehicle for CWOW. The surcharge revenue from the machines goes directly to fund the non-profit. To date, I have raised over $10,000 in surcharge revenue and directed it to CWOW.

Tell us about your recent trip to Nepal for National Geographic?
I was very fortunate to meet an editor at National Geographic while swimming one day, and as we developed a friendship, he eventually threw out the idea of me going to Nepal on a story - point being - I was at the right place at the right time! Also, I was also writing for The Huffington Post in a semi-weekly blog, which showed him I was serious. To me, this was a lesson that it’s important to practice the things you want to become, not just plan to do them one day when the perfect opportunity arises. Here’s my assignment blog from that trip.  

What are your future plans professionally and personally?
I would like to continue writing professionally, and travel internationally reporting on issues that need attention. As I mentioned above, I am getting my EMT certification to help me in this regard as well, so I can travel and offer medical services in addition to my writing. I am very interested in writing about human trafficking as well, and want to bring more exposure to those involved in running it. It is so sad how many children’s lives are stolen for this multi-billion dollar industry.

I would also like to become even more of an expert in computer programming, and web development. It’s a fast moving industry, and it can be hard to stay on the cutting edge. My challenge now is to keep learning, and keep growing as a computer professional while I try to do the other things that are happening in my life in tandem. Eventually, I would like to get a Law or Master’s Degree. I can thank UMass Amherst for helping me become a better learner, that’s for sure! We call it the mental treadmill when we are at UMass Amherst UWW!

Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you?
I am a beatboxer! I have been beatboxing ever since I was a little kid, and often go to open mic nights to perform. Here is an old video of me.

Please add anything else you want people to know about you, your family, and your story.
I am so honored that you have asked to interview me here, and thankful to be part of the UMass Amherst UWW family. I can’t say enough about the program, and now I need to just get to work and finish my degree! I am working hard towards this in 2013. I hope to graduate by 2014 or 2015 at the latest!

You can learn more about meand link to my Huffington Post blog at www.jesseseaver.com.