A Master’s With a Focus on Variety
When Adam Sampieri was choosing a master’s program, convenience certainly came to mind.
The father and drama and English instructor needed flexibility and variety. The online Master’s in Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) at UNC Greensboro gave Sampieri the freedom to explore broad areas of interest, while fitting into his busy schedule.
“Honestly, it’s just very close to the way I think about things as a teacher,” he says.
‘I’m really interested in the connections between things.’
As a drama teacher with professional acting experience, he says he’s never been singularly focused.
“I’m really interested in the way things overlap and thinking about connections that might not otherwise be immediate,” he says. “It just seemed like a really awesome way to be able to chart my own course and study things that I was interested in at my own pace.”
‘You’re challenging your mind to think creatively.’
Since graduating from MAAS, he uses that knowledge when teaching at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. In his MAAS admission essay, he explained that others sometimes see drama as a break from more rigorous coursework.
“My students don’t need the break,” he writes. “They need the freedom to explore our complex world through multiple lenses. They need a framework to process and develop their own understanding of that world. And they need to embrace the challenge of articulating that understanding.”
Sampieri uses his MAAS background to provide an interdisciplinary approach for his students in courses such as STEM and the Stage, which he developed. Students look at scientific and mathematical issues as depicted in stage art.
“Before, the majority of my education on these subjects would have been from the experience of reading the plays themselves,” he says. MAAS helped deepen his content knowledge through readings, analyses, and studying Galileo.
‘There are multiple ways to demonstrate your knowledge about something.’
MAAS courses allowed Sampieri to dig into deeper thinking on a personal level as well. For the Food and Film course, he analyzed films, cooked a dish that had personal meaning, and wrote a paper on it.
“What I would have given a thousand times over in these years since just to have one meal with my father again—just to ask him one of the thousand questions I have about being a father…” he writes. “If I could not have the company (in the way Louis could not with his late wife), I decided I would have the meal.”
Connecting an Italian dish from childhood outings with his dad to film was not a typical assignment, but it was a powerful experience. It’s the kind of project-based work the teacher in Sampieri loves.
“What I like about that is, not only are there multiple ways to think about things, there are multiple ways to demonstrate your knowledge about something,” he says.
‘I can’t imagine a situation that would have been more convenient.’
The online format made all of it possible. Videos and discussion boards helped Sampieri connect to others and forge relationships with professors.
It also helped him achieve balance between work, family, and study. While he did the work of completing the degree, he says it was a whole-family effort with support from his wife and daughter.
“There wasn’t a magic recipe, but it was a little bit of just good time management, setting aside the time, blocking out your calendar—this is my reading time, this is my posting time,” he says.
“I can’t imagine a situation that would have been more convenient to be able do it in.”
‘I’m employing a lot of those skills often.’
Sampieri was appointed chair of his school’s humanities department and was hired as a Design Thinking instructor for UNCG’s online Bachelor of Science in Integrated Professional Studies program.
He has incorporated a lot of design thinking skills into his work, helping with strategic planning, running a series of workshops, and leading departmental retreats.
“I don’t know if it’s luck or happenstance or what, but a lot of doors have opened for me in the past year coming out of this experience,” Sampieri says.
For more about the Master’s in Applied Arts and Sciences, download a brochure.