ALL FOUR: People – Jami Sunkel
Jami Sunkel, president and cofounder of OneOrbit with astronaut and former International Space Station Commander Leroy Chiao, earned her Master of Education degree from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) in 2010. OneOrbit is an international company that provides corporate keynote and training solutions and STEM education programs presented against the exciting backdrop of spaceflight.
How has the University of Colorado shaped your life?
CU definitely triggered my love of education. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after my undergraduate studies, but entering the UCCS Master of Education program really ignited my education career. Being part of the program helped me understand how education works together with an understanding of what students and teachers need. Since graduating from CU, I have become a NASA-certified master science teacher, space education specialist at the Space Foundation, and recently finished a second master’s degree in educational leadership. My initial degree gave me the courage and confidence to jump in, start my own business and do something I love beyond the classroom.
When people ask you about the University of Colorado, what do you tell them?
CU helped start me down the path to becoming a great educator and leader. The flexibility of taking all of my course work online allowed me to immediately implement the learned training techniques and strategies into my teaching practices, which is an incredible feat. I meet professionals all the time who are hesitant to return to school. CU provided me the perfect climate to manage a career and family. The UCCS virtual program provided quality information and education practices on the go.
What values did you learn at the University of Colorado that impact your life to this day?
Empathy, compassion and flexibility are the primary values I took away from my experience; understanding that everyone has a story. As an adult student and an online learner, I knew that my professors accepted that I was a mother and a full-time professional, but still expected thorough, quality work. Although classmates were allowed their own individuality within the course work, we all shared the same passion and goal of inspiring the next generation in our studies. My personal passion was science education and using space as the hook to get kids excited about learning. CU allowed me to bring that mindset into the program.
What do you find most inspiring about the University of Colorado?
I graduated in 2010 in an online degree program, which was a somewhat new practice for universities and CU at that time. CU was groundbreaking in providing an incredible education in a nontraditional student environment. CU has extremely talented professors and staff who treated me like every on-campus student, which fostered an amazing online community that I am still connected with today. My graduate degree from CU jump-started my career, inspired me to take risks and try different things in education, and launched me into my current entrepreneurship endeavor.