Student Spotlight: Olga Polyakova

As coordinator for the Masters in Training & Development program, I’m able to talk with every student as he or she completes the degree. I consider getting to know students and their “stories” the best part of my job. So I thought I might share them with you through a “Student Spotlight” post that will run periodically throughout the year. We’ll kick things off talking with Olga. She started the program in fall 2015 and will be graduating in fall 2017.



Olga along with her husband in Hong Kong.

How and why did you decide on the MATD program?

I was going through the Master Instructional Designer certificate program at ATD in spring 2015, and it brought back all the memories of the joy of being a student (seriously, I love learning!). When I got my certificate, I immediately started looking into graduate programs in the subject. MATD at Roosevelt was a perfect match in terms of the content, application focus, alignment with ATD competency map, and cost. It was meant to be!

What is your current job title?

It is “North America Learning & Development Lead, Planning & Analytics” at a global consulting company. In practice, my job is a combination of ID projects, organization development work for the L&D function, and experimentation on a wide range of training related topics. It definitely keeps me busy and motivated!

Are you able to apply what you learn in the classroom to your current professions? If so, are there any specifics you would like to share?

It’s my fourth semester, and I am constantly surprised by the fact how applicable I find what I learn in the classroom to my “day job.” There is almost some serendipity in it. For example, I was taking Instructional Methods and Delivery last spring right when I had to complete a major redesign effort for our largest regional training. I was able to apply a lot of what I learned in pretty much real-time. Then Managing Organizational Change came right at the perfect time during the restructuring of our function across the region, as a result of which I landed in my current role with responsibility for building many aspects of our new organization with a very different operating model. It was change management both in school and at work 24/7! Evaluation Research course pretty much inspired me to create a new function within our team, and as a result, I have a new team member – L&D Analyst. Little does he know that Professor Iverson is somewhat responsible for the fact that his position was created in the first place! And lastly, I am currently developing training on both complex and complicated subject, acting as an expert Instructional Designer on a cross-functional team. I use this project in Instructional Systems Design 1 and 2 this spring as the timing works out perfectly. I cannot imagine having so much credibility on such a high-profile project before. The program gave me both knowledge and confidence to use it.

Can you identify a favorite project, class, or teacher?

Hands down Professor Maria Di-Prima Anderson. I wish I could take all her classes all over again. Her “Adult Learning Theory and Application” is the reason why I decided that MATD was the right choice for me. It happened to be the first class I took, and it still holds the status of the most challenging, stimulating, and inspiring course of the program for me.

Any words of advice for new students?

1) No one succeeds alone. The MATD is a lot of work, but it is much easier and way more enjoyable if you make the most of the collaboration and partnership that the program provides. It also means contributing a lot, but it is worth it. I can’t wait to finally meet my classmates at the graduation ceremony, as they truly feel like friends by now!

2) Everyone needs a purpose. Be honest with yourself and know deep inside your real reason for pursuing this degree. Once you have a clear purpose, the road does not seem so long and hard anymore. It actually gets more exciting and rewarding with every assignment, every test, and every module.

What do you enjoy doing your free time? 

Exploring new places around the world! And when life gets busy, and travel becomes spaced out, I explore the City of Chicago. Taking long walks on the weekends is my favorite thing to do when I am home.


  • Olga, having had courses with you, your passion for learning and particularly the subject of training and development shine through. I look forward to meeting you in person at graduation!

    Thank you for showcasing RU’s very own!

  • Olga,
    Thank you so much for sharing more about yourself! I particularly like your advice for new students, which would also apply to anyone, I’d say! Having a purpose is easier said than done, but absolutely helps you get through those difficult courses. Keeping the end in mind keeps me focused on what needs to get done in the present!

    Take care,

    • Kirsten, thank you! I agree, the purpose gives me grit to keep going. I hope we will get a chance to work together in at least one more course before we graduate!

      Take care,

  • What a great background Olga!!! This gives me hope as I am only in my second semester and love reading stories of fellow students for encouragement!

    • Thank you! I am glad my story was encouraging. If you have any questions about the program please email me, I am always happy to chat! My email address is opolyakova[usual RU email domain].

      Good luck with your studies!

  • Oh wow! This is awesome Olga. We’ve had a few coursed together and I believe this is my first time hearing the back story. I am so happy for you and your accomplishments and I know how excited you are about learning. Greatness to you and all of your future endeavors.


    • Marci, thank you so much for your kind words! I think we might have been in at least four classes together. You are a joy to work with! All the best to you for the rest of the program and beyond!

  • This was a great read. I can personally contest to As Tara is not only my advisor, but she has given quality advice on how to succeed in this program. It’s important to recognize they are not alone and that as long as you remain intact with your purpose for doing the program then you will overcome every obstacle that comes your way.

  • Olga,

    I totally agree with your comments about Professor Maria Di-Prima Anderson. I took her courses during the beginning and found that she is a really great instructor who laid the perfect foundation for the MATD program.

    Darcel Smith

    • Darcel, I am glad I am not the only one who thinks so!! MATD in general has excellent cadre of instructors, so it was difficult to mention just one, but Maria definitely has left a considerable mark in my growth and development.

      All the best,

  • Olga,
    I am a graduate of the MATD program back in 2007. I really began the program because I worked at Roosevelt University at the time and had work for Deborah Colky, PhD, Kathleen Iverson, PhD, and Tara Hawkins, Program Coordinator.
    I never had a class with Maria, but have never heard anything , but rave reviews about her.
    I continued working at Roosevelt after earning my MATD, but never really did anything with the degree. I am studying for my Certified Professional Coder (CPC) in medical coding right now and plan to take the exam this April. I hope that in a few years I can somehow parlay my medical coding knowledge into being a trainer through one AHIMA or AAPC (2 of the best known Professional Organizations in the field).
    It sounds like you are off to a successful career Olga. I congratulate you on your perseverance as I know you will be able to bring great knowledge to your organization. Best of luck🍀 In your career.
    Jennifer Costello

    • Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story! The breadth of your experience and expertise is impressive. I am sure you will be able to achieve your goal of becoming a trainer. Good luck with the CPC exam next month!

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