MEHopper / About / Trivia

A Matter of Degrees
Mary Hopper most likely earned one of the highest, if not the highest, number of credits ever earned over an academic career at Purdue University. In addition to a full undergraduate major in English plus the coursework in Education to make that a “teaching” degree, she was one course shy of a “major” in Art, her original declared major, and another course short of a major in Psychology. The largest number of courses and the highest GPA would have been in Psychology.

However, she wasn’t able to declare either Art or Psychology as majors because she hadn’t taken the Art Education courses that would have allowed that to be a “teaching major” and Psychology didn’t offer a “teaching major,” so to include either or both to declare a double or triple major would have required her to drop “Education” from her degree title altogether. She decided not to take the last course she needed in either major when she learned she couldn’t declare them. However, she did take a graduate course that would have counted as a substitute for the last course she needed for Psychology the summer after she finished her undergraduate degree. She asked “the powers that be” if they would “retro-actively” add the Psychology major to her official transcripts, but they said no. The same logic applied to why Mary could not declare her undergraduate “almost minor” in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences with a focus on Astrophysics. She had not taken Science Education courses, so she never took the last course to finish that minor.

All of that was just a prelude to her graduate career at Purdue. She took such a wide range of graduate courses that she could technically fulfill the requirements for three different M.S. and Ph.D. areas (Educational Psychology, just Psychology with an emphasis in Education as well as Instructional Design and Educational Technology). She finally stuck with Educational Technology as her primary academic degree because that was where her heart ended up being by the time she was finishing her degree.

One of Mary Hopper’s first jobs at Purdue University was serving a Course Assistant for ENGL 420: Business Writing. The course served about 1,500 Purdue students in about 75 sections per year. The job entailed managing instructional materials for the many instructors for the course. When Hopper began her position, she worked in a room filled with towering piles of many different versions of mimeographed handouts that had accumulated over the years that the course had been offered. Hopper spent two years bringing order to the piles, and when she was done, they were gone and all that was left was a nice, neat stack of around 200 or so pages. These were the core documents that were digitized and made available for the (Purdue OWL).

Along the way, Hopper got to know some of what was in the handouts, too ;)

Owls seem to be Hopper’s lot in life. A few years later she encountered the wise creature again in the form of the mascot of MIT’s Athena/Muse which she studied for her doctoral research and then worked on as an MIT employee.

Big Web Site Starter Set
Mary Hopper led development of something that she dubbed the Purdue Knowledge System. It was an unfunded effort that was the natural culmination of two related projects that were separately sanctioned and funded by Purdue’s School of Engineering and School of Education between 1989 and 1993. Hopper also managed the conversion of the HyperCard version of the system into a networked version viewable on Sun workstations with Gopher, HyperNews and the World Wide Web. This made the Purdue Knowledge System one of the earliest and largest university sites on the Web in 1993.

This project was actually an ancestor of Cosma. Instead of being about a single institution, or single type of institution like a university, Cosma is about all types of institutions (e.g. businesses, museums, governments etc.). In addition, instead of being about a narrow range of content like academic plans of study, careers, professional societies and publications, it’s about about more than a hundred different kinds of “knowledge functions” (e.g. science, history etc.) across a full range of content areas (e.g. space, earth, animals, humanities etc.).

© M. E. Hopper