Eric Sticken -  University of Arizona

Photo: Eric Sticken,  NCLVI Fellow

After completing my undergraduate work as a communications major, I was Associate Editor for a national trade magazine that served plumbers and mechanical contractors. Although this was a decent job, I soon realized that having my own office and writing about toilets, trucks, and innovative heating systems that could only be afforded by the wealthy was not satisfying my desire to make contributions to humanity.  

However, at the time I didn’t realize exactly why I felt something was missing from my life. I became restless and bored. Writing became more and more difficult as I lost interest in my work. I resigned from my position and ended up working with a contractor as a residential painter. I found myself becoming more cynical as I realized that painting houses – employment I used help fund a college degree – was a better job than the one for which the degree prepared me.  

Then someone very close to me persuaded me to consider a career as an O&M specialist. Since that point, my life has become far more rich and interesting. I graduated with a Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 2003.

After completing an internship at the Hines VA hospital, I was hired by the Metrolina Association for the Blind in Charlotte, NC. I was thrilled to find this outstanding agency. They encouraged me to follow my curiosity and allowed me the flexibility to work in a wide variety of activities. I provided O&M training to adults in Charlotte; worked contractually with children in rural school districts; provided assistive technology training; participated as a research associate for a national project concerning accessible pedestrian signals; and advocated for visually-disabled citizens of the city. I participated in planning and advising of projects including a light rail system and a streetcar for the city of Charlotte. I loved my job and the people who surrounded me. I think the only way I would have been convinced to leave is if I could get complete financial support for full-time pursuit of a PhD.

 Wow!

I am honored and excited to be a part of this crucial project and I look forward to working with everyone at the University of Arizona and in the NCLVI in making a difference much larger than any of us could make as individuals.