Inspired to Help Others Keep

Daniel’s Story

After fulfilling his dream of finishing his bachelor’s degree, Daniel McConnell joins the ISS academic adviser team to help others do the same.

Students lucky enough to connect with the newest member of the Integrated Social Sciences advising team will get support on their path to a bachelor’s degree from someone who really understands the experience.

Daniel McConnell earned his degree through the online Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences in June 2017. When the program was looking for a new adviser just a few months later, he jumped at the chance to again be part of the program that helped him reach a long-held goal.

“I thought about going back to college for a long time,” McConnell said. “I just didn’t expect it to be an option until I learned about the ISS program. There’s got to be a lot of other people out there just like me who I can now connect with and help guide through this process so they can achieve their dreams as well.”

Back to School

McConnell began college at the University of Southern California a little more than 15 years ago but chose to end his studies before completing a degree. He went to work in the video game industry, managing operations and marketing for some of the hottest gaming of the last decade, including Square Enix’s Final Fantasy, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed and Madden NFL by EA Sports.

He’s still a big fan of video games and board games (you’d be wise to ask him for advice before your next game of Pandemic), but after a decade of work in the gaming field, he felt ready for a professional change.

McConnell enrolled in the University of Washington ISS program as a full-time student, focusing some of his research on the social science of gamification and graduating with highest distinction in just nine months. He studied how extrinsic and intrinsic rewards influence motivation and learning, which furthered his interest in pursuing a career in education.

Experiences in ISS

Education is changing, and I think ISS and UW Continuum College are really in the forefront for a lot of those changes.

 — Daniel McConnell

When McConnell first reached out to learn about the ISS degree completion option, he connected with then-adviser, now-colleague Aimee Kelly, who he says offered him inspirational encouragement as he enrolled, completed his degree and began his job search.

As a student, McConnell didn’t realize how much time his now-colleagues put in to help develop the program’s core courses and ensure the modules make sense for students — and that’s in addition to the time they spend advising students one-on-one.

“I’m surprised at the amount of work that the advisers do that is not seen by students,” he said. “The advising team is so involved and so caring — and just full of some really good, smart people. Education is changing, and I think ISS and UW Continuum College are really in the forefront for a lot of those changes.”

Good Questions

Just a few weeks into his role with the ISS team, McConnell had already helped prospective students think about time management, study habits and how to prepare for successful admission to the UW. He looks forward to working with admitted students this spring.

Students have very personal reasons for wanting to complete a college degree: job advancement, switching careers, supporting a family, personal fulfillment — sometimes all of the above. McConnell said he wants to help students think about their own motivations for returning to school and make sure they have the support they need to enjoy their learning.

For example, rather than starting with a focus on specific courses, McConnell wants to help students think bigger — about what social issues they find interesting, where they already have expertise, where they’d like to become more knowledgeable.

“Think of school not just as a checklist, but as an opportunity to really grow as a person,” he said. “What do I like about the world? What do I want to change? Where do I want to grow?” These are questions McConnell wants to encourage students to consider. “You’re here; you’re going to get a diploma if you do everything. But while you’re pursuing that goal, make the most of the time.”

Want to connect with Daniel? Find him at, or reach the online Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences advising team at