For Chrysoula Malogianni, the year ended with a flurry.
In November she moved from South Carolina to Virginia and started work as assistant director of ODU's Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT). Then, in a ceremony on Dec. 14, the University awarded her a Ph.D. in instructional design & technology.
What led to this happy coincidence? Destiny, perhaps. But also a long-distance connection.
She applied for the job last summer while finishing her doctoral studies online and working as lead instructional designer at The Citadel in Charleston.
"I liked ODU from the student perspective," she said recently, "and I liked ODU from my own research on CLT."
She has settled into her new job, where she works closely with the director, M'hammed Abdous, on all of the center's operations. CLT offers workshops, consultations, online course design and development, and other services to help faculty members incorporate technology into their teaching.
"My goal is to help them become more effective instructors," Malogianni said, "and, most of all, to help them enjoy teaching even more."
She also leads CLT's instructional design team, which she calls "the backbone of online course development."
Born in a suburb of Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, she became the first member of her family to go to college.
"My parents didn't even go to high school or middle school - they are elementary school graduates - and that's not because they didn't want to. My father had to work; my mother had to help in the family."
Most girls in that generation were expected to stay home and work rather than continue their schooling, Malogianni said.
Undeterred, her mother borrowed books from friends who were enrolled.
"I know that she achieved a certain level," Malogianni said, "because she was able to help me when I was in elementary school, even middle school, with my homework. She was reading my books and my homework before me.
"I have this from her, the inclination toward education and learning."
Malogianni turned that inclination into a life's pursuit.
She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in early childhood education at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and worked as a kindergarten teacher and in the corporate world. She then earned a master's in educational technology at Michigan State - and discovered a passion for instructional design - before starting work at The Citadel and embarking on her doctorate through ODU.
Her schooling continues. She's in her second semester of an online certificate program in advanced educational leadership through the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
What do these achievements mean to her family in Greece?
"I think that my parents have been crying pretty much every day. My mom always says, 'My wealth is in my kids and whatever they do.' They are extremely proud."
Here in the States, Malogianni is married and has a 7-year-old daughter.
"My daughter and I are very close. She's the one I dedicated my dissertation to. At the end of it, I wrote, 'You're going to see me struggle, but you'll never see me quit.'
"She was my motivation and my inspiration. Having her at my hooding ceremony meant everything to me."
In her spare time, Malogianni likes to work with the Greek community; in Charleston, she taught Greek language and dance. She also enjoys entertaining and cooking - spanakopita, baklava, pastitsio, tiramisu.
She said she feels blessed to be at CLT.
"The center is really amazing - great people, very good mission and vision.
"And I get to do on a daily basis what I am passionate about with people who speak the same language. And that's not Greek," she said, chuckling. "That's instructional design."