Stacy Teeters

-Research & Planning Analyst for Grossmont College, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (El Cajon, CA)

Education: M.A., Psychology, San Diego State University

B.A., History and Psychology, California State University, Bakersfield

 How did your experiences at CSUB help you find your first position after graduation? 

 Right after graduating from CSUB in 2011, I started graduate school at San Diego State University. When I first started my graduate program, I suffered from some symptoms of imposter syndrome—feeling that I didn’t necessarily belong there—since a lot of my classmates completed their undergraduate studies at bigger, well-known universities. However, after a short while, I realized that my education at CSUB prepared me to succeed in my rigorous graduate studies. At CSUB, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with professors, complete independent research projects, and refine my writing skills—and, in some instances, I felt better prepared than my colleagues who went to larger schools. In hindsight, I feel very lucky to have been able to attend CSUB and had the opportunity to get an affordable and quality education.

 What career advice would you give our students?

 Explore various career paths early and often. There are so many career opportunities out there, including fields and positions that you might not even know exist—and some of these positions might end up being your “dream job.”

 I would also suggest to students that they seek career advice from people who have established careers in their fields of study. Ask these individuals (whether they be faculty members, bosses, mentors, etc.) what their career path was, how they ended up where they are, benefits and downsides of their jobs, education and/or specific classes needed to get ahead in that career, and any other advice they would give others interested in pursuing that career. Try to establish connections with these career mentors while you are still an undergraduate; not only will it help you better hone in on your future career, but they can help support you as you enter the job market and potentially serve as references once you begin applying for jobs or graduate school.

 How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? Was there a pivotal moment? 

 When I started as an undergraduate at CSUB, I had no idea that I would be working in the field that I am working in today. Actually, until four years ago, I had no idea that Educational Institutional Research and Planning was even a career field. As I was finishing up my graduate program, I somewhat serendipitously got involved in this field when I applied for an institutional research internship position at a local community college.

 I had known that I wanted to work in an educational field for some time, but was unsure where exactly I would land. I had worked in various positions in K-12 through university level. It was my internship, however, that turned me on to working in the community college system and institutional research. The more I learned about institutional research, the more I realized it aligned with my interests and passions: I get to help students, I get to geek out and do interesting research nearly every day, and I get to use my brain to solve complex problems and work with my colleagues to come up with creative solutions. It’s wonderful and engaging work, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do this work that helps students and my college/district.

 What do you attribute your success to? 

 I attribute my success to a combination of factors—both internal and external. Growing up in Bakersfield and having later gone to school at CSUB, I received a very good education and had great teachers and mentors. Because of this, I felt that I had a very solid foundation of knowledge and skills that have helped me succeed in the various endeavors I have gone through.

 The other part of the equation was learning to develop and maintain intrinsic motivation towards achieving my goals. In school, it is easy to get through by focusing on doing the bare minimum to get a passing grade—however, I feel that students miss out on so much if they don’t engage in the material and make it meaningful to themselves. What I loved about my time at CSUB was that I could do research, work on projects and topics that I was personally interested in, participate in clubs and organizations related to my interests, and connect with mentors and peers who shared my same passions.

How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization? 

 Though a lot of my job involves numbers and statistics, I still have the ability to think and work creatively. Whether it is coming up with a novel way of processing data (yay, geeky stuff!), developing an interesting way to visually depict information, or creating a persuasive argument by telling the story of students with evidence and support of data, I am constantly challenging myself to think creatively and outside of the box. I feel lucky to have the support of my manager and my overall organization, as they value my input and ideas on how to innovate to promote student success.

 Sometimes I joke with people that I couldn’t decide on whether to major in history or psychology, so I ended up majoring in both. However, I really feel that they are two sides of the same coin: one seeks to explain why humans think and behave in the ways they do, and the other seeks to understand events caused by humans. Having majored in these two disciplines, I feel that I am able to use skills I learned from both and apply them in my daily work. My psychology background has helped me to master statistics and research methodology, but my history training has helped me to tell stories and humanize data in a way that makes it meaningful and powerful.

 What are the most important decisions that you face daily as a leader in your organization? 

 Working in higher education in California, I have the opportunity to work with others in a highly collaborative environment. The main goal of what we do is to help students succeed. However, we do have to consider where our resources—time, effort, money—should be spent to ensure that we are having the greatest impact. That is where I come in as an institutional researcher; I provide leadership to my college/district by conducting research and identifying data and evidence to be used in decision making at various levels within my organization.

 What have you accomplished or overcame in the past that you thought was impossible at the time? 

 Like many other students at CSUB, I was the first one in my family to go to a university and the first one to get a degree. However, there was a point during my undergraduate career that I almost did not finish; I ended up taking a year off and working.

 After having worked for a year, I realized that to get to where I wanted to be (having a career in higher education), I needed to finish my undergraduate studies and go on to graduate school. I ended up reconnecting with my mentors at CSUB, and then made a plan to reenroll and apply to graduate schools. I worked very hard during that time. I developed my curriculum vitae by working on research projects, worked closely with faculty mentors, took challenging courses, etc.

 The hard work paid off—in June of 2011, I ended up graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in History AND Psychology, and I had received several offers for graduate programs.

 Reflecting on this period of my life, I was very happy that I had the courage to continue trying and reach out to my mentors at CSUB for guidance and support.

 I would encourage students who experienced setbacks at any point in their academic or personal career to not let the setback be what defines them. Not only does this dismiss the hard work that you have done, but it takes courage and resilience to continue moving forward. Additionally, if you suffer a setback while you are at CSUB—please reach out! There are so many people on campus who want to see you succeed and realize your potential.

Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life? 

 I have been fortunate to have a lot of wonderful and inspiring teachers throughout my life, who have profoundly affected and motivated me. But, in addition to them, I have always considered my maternal grandmother to be one of my role models. Though she had a very rough life herself, she was one of the sweetest, most caring, and resilient women I have known.

 My grandmother passed away while I was still young, after a battle with leukemia. However, she had instilled in me a sense of wonder for the world, appreciation for education, and passion to help others that has stuck with me to this day. I like to imagine if she were still here that she would be proud of the work that I am doing to help educate others, especially in communities where students might be the first in their families to go to college, and perhaps even graduate from high school.

 Where do you expect to be in five years both personally and professionally? 

 In five years, I will continue to serve students and help my community through my work in educational institutional effectiveness, research, and planning. I love my job and hope to continue to advance in this field with the goal of promoting student success and student equity.

 I recently was accepted to the Educational Doctoral program in Community College Leadership at San Diego State University and will be starting my studies in the fall. I expect to graduate and be Dr. Stacy Teeters by 2020!

I look back on my memories at CSUB fondly and appreciate the wonderful education I received as a Humanities and Social Sciences student (and back in the day, both of my majors were in one division!).