After spending 27 years with the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Carol Stuessy is ready to find out who she is again, without being a professor 24/7.
Dr. Stuessy, a professor of science education and technology, began her career at Texas A&M as an assistant professor after spending three years at New Mexico State University and a fourth at the University of Oklahoma (OU).
Fully intentding to stay at OUT, in the spring of that year she was asked to interview for a science education position with Texas A&M. She was offered the job and accepted because of A&M’s focus on reform in science education at the national level and the opportunities to collaborate with research scientists and engineers.
“There were scientists on the search committee and they really indicated an interest in collaboration. I knew science discovery and I knew how it worked.”
Dr. Stuessy will be the first to admit that her first years at Texas A&M were not always easy. Today, however, she is happy with positive gains in comparison to more difficult times.
“Now, we (Texas A&M) are much more accepting of women and all other historically underrepresented people and there is a thrust for inclusion and equity.”
She pushed through those early years by focusing on improving science education at Texas A&M, in the state of Texas and across the nation. Dr. Stuessy is most proud of her research with highly successful, highly diverse high schools, specifically the Policy Research in Science Education (PRISE) project. PRISE started out as a National Science Foundation grant addressing issues in increasing numbers of high school science teachers leaving the profession. Results of PRISE included the identification of successful strategies used by schools to retain their science teachers, as well as 12 dissertations that have placed PRISE graduate fellows in institutions of higher education across the nation.
After retirement, Dr. Stuessy will continue working with three of her graduate students who are set to graduate in December 2017. Including those three students, she will have completed 38 doctoral students and brought in more than $11 million in grants for science education and research.
“I have mentored some of the best doctoral students in the nation who have become deans, directors and tenured professors. They have made me so proud of their hard work and accomplishments. Legacies come in many shapes and sizes and I am grateful to have been part of the journey for so many gifted young adults who are now making contributions to others and the world their children will inherit.”
Dr. Stuessy is confident in the future of science education in the College of Education and Human Development but she is hoping to see more collaborations with public schools in Texas in teacher preparation for science.
“I would like to see certain public schools designated as science pre-service magnet schools where pre-service teachers will know that they’re not only going to get to see science taught in the classroom, but they will have an opportunity to teach science themselves.”
Dr. Stuessy believes collaborations with public schools will help shine a brighter light on science education and its impact on our future.
“Science is a way of looking at the world that’s not based on opinion or any sort of political platform,” she explains. “There’s also a very human element to science and that is appreciating the beauty of this world. If you appreciate the beauty and feel comfortable in the world, you’ll become a steward of the earth. You’ll protect things. You’ll leave this earth in a state where the next generation can enjoy it.”
In the fall, Dr. Stuessy received a call from a longtime friend and former middle school teaching colleague, Dr. Abby Harding. Dr. Harding had received notification about an award from their shared alma mater, Ohio State University. She asked Dr. Stuessy’s permission to nominate her for the Award of Distinction.
Dr. Stuessy was notified in February that she had received the award. “I was amazed. I do what I do to make a difference, not because of the possibility for an award.”
In April, Dr. Stuessy traveled to Ohio State to accept the award from the university that prepared her for her career. With her closest friends and colleagues present, she reflected on her retirement in May. She said that returning to her roots to receive the award was like “tying an extra bow on the package.”
“I think it’s fitting and a really positive way to end my career. It’s like I’m coming full-circle.”