Meet Diverse Faculty Fellow Bethanie-Michelle Statler

Bethanie-Michelle StatlerLike many children growing up, Bethanie Statler’s mother was always whispering in her daughter’s ear, “Become a doctor.”

During Bethanie’s sophomore year of high school, a biology teacher with amazing energy, Mr. Shu, ignited her passion for biology. “He was very creative with his assignments and activities,” recalled Bethanie. “It was in his class, learning about cell respiration, that I realized how much I enjoyed molecular biology.”

Bethanie entered Ohio State University thinking she could study biology and become the medical doctor her mother had hoped she would be. Then she met Dr. Sarah Ball. Dr. Ball taught biology for majors and her interest and energy were contagious. “I talked with Dr. Ball about her path to teaching, thought about my interests and comfort with public speaking and decided I would pursue teaching biology at the college level.” Bethanie began looking for graduate programs that would lead to a doctorate because she believed it would give her the requisite credentials to teach at the college level. Not exactly the kind of doctor her mother had in mind, but she was pursuing her passion.

When she began exploring her options, Bethanie discovered the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), a program designed to increase the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to historically underrepresented populations in the STEM disciplines. She narrowed her search to schools that partnered in the LSAMP and landed at the University of Illinois Chicago in their Bridge to Doctorate program. She immersed herself in her studies and research, but the desire to teach kept tugging at her. It tugged so hard that she switched to the master’s program and became a teaching assistant with the goal of becoming a community college instructor. “Teaching gave me joy every day,” said Bethanie. “I began shadowing professors at the City Colleges to learn more. That was when one of them suggested I look at job opportunities at Harper.”

Harper’s Diverse Faculty Fellow program was a perfect fit. It offers up to two years of teaching experience supported by mentoring and insight into how community colleges are structured. As a Faculty Fellow, Bethanie has a content mentor, an academy mentor and a DREAM mentor. She also meets regularly with Pearl Ratunil, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion, and her department’s interim dean, Kimberly Polly. “Having only taught as a peer-educator and teaching assistant, this program eases me into a full-time faculty position by starting me out with a smaller class load and providing me with resources to learn about planning my own lectures, activities, projects and exams. It has been a very smooth transition.”

Bethanie joined Harper this fall and the first class she is teaching is Biology 101 for non-majors. When not in class, she is soaking up the community college experience by sitting in on Shared Governance meetings, attending the Assessment Conference and taking advantage of the many other learning opportunities offered on campus. Bethanie shared the following thoughts about Harper and teaching at a community college, the Faculty Fellows program, and a little more about who she is.

  1. What attracted you to teaching at a community college?
    Students at a community college come from endlessly different walks of life. However, for many students, this is often their first experience in a college class and on a college campus. Going to college can be intimidating, exciting, stressful, satisfying, frustrating, and downright confusing. The experience that a student has in the first semester or two of college can greatly impact whether they continue pursuing a degree. I chose to teach at a community college because I’d like to be one of the first few instructors with which students interact. I try my best to gauge their skills and interest, so that I can connect them with tutors, counselors, advisors, and other supportive resources that will help them succeed. During the first semester, I want students to learn how to study, manage their time, and work well with others, because these are life-long, transferrable skills that will certainly improve their college experience and likelihood of completing a degree.
  2. What has surprised you the most about Harper?
    Its beauty! I am used to living and being in the city, surrounded by only streets and buildings. Being surrounded by such lush green grass and foliage and beautiful, colorful flowers and landscapes is breathtaking. I enjoy taking small breaks and going for walks. I can also enjoy my walks outside on the way to meet in other buildings.
  3. What is the most interesting part of your job?
    It is interesting to see a concept “click” in a student’s mind. It is interesting that this “click” does not happen at the same time and in the same way for every student. Sometimes the epiphany occurs through reading, or watching a video on the concept, or hearing a real-world example, or through some hands-on activity. I like to help students reach that satisfying level of understanding.
  4. What do you enjoy doing outside of Harper?
    I enjoy traveling, playing volleyball, trying new food and restaurants, learning other languages, baking, listening to music, spending time with friends, playing games and taking photos. For the past couple of years, I have been volunteering with Expanding Your Horizons, non-profit that encourages young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
  5. Tell us one surprising fact people may not know about you.
    I’ve acted as an extra on the TV show “Empire.”
  6. What was your first job?
    At 15, I worked as a parking attendant for a parking garage in downtown Cleveland. I wore a highlighter-lime-green vest and sat in a booth with harsh lighting for several hours. Sometimes, the garage opened for special events like Cavaliers and Indians games because we were located one block away from the Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field. During special events, I might stand on the side walk and wave a bright, orange flag to recruit customers to park in our garage.

Now that you have gotten to know Bethanie virtually, stop by her office in Building Z, Room Z215, to meet her in person, introduce yourself and welcome her to Harper.

Learn more about the Diverse Faculty Fellow program.