Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Patricia Waters

WatersName: Patricia Waters
UR Major: Biology
Other UR Majors/Minors: Psychology
Additional Education: MS Secondary Education, Pace University; PhD Teaching and Curriculum, Warner School of Education
Current City, State of Residence: Oswego, NY
Job Title: Mentor-Scholar Coordinator
Employer: SUNY Oswego
Community Activities: Member, Leadership Oswego County; Chair, Oswego Education Alliance

How did you choose your major(s)?

Playing school as a child, I knew I always wanted to be a teacher. As an imaginative young writer, I was initially drawn to English. The discovery of babies during a shark dissection in AP biology quickly altered my content area interest to science. Admission into the University of Rochester solidified this path. With an affinity for understanding how people think, I also continued to take psychology courses for fun and graduated with a B.A. in Biology and Psychology.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

Through my involvement in both the Jumpstart and Urban Fellows Program I gained the capacity to work with individuals of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and an understanding of diversity through participation in community based activities. I developed communication skills through event planning and the ability to design and implement lesson plans. An increased awareness of the history, politics, demographics, and sociology of urban systems have benefited me as an educator.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

Having financed my own education through merit-based scholarships, need-based loans, and federal work study I recognize how careful one must be in choosing an internship. To be successful one should establish professional, personal, and academic goals. As well, one should identify skills and experience you can personally offer. In addition to skill and knowledge development, internships above all offer the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills. Particularly, networking enables one to hear about job opportunities for which they may be a good fit.

What was your first job after graduation? What college experiences prepared or qualified you for that position?

After graduating, I joined Teach for America and obtained my MS in Secondary Education from Pace University. During two rigorous years of teaching in the Bronx, NY I persisted in the face of the challenge to obtain measurable results. My science background helped me diagnose my seventh grade students in the beginning of my first year. I was distressed to learn that many of them could not read a ruler. However, the cycle of observation and reflection found in the Teach for America program enabled me to use the data I collected to inform my instruction throughout the year. Upon realizing that low reading comprehension skills were to blame for my students’ struggles, I took a hands-on approach to learning and incorporated many laboratory activities to promote growth in their science abilities.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

As the SUNY Oswego Mentor-Scholar Coordinator, I recruit and supervise undergraduate mentors providing one-on-one support to middle school students. Despite the varied focus, three attributes define my educational and professional journey: a thirst for knowledge, a passion for education, and dedication to service. I hope to continue teaching in the Oswego School of Education and will complete my dissertation in 2014 analyzing how communities experience service provided by institutions of higher education.