Career Profile: Katryn Wiese
City College of San Francisco
The City College of San Francisco is a two-year college.
Click on a topic to read Katryn Wiese's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Balancing work and life * Advice
Briefly describe your educational background and career path.
- B.S. Caltech, Geology (including three summers doing research in 1) astrophysics, 2) geochemistry in Australia, 3) geochemistry in Hawaii).
- M.S. Oregon State University, Geology (volcano research in Iceland + 2 ocean research cruises on mid-ocean ridge basalts)
- 2-years U.S.G.S. Geologist (Oil & Gas)
- 1-year Ph.D. work at Stanford University (during which I decided teaching interested me more than research)
- 2-years High School Teacher—Physics, Calculus, Stats, Algebra, Trig—while teaching Geology one evening a week at City College of San Francisco (high school sucked me dry – City College restored me)
- 3-years Programmer/Writer/Instructor—Software Development Company
- 16 years Instructor Oceanography & Geology at City College of San Francisco
- 2.5 years Department Chair Earth Sciences at City College of San Francisco
- For more information, you can review my professional web page
Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.
Extra hours go into the following tasks, many of which are not required by the administration, but part of what I consider my job:
- Manage curriculum development.
- Promote growth and future of our oceanography and geology programs.
- Develop and manage department programs, including mentoring/tutoring programs, lab materials/storeroom/supplies/equipment, department website, etc.
- Coordinate and assist with the part-timer needs and efforts.
As Department Chair, I work about 65-80 hrs a week (depending on week) – divided between various department tasks and teaching 3-4 classes a semester (9-12+ hours/week in-class time). Our department has 3 full-time faculty and 8 part-time faculty and over 900 students per semester.
What do you like best about your work?
Autonomy (in the classroom, decisions are mine on how best to do my job; in my specific position, most of the decisions on program development are also mine to make; many of the department programs are ones in which I'm in charge).
Time off (summer and winter/spring breaks) to travel and work on other projects.
Learning – I've never had a job where I learn so much, so continually. Part of the learning comes from my self-imposed desire to try to become expert in all the topics I teach, which at the introductory level means a LOT of material (oceanography AND geology). That in itself is a life-long journey. The other reason I learn so much is because of my students – who at the 2-year college level come from so many different walks of life. They represent every age, background, religion, race, etc. And through their questions and shared experiences, I am constantly learning about new topics, new cultures and ideas.
Probably one of the best things about my work is the day-to-day contact with the students, who are constantly giving me feedback on how important the work I do is for them. It's incredibly rewarding to see how much my efforts impact their lives. And they impact mine as well – teaching me about different ways of life and introducing me to new ideas.
Freedom to manage my own growth and go after what interests me, instead of what interests others.
I have experience at various levels of academia, and I feel fortunate to have found the right level and institution for me.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
Often I get impatient and tired with "problem" students. I have solved that problem so far by taking many, frequent vacations, which conveniently is possible during the frequent breaks we get in the school schedule.
Often I feel disillusioned – that I'm making little progress with my students. I tackle that challenge with perspective – and a realization that what I teach/give goes well beyond course content, which is often left by the wayside within a few months of the end of the class. This challenge, however, is also what spurs me on to always think of better ways to teach and better goals to focus me in my work.
What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?
- Extensive experience teaching at multiple levels (including graduate TA work as well as high school) and hence dealing with challenging and diverse educational situations.
- Teaching part-time at the same college where I got my full-time job.
- Field work and USGS experience (variety).
- Honest, my degree from Caltech has opened many doors in the job market – whether justly or not – I can't deny that.