Alyssa Stefanese Yates

"You don't have to give up practitioner values to do research." Alyssa Stefanese Yates, Doctoral Student, College of EducationAlyssa Stefanese Yates has come to Michigan from Staten Island, NY to pursue her doctorate degree in MSU’s College of Education, Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) program. Before coming to MSU, she worked in international scholar services in the SUNY higher education system. But a Ph.D. wasn’t always a part of Alyssa’s plan; she experienced a lot of imposter syndrome early on in her career.

In the first year of her Education Master’s, Alyssa thought she was was not ready for a Ph.D. and sought out practitioner focused experiences. She heard messages like “you’re too young” or “you need more professional experience” and kept pushing the desire to pursue her Ph.D. down. It wasn’t until she went to a NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education conference and was able to hear from others working in the field of student affairs that she felt encouraged. Hearing others say “... and here’s how my doctoral work helped me…” inspired Alyssa and she still remembers sitting in Indianapolis at the convention center and thinking, “I can do this. Something is pushing me and I don’t know why I keep pushing it away.”

Alyssa’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and after getting into two doctoral programs, all while she was planning her wedding, she decided to defer for one year. In addition to being present for her family and event planning, Alyssa was able to work at her alma mater in international student scholars and services; specifically using her institutional knowledge and experience in admissions to help  students navigate the university and map out their programs.Alyssa also  facilitated programming focused on student success. In the end, she came to MSU because of HALE’s broad nature. Where other institutions focus strongly on student affairs only, Alyssa likes that she can explore higher education, adult learning, and organizational theory in her program here. That combined with high rankings and the offer of an assistantship justified quitting her job and moving to Michigan.

Involved is an understatement for Alyssa. In addition to being a Graduate Assistant in the HALE Department, Alyssa is co-chair of the department’s graduate student professional development group. She is also on the editorial board for a NASPA publication that focuses on women and gender in student affairs professions. In looking toward the future, Alyssa plans on teaching EAD315, the department’s one formal opportunity to develop teaching experience. All these extracurricular activities tie into Alyssa’s long term aspirations. She hopes to research how gender and racial identity are connected to student motivations. She cares deeply about positively impacting student experiences through both research and practice. In her free time, Alyssa loves to read, travel, bake, and eat ice cream.