Stephanie Bianco was in the 2017 cohort of the GCCUT program. She completed the GCCUT program in 2018 and graduated from OSU with a M.S. in Water Resource Engineering in 2018. She is currently the director of career development at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at the University of California, Berkely.

Q&A with Stephanie Bianco

Please briefly describe your career journey since completing the GCCUT program. .

From instructor to academic advisor to director of career development, my journey after the GCCUT has been one of discovering my niche in higher ed.

To give a little more texture to the story, after completing the GCCUT program I dove headfirst into teaching as an instructor at OSU, where I designed and taught several global geography courses for some of the highest-enrollment baccalaureate-core classes in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. An unexpected discovery for me in that role was that my favorite interactions with students happened during my office hours where I got to talk one-on-one with them about their lives beyond the classroom. I leaned into that and pivoted into a totally different role in higher ed as an academic advisor at UC Berkeley that would afford me more of those kinds of interactions. Being an advisor gave me an interesting high-level view of the student experience since my work required so many touchpoints with them, from admissions through graduation.

A turning point for me in that role was recognizing a deep unmet need for more career support for my students, and I got really passionate about developing services and programs to bolster them in their professional development. Now, in my current role as director of career development for the Jacobs Institute at UC Berkeley, I feel super fortunate to be able to dedicate myself fully to that important work of supporting students and alumni in their vocational wayfinding.


Has GCCUT played a role in your career progression and your work? If so, please elaborate.

The GCCUT program was a pivot point and catalyst for growth in my career. It gave me the confidence and the skills to make the shift from working in engineering to growing into various roles in higher education. Holding the certificate was absolutely instrumental in helping me land my first job after completing my masters — teaching as an Instructor of geography at OSU. I actually used the teaching portfolio that I developed in the GCCUT capstone course as a part of my application package. Once in the role, I drew on so much of what I learned in the GCCUT program to develop course curricula (from learning objectives all the way down to assessments and in-class activities) and to engage my students in the classroom. I’m amazed at how much of what I learned in the program has been valuable in my other roles in higher education too. I truly would not be the person I am today without having gone through the GCCUT; it was such a formative experience for me.


Have you utilized knowledge and skills from the GCCUT program in ways you did not necessarily anticipate? If so, please describe.

When I was participating in the program, I never imagined using what I was learning beyond teaching in the classroom. I’ve been really surprised just how valuable and transferable some of the core lessons I took from the program are in so many facets of my life and career. To give an example, one foundational concept and tool from the GCCUT that has become infused in so many aspects of my life is backwards design. I’ve used this as a framework for everything from developing strategic plans and programming for career services to facilitating productive meetings with diverse stakeholders. I had never gotten exposure to this way of thinking and have found it totally transformational to how I operate.

On a more philosophical level, the GCCUT really changed how I think about the purpose of higher education and the experiences of adult learners. Even though I’m no longer teaching in the classroom, the process of self discovery and career navigation requires a lot of learning and unlearning. Having a foundation in adult learning theory helps me to approach my work with more humility and agility.


Given your experience, what value do you see in GCCUT for those considering the program?

The GCCUT offers so much value, it’s hard to even know where to begin. For one, you’ll become part of a network of like-valued educators who will help you grow in ways you can’t conceive of. The program will also provide you with foundational theoretical knowledge of how adults learn. Having this strong base to build on will really change the way you approach teaching from the inside out. The GCCUT goes way beyond the theoretical to offering a really powerful set of practical tools and frameworks for course design. You’ll also get to put what you’re learning into practice and get incredibly valuable feedback from your peers and professors. It really is such a well-rounded experience.


For potential GCCUT applicants, what advice would you offer them as they consider and begin the program?

f you're passionate about teaching and feel like you haven't quite found a community of practice at OSU, I urge you to apply to the GCCUT program. It was an oasis for me and for so many others in my cohort. Participating in the program was by far my favorite part of grad school. If you’re on the fence, talk to people (feel free to reach out to me!) about their experiences to understand if it will help you meet your needs.


For new or continuing students, do you have any further advice to help them make the most out of GCCUT?

Put in the time on your assignments for GCCUT. You never know in what ways the work you’re doing there will evolve or bear fruit in the future. Investing in building your teaching portfolio is an obvious example, but look beyond that. For example, in one of my GCCUT courses, I did a project focused on redesigning an existing course to align it with standards from the Difference, Power, and Oppression Program. It seemed purely theoretical at the time, but when I went on to actually teach that very course after graduation (much to my surprise), I had a whole new framework and lens for the curriculum and had already built out so much of the course.

Another piece of advice — really take time to get to know your cohort mates. Through my experience in GCCUT, I got to meet people in such diverse departments and fields, and I learned so much from them. These people share your passion for and dedication to being a better educator, and they’ll be in your corner for life.


Is there anything else you would like to say to prospective or current GCCUT students?

If you're passionate about teaching and feel like you haven't quite found a community of practice at OSU, I urge you to apply to the GCCUT program. It was an oasis for me and for so many others in my cohort.