Attorney Trades Profession to Help Others Navigate Higher Education

Stephanie Sheffield had long set her sights set on a career in law. Growing up in Okinawa, Japan, she moved to the United States at 17 to go to college at Washington State University, majoring in criminal justice with a minor in sociology.

After earning her bachelor’s, she continued on her path at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Calif. She enjoyed law school and was on her way to her dream job. She married another attorney she met in law school, and then moved to Bakersfield, her husband’s hometown.

She began working at a firm in Bakersfield but realized that a change might be good, so she began seeking a new direction. At the same time, Point Loma Nazarene University, a Christian liberal arts college in San Diego, was starting a new department at its Bakersfield Regional Center. The university was creating a new position to help people through the graduate admissions process. A friend told Sheffield about the job.

She turned to the Web to see what types of programs were out there to prepare people for a career in higher education. “I wasn’t necessarily interested in academic advising,” she said. “Through all the years I was in school, it never dawned on me that people do this for a living.”

But Sheffield discovered that the institutions in her region didn’t offer anything to prepare her for a career in academic advising. She then found an online program in academic advising at Kansas State University that looked promising.

The prospect of learning online wasn’t intimidating to Sheffield. A self-described early adopter who finds technology exciting, she found online learning attractive because it was new and different than her previous forays into education.

Once she enrolled in K-State’s program in summer 2008, she loved it even more. “The program was designed well,” she said. “I didn’t run into many problems or glitches with it being online. K-State was very innovative.”

Sheffield graduated in May 2010, and traveled to the Sunflower State to attend her graduation — along with her husband, parents, her brother and his wife and her in-laws. She also was expecting her first child at the time.

“We decided to invite everyone, and were surprised when they all wanted to come,” Sheffield said. “It was quite humorous, but also slightly stressful because no one had been to K-State before and no one knew what to do or where to go.”

Her father grew up in Liberty, Mo., so she had previously visited the Midwest. But her graduation trip was her first to Manhattan. They arrived the night before the graduation, and enjoyed spending some time exploring the campus.

Now working for Point Loma in Bakersfield as the campus graduate enrollment counselor, Sheffield said her K-State education helped her transition to her new position helping students through the admissions process. She was able to apply what she learned immediately ā€“ in fact, her graduation project was a proposal for restructuring Point Loma’s advising process.

“The K-State program gave me a better understanding of how higher education works and an interest in advising and how that should work,” she said. “K-State did a great job.”

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