Stephanie Leon follows lifelong passion for education in KU Higher Education Administration program

Even since childhood, Stephanie Leon knew she wanted to be an educator. After beginning her education journey at community college, she made the move to University of Kansas. Now she’s pursuing her lifelong passion by exploring education reform and student advocacy within KU’s Higher Education Administration program.

What are your research/academic interests?

I have always been interested in education. Ever since I was a young girl I always wanted to be a teacher. I started off my education journey at a community college and then transferred to a four year university. I have my bachelor’s degree in TESOL Teaching with a minor in Spanish. Through that journey, I had grown a passion for wanting to help students on their educational journey. Because of my participation in TRIO and seeing how it impacts students I realized that is something I wanted to do. Now that I have been in the Higher Education Administration program, I have found my true passion and desire in what I would like to do in the future. I would like to have a non-profit in the community I was raised in. I see a need and I would like to help in filling in the need. I hope to start in my hometown and eventually expand all over the United States. It is important for me to be an advocate for students and pave the way in whatever path they choose to pursue on their journey.

How did you decide your program was right for you?

I knew this program was the perfect fit for me because I read the career outcomes on the page online. It mentioned academic advising and I automatically thought I could be a TRIO advisor if I get a degree in this. When I attended Higher Education Graduate Assistant (HEGA) Days at KU in person I learned more about the program, it felt like it aligned with what I wanted to do in life and that KU was where I wanted to be.

What do you think is most valuable about being a student in the School of Education & Human Sciences?

I have developed an amazing relationship with my professors, the cohort that I am in and the one that is getting ready to graduate. They have been a great support system and accepting. It is a very close community that I am very appreciative to be a part of.

What are you passionate about?

I am very passionate about students. Being a point person where they know they count on in their educational journey is something I want to be a part of. Being in this program has awakened my passion even more than I ever thought of. What I learn in class I am able to connect and apply in my assistantship. The program has and continues to provide opportunities so that I am able to explore more in this field and how it works. I look forward to using what I have learned in the program and the assistantship and putting it into practice in the future.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a student in the KUSOEHS?

The most important lesson that I have learned as a student in the KUSOEHS is to get out of your comfort zone. Attending, presenting in conferences, going to events on campus with a friend or alone, etc. This program has encouraged me to do things I would have not done on my own. It has given me the push that I needed to get myself more involved.

What advice would you give to new Jayhawks?

Advice I would give to a new Jayhawk is to dive right in, apply! There are so many opportunities and things that graduate school has to offer. It will seem a bit intimidating in the beginning because it’s all new but the community that this campus has will make you feel right at home.

What changes, developments or discoveries would you like to see occur in your field during your lifetime?

I would like to see college to be more accessible and affordable for students. I think that every student should have the opportunity to attend college. I would like to see more preparation and programming for high school students. I think this preparation will go a long way making it easy for students to transition into college.

Have you completed any internships, study abroad trips, or other learning experiences you’d like to tell us about?

Before I started grad school my friend who is pursuing her doctorate told me that going to conferences was one of the best experiences in being a grad student. I have to agree. I have attended a few since I started and I have met so many people and learned so much. I think it has elevated my learning experience here at KU. I look forward to attending the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) conference this semester to learn and connect with others.

What do you want to do after you graduate?

When I graduate I would like to start the process of starting the nonprofit I have in mind. While doing that I hope to work in my dream job in TRIO. I also would like to be a teacher later on in life. I would like to also pursue a PhD in Chicano/a studies.

What is the most underrated spot in Lawrence?

The most underrated spots in Lawrence are La Prima Tazza and Terrebonne Po’ Boys. Both are so good! My family and I enjoy going.

Learn more about KU SOEHS, the Higher Education Administration program, and a master’s degree in TESOL.

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KU School of Education & Human Sciences

Preparing educators and human science professionals as leaders since 1909.