Our woman of the week (Bridget Herrin)is the Acting Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at San Diego Mesa College and the Director of the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement [CORA], where they work tirelessly to support educators to better serve historically underserved populations, with a specific focus on supporting and serving black students. Her story will warm your heart and help give you the Monday motivation to ensure you have a fruitful week. Take a look.
How was your childhood?
Pretty normal. I grew up in a small, rural town in east San Diego county. My mom worked at the local Montessori Pre-school and my father was a construction worker. I have 4 siblings including a twin sister, Tiffany. I am in the middle. We played outside a lot, played sports, our family knew everyone in town. My parents still live in the house I grew up in, they lived there for over 40 years. We grew up with little money, my father went through some tough employment times when California construction slowed in the ’90s.
What did you aspire to be when you were little?
My first dream was to be the first girl in major league baseball, then I wanted to be a math teacher, then I took a psychology course in High School and decided I wanted to be a forensic psychologist and be in the FBI. None of those worked out.
Could you take us through your work, please give us a brief about it?
During and after graduate school, I worked in a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Starting as a night shift worker and then, following completion of my Master’s moving into a counseling position. The facility I worked at included both men and women and while I worked primarily with the women, I was also tasked with completing the assessment with the male clients who had been mandated by the DOJ to determine their risk of recidivism and develop treatment plans to support their recovery.
Following this role I began working in an outpatient treatment center as an intake specialist, then I moved into research at UC San Diego and have been in research and education ever since. The pivotal career moment is when I was accepted into the EdD program at San Diego State University. During this program, I completed an internship with the Institutional research department at Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District. This internship exposed me to Institutional research, which I love. More importantly, I met Dr. Luke Wood. Dr. Wood served on my dissertation committee after my mentor, friend, and committee member fell ill. Meeting Dr. Wood changed the course of my career. My work became much more equity-focused and I began to see that change that was necessary for our institutions of higher education. I currently serve as the Acting Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at San Diego Mesa College and am the Director of the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement [CORA] along with Dr. Luke Wood.
What made you choose this line of work? Was there an incident that inspired it?
In my role at MiraCosta college, I realized the power of data and research to shape the dialogue and inform policy. The ability to impact thousands of students with the work we do in Institutional Research is profound.
What does your daily routine look like?
Currently, I am the Acting Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and San Diego Mesa College and Director of the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement [CORA] along with Dr. Luke Wood. My day usually starts with checking emails…lots of emails. I chair 3 committees at San Diego Mesa College and lead a team of 5 researchers and 3 additional technical and support staff. We meet weekly to discuss projects, problem-solving and share findings. I spend my days analyzing data, developing data tools, collaborating with my colleagues, and working with Dr. Wood to push out educational materials that support educators to better serve historically underserved populations, with a specific focus on supporting and serving black students.
What do you think are your biggest achievements?
Completing my doctorate in 2013 and starting CORA with Dr. Wood has been a life-changer.
Was it difficult in the beginning to follow your dreams?
Feeling like you don’t belong and trying to balance responsibilities. When I started my doctorate I had a 2-year-old and a 6 week old. Managing being a new mom, having a full-time job, and trying to pursue my dreams was extremely challenging. Looking back on those years, I am profoundly grateful to all the people in my life who supported me. My parents, friends, family, and mentors.
What are some of the challenges you deal with even today? And, how do you overcome them?
Balancing my role as a mom and my professional career has to be one of the most difficult internal struggles I face each day.
With success also comes failure. So, tell us, how do you deal with failures? What keeps you going?
A few years ago, I had my heart set on a job I had applied for. I was a finalist and was heartbroken when I didn’t get it. Within a few days, I received an offer for a different job that introduced me to my current position and some amazing colleagues. Ever since then I’ve come to realize that what feels like failure isn’t always a failure. Sometimes it’s just a turn on the way to something new.
Do you have a mantra or motto for life?
I have a tattoo on my back that reads “Think and wonder, wonder and think”. This is one of my mantras. There is so much we don’t know about the world, stay curious. I also believe truly in the power of empathy. Empathy is what makes us human.
Has the pandemic hindered your future plans? How are you dealing with it?
Of course. How could it not? My kids are homeschooling, I am working from a makeshift home office, and my ability to see my friends and family is limited. Just like so many illusions of others. I am so grateful that I have a job and the ability to support my kids through these challenges. So many of our brothers and sisters aren’t able to do so.
What do you have in store for the future?
I look forward to continuing to serve our California community colleges and hopefully will be able to do so as a college President.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Use your support system, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be unapologetically you and continue to fight for what you believe in, you will find the place-the place that honors and values that version of you.
If someone wishes to choose your line of work, what is the advice for them? How do they go about it?
Contact me! email@example.com Meet with people who are doing the work. In my line of work, I think empathy, critical thinking, curiosity, creativity, and technology skills are the most important.
Let’s heed her advice and ignite the curiosity that’s instilled in us to help us follow our dreams and aspirations. Also, empathy is a strong tool we humans need, let’s keep it growing!
We hope it was an enjoyable read for you. For more such stories, keep your eye on the page.
Bloomer Craze Women of the Week is an initiative taken to appreciate and celebrate inspiring women and girl bosses from all streams, across the globe! If you are or you know someone who fits the criteria, do not hesitate, just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org