Living Your Educational Dreams with Dr. Kasandrea Sereno

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:20:05] Right. Definitely, and that’s something that we’re not seeing in secondary schooling anymore, right where there’s this huge focus on testing and testing and testing. And from an agricultural perspective, right, the more you weigh a cow doesn’t make the cow put on any more weight, the more times you weigh it. Right. If we if we if we didn’t have this intense focus on testing, could we be teaching those critical thinking skills, those life skills, those economic realities and civic responsibility and critical thinking? And logic and inductive and deductive reasoning and scientific method of questioning what we objectively see as truth, those things that we get in college could be pushed down the pipeline. I think I think education just in general doesn’t do a very good job of telling its own story, which which is it is to a detriment. If other people are telling your story, just like with any brand, your brand is what that other outside person says it is. And so we’ve we’ve really got to be better in education about talking about our value to humanity in our our communities and our culture. So, so much work to do. I could talk on that all day. I being a scholar of education is something that I think is super interesting. And in my doc work, we got to have these philosophical discussions then, you know, what is the value of a college degree? Is it signaling? Is it is it education? What or what are we talking about?

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:21:26] So well, you mentioned in secondary school. One of the things I wish that they would teach and we’re talking about life skills and everything, I wish that they would teach the value, the long term value of putting investing one hundred dollars a month for everyone like starting. You’re in class now as a sophomore, freshman or maybe even a junior. Today we saw and that’s what you’re going to do. And for some folks, I understand that still going to be difficult. But when you add up over a long period of time, it’s amazing what it is. And certainly apps are going to be able to say, well, I’m not going to invest hundred dollars a month only that’s five hundred or a thousand or whatever. So it doesn’t change that. That disparity necessarily, it doesn’t it doesn’t equalize, as you put it, but it does lift all boats. I mean, if folks who who were bringing in fifteen hundred dollars a month put one of that away and just don’t ever touch it, then their kids would have their college education paid for. Their retirement would be, you know, they would be they would be able to live for decades on their working income off of the the nest egg that they would have put away by then. That’s one of the things that would just change this country. I think fundamentally.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:22:45] And it really, you know, this idea that we’re seeing it now with covid, right. Just how important the educational system is to underpinning our society when our kids aren’t going to school, when they’re staying home, how that is unraveling sort of our fabric of what looks like a normal day to us. And so how can we embed those sort of things into our schooling so that we’re, like you said, leveling out the playing field for everyone? Students are graduating high school. They don’t know how to balance a checkbook. They don’t know how to open a savings account. They don’t know what’s a credit report? What does that mean? What is a retirement? What does an IRA. And so if we’re relying on parents to provide that information, that’s amazing, right? You still have to parent your child. But if we know that there are a huge proportion of our population does not have that that understanding already, what can we do in our educational systems to lift up everyone and prepare those students, even if they’re not getting that training at home?

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:23:39] So, yeah, I think financial literacy and scientific literacy are, I think the two biggest things that we should be teaching our kids in school from an educational standpoint, from this from this perspective of being a citizen of the world, being able to look at something and say, you know what? We got. So this is something that scientists will say that is sometimes difficult for the population, the general public to understand, but in science we don’t really know anything. But when we say that, that’s from a standpoint of knowing a whole lot more than most people do.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:24:13] Right.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:24:13] It’s one of one of the professors I trade for when I was in graduate school, talked about he said that he told his class at one point they were, you know, all kind of going off to sleep and having having problems, paying attention. And so to kind of wake him up, he said, you know, at some point you just stopped and walked away from the blackboard and looked and said. Do you guys realize that everything I’ve told you since you’ve walked into this classroom the very on the very first day was a lie? I mean, no, that’s not true. My name is Dr. So-and-so. That’s true. But after that, everything else I’ve told you is a lie. And they were like, we paid a lot of money to be in this class. It’s like he’s like, what I’m telling you is the truth that you need right now. I’m telling you enough truth to to to move your understanding forward and to help you with with what’s going on and with what and a better understanding of the world. And if you take another science class next year, we’re going to tell you more. And if you decide to become a graduate student, we’re going to tell you more. If you decide to be like me and do this stuff for a living, then you’re going to learn more. But right now, I have to tell you, in all honesty, I don’t know the answer to how this thing works. There are still pieces of this that we’re trying to, as a scientific community, figure out, as our scientists will sometimes lapse into that kind of conversation with the public, which is a little self-defeating because if you don’t know anything. Why do I have to believe you? Evolution is real. Yeah. We might not know exactly how everything works. And there are some some rough edges and some things we’re still figuring out. But that’s OK. We can still tell you the truth, that evolution is real and you need to be able to appreciate that and what that’s done for us to know what progress we’ve made since the Renaissance, when when science really kind of took off over the past 600 years or so, we have made more progress than we have in the hundred thousand years that preceded. And that’s science. And we need to have an appreciation of that in our culture, that that’s what science that that that way of looking at the world will do for us. And where we’re now currently in this culture, where we can’t even agree on a on a subject, on an objective reality, I don’t know what that what that does for our next generation. I think we’ll still have our scientists. But, yeah, you know, it was, you know, back in the 60s, Kennedy said, you know, that we’re going to the moon. And it really created all sorts of scientific and technological boom for our society. And there was this sense of pride in our society. We were going to do it now. It was largely political. His motivations probably were much less scientific than political. But still, we said a big scientific goal. And I wish that we had something like that going on right now. I don’t I just don’t feel like we’ve had it since I’ve been alive, honestly. Yeah. This this experience of the whole of our society was was looking towards and the geek with the pocket protector who was figuring out how to get the ship to the moon would have been revered. The astronauts more so. But still, that guy was like helping us.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:27:22] And you don’t see that nowadays. You don’t you know, the kids who are good in school and that are academically inclined. Those are the nerds. Those geeks, those are the ones to be ridiculed. And why is that? Why do we allow that to happen? Why do we why are we not talking to our children and adults about, you know, having that confidence, like you said, to, you know, be that person who’s going to be a good person, who’s going to have that emotional intelligence to to interact in a society, but also this desire to be excellent, I think, where we’re really seeing that missing in American culture, that that those are not our grades of being revered. We’re revering other things. And it’s really interesting the way we see that and then also the way we don’t really teach media literacy. So from a literature, from a social perspective, we’re not we’re not teaching students to question. Right. Just because someone says something to you, how can you take apart spin and bias and and those sort of things? And so we teach that in our communication to us yourself. And so I’ve become really sensitive to to understanding the linguistics and the weight of words that we use. And so how are we portraying an opinion as fact is the audience is able to tease apart what is opinion versus fact. And so, you know, are we teaching our young people to question that and reason their way through using scientific method to assess statements of validity?

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:28:50] And so that’s where I consider that part and parcel with scientific literacy that I’m sure you guys are digging in deeper and giving people very specific tools that they can use in that specific context. But it is an application of scientific literacy. And I think if you appreciate that notion of we live in an objective reality and you can ask questions, and if the story doesn’t doesn’t, you know, match with the questions that you’re asking, then that that gives us pause to believe that story. You know, sure. This notion of of not taking something on authority is is very important. It’s an easy shorthand to take things on on authority. But at some point when things get get important enough, you have to understand that, that was just the shorthand, and if you’re starting to run to to run into any kind of trouble at all, that’s the very, very first assumption that you’ve got to go back and test. Hey, so-and-so said this to me. I believe so-and-so. OK, maybe you do. But should you did you believe that person? And that goes all the way down to, you know, someone like me. I have a doctoral degree and I’m out there as Dr. Strickland pontificating on something. I try to be respectful of the fact that I have this power and people are going to say, well, doctor knows more than I do. I try to be respectful of that. But you shouldn’t just believe what I say because I say you should think about it. Asked questions of me or someone else and and and figure out what it all means. So I’m definitely definitely.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:30:22] And those are the conversations you get to having graduate school that are that different from undergrad. Right. You’re going to tease these these masses of concepts apart and you’re going to have these these long discussions that you don’t have in the outside world. Yeah. And nobody sits around at a dinner party and wants to debate educational policy of the last 50 years with me,.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:30:41] The ones I like to go to they do.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:30:43] I want to make those friends. But yeah. And that community.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:30:50] But but and yeah. And those discussions you mentioned the. They lead to these unexpected places, the first time I heard and understood and appreciated the concept of if you want to understand someone’s motivations, follow the money. It was in graduate school in a history of science class. I don’t even remember the context, but we had one of our faculty members there. That was his thing. And it’s amazing. I mean, this is a big R-1 institution, University of Chicago, really top notch institution and the faculty there, they’re all supposed to produce, right, you know, produce and publish and all this kind of stuff. They actually had room on the faculty somehow for someone who just looked at context, looked at the history of science and things like that. And I took a seminar from him and it was just so much fun to sit there and kind of talk about these sorts of things, because, you know, we as we learn science, we embed some of the history of science in there. That’s part of the culture. But to really go into context, the way that he did it, is it something we do all the time. And so that was a lot of fun. And that was just one of those examples of something that I would not have necessarily thought that was going to happen in that class. But since then, I’ve I’ve always looked at, OK, where how is money flowing in this situation? And that helps you to understand things. I don’t remember where the quote came from, but we may have talked about in that same class this idea of it’s very, very difficult for someone to understand something when their job depends upon them not understanding a thing. You know, if you understand this thing now, you’re going to do your job differently or you don’t have to step away from your job or whatever it is. And if and if your livelihood is something that’s core to you, depends on you not understanding the thing. It becomes very, very difficult to expect someone to to do that.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:32:42] Yep. You’ve really got to understand that background, you know, context is everything, context, context informs your truth and what people are going to be open to.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:32:51] So, so. Well, let’s go back to what we talked a little bit about your dissertation. And we got into a long because one of these interesting conversations. Tell me, what was it like to wrap up that process with, you know, the kind of goosestep you through the whole thing you finish up, you defend. Congratulations, Dr. Sereno. And now what? What was next for you?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:33:13] It honestly felt like running off the edge of a cliff. You are you are nose to the grindstone. Three years. Just spend that. Next weekend is graduation. You’re in your outfit, your is there. And then there is nothing.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:33:29] So you really want from your defense to commencement, it was like there was no time in between a wow.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:33:34] That’s when you like to do. Yeah. So it was you there right. You were, you were, it was approved and then bam you’re just and it, you almost feel bereft at the end because this has been your identity and your how you have structured your life, your days for the past few years and all of a sudden it’s not there. So with all change there is great. Right. It is a you are grieving a loss. You are no longer a student. I have to go take this into the real world. And I don’t get to buy school supplies next semester and write that that idea of I now have Saturdays to go anywhere I want.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:34:12] Yeah, well, for a lot of my they don’t they don’t grieve that process, then that’s a big celebration. Right. It is one of my students that I’m still good friends with now. He said when I asked him what the best part of graduating and finishing was, he said Dr. Strickland I got my life back. It was like, yes, you know, I kind of think about this. If you’ve seen those Snickers commercials where they’ll have, you know, like Betty White or some old person or whatever, complaining, oh, I’m tired. I don’t want to whatever, whatever. And, you know, this big burly football player says. Here you have a Snickers bar and you take the body of a Snickers bar and all of a sudden you’re a big football player. I think that’s what the dissertation is like for for a lot of folks. If you’re not you when you’re working on your dissertation and that’s what you want to be doing and you know why you’re doing it and you have a motivation to do it. But but you get you back basically when when you finish.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:35:09] Yes. Yes. And then people aren’t asking you anymore when you’re going to finish. Yeah. Which is wonderful in conversations and then they’re really excited for you. And then there’s sort of this natural progression to what am I going to do next. A lot of people are job searching right. At the same time, they might be looking for that next move in their career. And sort of that’s a natural sort of hinge point for people to do that. In my program, I had a full time job, and so I didn’t have that pressure to now go find a job afterwards, which I think was a little bit easier for me.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:35:43] Now did you continue with that full time job? Or did you level up at that job or did you just wait until you were able to find another job so you can just switch tracks?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:35:52] Yeah. So I’m the kind of person I feel like I’m always job searching. I’m always open to those next opportunities and creating opportunities that will be out there. So I just graduated last year in twenty nineteen and so that first year was first year being done was really just, you know, accommodating my new normal. Right. This idea that I have weekends back and sort of that I joined the board of a couple of nonprofits, the National Institute of Social Media, et cetera, which is an organization down here in St. Pete. We work with former foster youth and pipelining them into higher ed. So I started doing some work there, but a lot more work into my My Advisor Says business and our Higher Ed Social community and just really being open to opportunities that are out there. I’m very thankful now during that I have a steady job that is not on the chopping block and a lot of a lot of universities, advising is really important. So I think our universities really invest in that. And I know that I am safe. I’m going to have a paycheck for the next year, which I think a lot of people don’t have that. So I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next. I’ve kind of always just taken the opportunities as those doors are open and and jump and have faith that it’s going to work out. So who knows? I have no idea what next year will bring, but I’m just going to keep doing good work and being of service to people and see where that takes me.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:37:16] Yeah, well, I think that that hits a couple of really important points. Number one, when you have a doctoral degree, you tend to have more opportunities available to you. So even if there is a cloudy job market, there’s that. The other is being of service to people. That’s what that’s the reason why, honestly. I started Dissertation Done is because so many doctoral students, they’re there, why and we talk about this a lot as being so important. What is your why why are you doing this? And there why is that? They want to help other people. They want to make the world a better place as hokey as that might sound. And we’re not talking about changing the entirety of the universe, but definitely whatever their corner is, however big or small that impact might be in terms of geographic scope, it’s making the world a better place. And I think that that’s a great way to helping those people that are there out there to help others I think is great. That’s where Expand Your Authority comes from as well, because it’s again, it’s about getting people to be able to give their gifts to other people in a in a way that, you know, if you want to help, but nobody knows who you are, you can’t have an influence. Yeah. So so I think those are two two very important things. Let me ask you, though, now that like you said, you’re still fairly new to this whole doctor thing. Have you found that people, new people that you meet and obviously with COVID it’s been a little bit different here, but have you found that new people you meet treat you differently? Because I think everybody that knew you when is like, OK, well, she’s still Kasandrea, but yeah, she calls herself doctor now. What about new people that you meet? How how do you find that they receive you?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:38:54] It’s really interesting. I think working in a university sort of you get to see the big kids table once you have your doctorate. That’s true. And so I think I think now things carry a little bit more. You know, bringing up things and proposals or undergraduate curriculum meetings or, you know, working on a policy here, working with foster youth, you’re seen as a bit more credible, which I like, because if you look at me, I look like I’m 12 and I. I work with undergrads all day. And so I can I can speak professor when I need to in Code Switch, but I am often talking to 18 and 19 year olds. And so the words I use, the tone of my voice, the way I dress is usually geared towards those 18, 19 year olds, not my 50 year old senior faculty. Right. And so learning how to make that code switch and going into meetings and and being seen as that subject matter expert is really interesting. And then in my coaching business on that, I deal with My Advisor Says there’s this there’s this sort of almost reverence that you get from these parents and these kids and like, oh, she knows what she’s talking about. I knew what I was talking about two years ago. Thank you for listening to me now.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.