Living Your Educational Dreams with Dr. Kasandrea Sereno

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:40:05] But when your first time was doctor, the assumptions totally change. Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:40:09] That’s a huge motivator, honestly, for me to finish is is I wanted to be seen as that credible resource. Having 20 years of advisee experience is amazing, but parents want to see that credential. And so that trust now is a little bit more explicit, I think. And folks willing to take me take what I say with a little bit more weight.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:40:31] One of my students ended up after she got her doctoral degree some some time later, she ended up retiring. But you don’t stop living with me when you retire. You shouldn’t stop working. You should still have a purpose. And she stumbled upon this thing where she ended up teaching English as a foreign language to Chinese kids in China, remotely, online. And there’s a lot of people there’s no real credential for doing that. As long as you speak English, you’re good to go. So there’s a lot of people who wanted to do that. And she found she had as much work as she wanted. And she was like and I was like, well, you know, do you feel like your doctoral degree helped you? She’s like, are you kidding me? Those tiger moms want to be sitting in that tea shop saying, My kid is being taught English by an American doctor.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:41:23] That’s a lot of it. You know, I’m sure my mother in law loves to brag, you know? Yeah. My my daughter in law has, you know, it’s it’s I’ll let them. It’s great. I’m proud of it. And they’re proud of it, too.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:41:36] And there’s reason to be there’s no reason not to be. Yeah, but but yeah. That that reverence that you talked about, I think that’s important on two fronts. Number one, for those of you who are still working on your doctoral degree, it’s really cool you want to finish and get there. But number two, for those of you who are getting close to that credential or who’ve gotten there, make sure that you you hold the same reverence for your degree that other people will make sure that you’re being very, very clear when you’re talking to people. They’re going to be much more likely to believe what you say. We were talking about the problem of people accepting things on authority before. It is a good shorthand. OK, if if we spent our entire life questioning every single thing and if every single person in the population had to prove the gravity worked, we wouldn’t get a whole lot done. So we need some shorthand where people can kind of accept things. Yeah, but but when things are critical, we need to be able to question, however, what people do when they see that your first name is doctor. They tend to lower those those guards to to to to open up those filters and accept what you’re saying is true. So you have to be very clear on when you are telling them things, you know, and when you are conjecturing and be very, very clear on knowing the difference because people often won’t. And you have to be clear about it.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:42:57] And I think, too, it’s it’s really interesting. Some of the first advice I got when I when I finished and I went out, I updated my business cards and I updated my email signature and some some mentors that I had in the field. The first thing I said was take the doctor out of your signature.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:43:14] Really?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:43:14] And I was like, what? Like, I just earned it. I paid a hundred thousand dollars. That is, I would like those two letters, a lot of money for them. And they were like, no, that’s that’s just not what you do. It’s seen as gouche like, you just can’t do it. And and we saw this with with Jill Biden. Right. To she as a community college teacher. And I don’t know if this is a female thing being a woman in your in your industry or or whatever. But I it was really it was it was a it was a moment of reflection. I think that I do I use my title in and where I want to I say, Dr. Sereno, do I say Kasandrea Sereno, Ed.D. You know how to I phrase that. Yeah. And I think that’s something that everybody is going to have to figure out for themselves. I didn’t have it in my Twitter bio or there was that call to, you know, put your. Your Twitter bio, so now mine says not that kind of doctor, which is kind of tongue in cheek, but but yeah, really owning the space that you exist and and that your journey has value to the world and. Yeah. And not letting someone minimize your value that you’re bringing to them just because your work might not be as educational scholar like this, that it really is that a thing that we need. And it’s like you have to you have to have that internal fortitude yourself to be able to say, yes, what I do is valuable. My purpose is valuable. This is my passion. This is my why, and I’m going to live my truth in the most authentic way that I can.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:44:45] So I think that the folks that were telling you to take that out of your your signature line, these were university faculty members. So there it’s expected that you’re going to have your doctoral degree, essentially.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:44:57] Yeah.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:44:57] And I know you were like, oh, you I’m finally a doctor. I want to I want to make sure that everybody knows and they’re probably all like we know because we had to make sure that we were treating you with your big boy pants, Big Girl pants until you got your doctoral degree. And now we don’t have to do that anymore. And we all know. But the point is, there it was considered it was normal. It was. That’s part of the culture. My take is for most of our students don’t work in the university saying they’re not in academia, they’re not meant to be researchers. So I know there are people who work in a university setting. They’re not researchers, but administrators and other things. But my take is when you are working professionally. We should always let people know about that, that credential should always let them know that you’re Dr. So-and-so because like you said, there’s a reverence attached to that. There’s instant credibility. It’s something that you it’s in a real sense, it’s the big reason why you did this thing is to get that respect your recognition. And so I would absolutely include it there. Me personally, I try not to use it hardly at all outside of professional, because then I consider that to be a little ostentatious. And, you know, you don’t need that all the time. But I think I might have mentioned is on the podcast before it can work in personal situations. There was when I was in graduate school, my college roommate is getting married and his his parents flew me down from Chicago back to North Carolina and I had to get the rehearsal dinner. And I’m going to stand up at the wedding. And my hotel room wasn’t ready. And his mom was paying for it because I was, like, poor and she was there. And the lady at the desk was trying to tell her why I wasn’t ready yet and everything. She’s like, listen, he’s really is running late. We’ve got to get him a spot light to change. Is there a room that you can put him in so you can change and leave the stuff there and then you can get his room right and we’ll move back later on. And the person is kind of exasperated. And she said, you know, this wasn’t her name. She said, Mrs. Jones. You have to understand. She didn’t get to say anything more before Mrs. Jones said. That’s Dr. Jones.She said she ran the Education Department at the local university and said she was very unassuming, very nice lady, everything she said that the person at the desk immediately like, I’m sorry, Dr. Jones, let me go get my manager. And I was like, what the hell just happened here? How does that have anything to do with my hotel room. But but I filed that away on a little mental Rolodex. So if I have to if I have to use that at some point, that’s available to as well. But again, it’s about being respectful of that title for you, being respectful of your own title. You don’t want to abuse it. That’s just my take. You get everybody gets to make you know, we’re all adults. You get to make your own decisions. But I would certainly advise people to use it professionally and to use it very judiciously, meaning essentially not to use it personally. But that’s just my take.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:47:57] Yeah. For sure.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:48:02] What was the name of it again. My adviser.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:48:06]

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:48:07] There we go. Tell me more about that because that that sound sounded interesting. We were talking earlier.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:48:12] Yeah. So I started this company in twenty thirteen after I had been an adviser at the community college level and then also the university level. And what I was seeing was students really lacked someone to give them credible advice at the beginning.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:48:29] They and these are students. What does that mean. Because we have students. I got 50 and 60 year old students. So who are your students?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:48:37] Yes, so at the community college, our students range the gamut. They were all working on undergraduate degrees. They might be traditional 18, 19 year olds right out of high school. They might be adults that were coming back to school a lot of the time.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:48:50] Were these people all working on degrees. Or was there a segment that was also doing this, just an advocation, later in life. And I just want to take a class or two or something like that.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:49:02] Less of those because they were really the ones coming in for advising. Got it. So who I was looking at were people who wanted a degree or certificate in some way, either an associate’s degree or an associate of science or a professional certificate. And they were coming to advising to figure out how to schedule this sort of life plan. What is this going to look like? And they were, by and large, at the mercy of the advisors at that university. Right. And those advisors weren’t knowledgeable or knew what their job or just didn’t care. Yeah. They were getting bad advice. And so they were getting advice from the radio or from these television advertisements, from these scam for profit universities. And they were paying money in time for credits that weren’t worth anything. And by the time they got to me and I was explaining to them, you know, sort of how this works and no, we’re not going to accept those credits. And I’m sorry you paid forty thousand dollars for that degree, but it’s worthless. They would break down. They would. What do you mean? I spent all of this time and money and there really wasn’t a lot of outside credible resources for them to turn to.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:50:06] So as a quick announcement, as a public service announcement. If you are in that boat where you’re going to school and you don’t know where you’re wanting to do it online or something like that, but lots and lots of credible schools out there, what you need to check for is to make sure they are regionally accredited. Depending on your degree, you might want to have other types of accreditation, specific professional accreditation or something like that. If that applies to you, you probably know about it. For those of you who don’t really know how this works, regional accreditation is the highest level of accreditation. There are universities that are nationally accredited and those might be fine places, but. Those credits, as a rule, will not transfer to a regionally accredited school. So what do I mean by regionally accredited school? Anything that says state you in the title is a regionally accredited school, almost guaranteed Harvard and Chicago and Stanford. And all of the really top tier schools are all regionally accredited. But that’s the thing. If there’s just one thing you can do to make sure that your degree is going to be worth something, make sure that your school is regionally accredited and you can check you can do a Google search on regional accreditation. There’s like I don’t know if, you know, offhand documentaries like subregions. Is that what we have?

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:51:18] Seven in here in the United States? Here in Florida, you might hear sex as a as a anywhere Southern Association of colleges and schools.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:51:26] There’s the Higher Learning Commission, I think handles the Midwest and there’s one out West. And yeah. So just look, if you Google regional accreditation, you should find good information and make sure that your school, if you really don’t know, make sure you go to the regional creditor’s website and find your school on it. If the regional accreditation website says that your school is accredited by their school, by their institution, by their commission, then you’re good. Your degree will be worth something at that point.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:51:55] So just to sit here and talk to your people at your school, you know, this and accreditation like that is something a school is proud of. So if you’re going to your advisor.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:52:04] But the school can lie to you. I mean, if that’s what they want to do is just to get you in and turn a buck or something like that. If you’re really dealing with scummy scammy school, then they won’t tell you the truth. That’s why they go to the regional accreditation websites, the first Google regional accreditation that should tell you the the institutions and commissions that do it. And there’s I think it’s seven. Don’t quote me on that. I don’t remember for sure, but it’s about that many. And then wherever your school is physically located, you’ll go to that region, you’ll go to that that that accrediting bodies website and you’ll see, is my school listed on there? If so, you’re in good shape. If not, you need to find out from them why and don’t accept anything other than OK. Here’s where we’re listed on that website. Maybe they’re in a different region than you thought they would be. And that’s OK. Honestly, there’s only about seven of them. So you can check every one of the websites to see if your school is there. And once you find it, then you’re good.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:52:59] Yep. So if you actually go to, the U.S. Department of Education lists all of those. You can see every single possible accreditation that’s out there. You can see those accrediting bodies and who counts for what? There’s tons of stuff on the Department of Ed website. And and that should be that should be a red flag for you if you’re talking to your school. And they’re they’re cagey about what kind of accreditation they had. Can’t find it on their website. That’s a red flag accreditation, something a university or college is proud of. And they should definitely be able to say, oh, yeah, we’re accredited by these people. Should be very easy to find that information.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:53:37] And it’s not going to be like they don’t know about it because they work really, really hard to be accredited. Even the completely legit, you know, Harvard sweats over the accrediting body come in.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:53:48] Every five years. They have to they have to be accredited. And. Yeah, and what that means is those teachers are meet or exceed a level of standard at the coursework that you’re going to take meets or exceeds the level of standards that that you’re paying for an education that meets or exceeds those benchmark standards.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:54:06] Which is good from a, you know, sort of a consumer standpoint. But what you also want to know when we talk about your degree being worth something, it means that degree is going to be accepted at other institutions. So if you get your bachelor’s degree and you want to get a master’s degree, you don’t want to walk into your your graduate school and have them say, oh, no, you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. That doesn’t count, you know, how much work you did, how much you paid for it. It’s irrelevant. You may have gotten a good education, but if you’re going to get the credential, you want to make sure it’s from a regionally accredited institution. That’s just so, so important. And I don’t know about the Department of Education’s website, what they say on there. I imagine they talk about lots of accreditation standards. So, again, don’t don’t be confused by the fact that there are some really interesting professional, you know, special sounding accreditations out there.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:55:02] And they’re not worth anything.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:55:03] Not necessarily. It’s the regional accreditation that you want to make sure you have. And then if you need something more than that, because you’re a psychologist or you’re doing something in a business school or something like that, you will know what additional accreditation you’re looking for. But make sure you have that to begin with accreditation. So anyway.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:55:22] That’s a big one. And I was seeing students really take getting taken advantage of. And I didn’t think that was fair. So that could have been me walking into a university advising office and, you know, getting told, no, I can’t do this or this program is not going to work or it’s going to know getting bad advice. And I want to taken that as cannon. Right.

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:55:41] That when it goes back to our previous discussion of. Out being a critical consumer of information, being scientifically literate, the fact of the matter is you need to know what does it mean? What does it mean for a school that to have a good degree and you cannot believe me, you can go do some research on it. But I’m telling you, start there with that notion of regionally accredited in the United States. If people are listening to this elsewhere, we’re talking about how the education system here, it works in the U.S. but and I can’t give you any advice if you’re somewhere else, because I just don’t know. But in the U.S., that’s how it works. And start there. That’s where your research should start.

Dr. Kasandrea Sereno [00:56:15] Definitely. And I wanted to help these students. Understand sort of how the educational landscape works, because as a consumer product, education is sort of shrouded in veiled in mystery, right? The admissions process for college is sort of murky. No one knows exactly how it works or sort of the chance you got to do transcripts and test scores. But then people are judging you and the ranking you. And it’s right in no other consumer product. We treat consumers this way. Right. If you were to go buy a car and you went to Hyundai and they didn’t let you look under the engine, you probably wouldn’t buy the Hyundai. Am I allowed to buy a holiday? And I like to buy a Cadillac. I don’t know if no other consumer product we’re putting in this time and money are our consumers not able to access this information. So I really wanted to be that intermediary point person to say, here’s how the process works. Let’s talk about your goals, your why, what you want to get out of this. And then let’s talk about what’s going to be a good fit for you, because you know, what makes a school good or rankings or best is completely relative, depending on the student. Right. Harvard is not necessarily the best school. It snows in Boston for me. I don’t want to live where it snows and that hurts my face. So Harvard wouldn’t have been the best choice for me, even though they have amazing programs. Right. I wasn’t going to be happy there. Right. Nashville, much less snow. Much happier. I liked it. It was it was just a better fit. So I wanted to help my students find that good fit. I mentors, you know, sort of think about with the end in mind. If I want this career, what are the jobs that are within that and what are the credentials I’m going to need to get there. So it’s been fantastic. I work with a lot of middle school and high school students preparing for sort of that application process. But then we also work on the other side working with undergraduates, maybe are transferring or shopping a different major or are just completely lost in the process and don’t know where they want to go. And then we also work with those who have finished undergrad and are looking at do I go to the career side? Do I apply to law school? Do I have items for what’s out there? Is not the student you know, earlier this morning work on her medical school application essays. She’s almost an undergrad. We’re looking at this program and that that that application process was really needy. And so working with them to how do they put their best foot forward in their application materials. So we do a lot of that. We also connect students to mentors in professional industries. We get them connected to peers and colleagues that I know from being in the Chamber of Commerce in our area and and helping them with shadowing and informational interviews to really be as if you had an older big brother, big sister or aunt or uncle in work in college that would guide it and hold your hand and explain things to you. I think every student deserves to have an advocate in their corner who can do that for them. And not every university or college has the resources to provide that for all students. I know my high school didn’t. We had one college advisor from three thousand students and so that personal attention wasn’t going to happen. And so I do a lot of work with them. We do work with with students and families directly. I work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I do a lot of work with our foster youth in our group homes here in our area. And so we just want to provide as much information as possible to the students so they can make that informed decision. We’re not we’re not made reading your essays for you. We’re not doing your applications for you. We’re not you know, I think a lot of people look at educational consultants and they think, oh, the Lori Loughlin thing. Yeah, yes. That’s the thing. That’s that’s a special subset. But, you know, my degrees in education, my career is in education. I’m a scholar of education. This is what I do because I enjoy it and I’m passionate about it, not because it’s going to make a million dollars and give me a mansion. I don’t have a mansion. I have lots of student loan debt from graduate school. And, you know, if I never make a million dollars, I’m fine with that. As long as I help people get to I want to pay it forward. I want to help. That kid was coming from the trailer park, wants to change their life experience and their outcomes. And if I can do it, if I can end up with a doctorate from Vanderbilt. Right. I can teach anyone else how to do it. It’s just paperwork, paperwork and so.

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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.