26 Jan

A conversation with Janice Schaeffler, Associate Professor of Mathematics, First Year Studies

A conversation with Janice Schaeffler, Associate Professor of Mathematics, First Year Studies

Janice Schaeffler didn’t start college at age 18. Recognizing that she needed some time to mature and being good at math, she went to work in a bank. She then took a continuing education Table Games Dealer Course at Atlantic Cape Community College, and went to work dealing craps at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City.

Feeling that it wasn’t a viable long-term position, Janice worked full-time while enrolled as a full-time student in the college’s academic program, ultimately transferring to the four-year program at Stockton College of New Jersey. Her strong work ethic allowed her to pay her education and graduate with a 3.5 GPA as the only person in her family who went to college.

While at Stockton, she discovered the field of statistics and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Measurement and Statistics at Florida State University. The program geared students to work as analysts at educational testing services, but that didn’t interest Janice.

“I didn’t want to work in a cubicle the rest of my life, and a conversation with a professor led me to get my Post-Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration. I went on to serve as the Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Pace University in Manhattan, and then coordinated the women’s studies program at New College in Florida with special projects in Institutional Research,” she said.

In 2009 Janice came to Housatonic as the Director of Institutional Research. She also taught two statistics classes and tutored students after work. Former HCC President Dr. Broadie noticed how engaged she was with students, and encouraged her to teach full-time.

“I decided to make a career change and I loved it; teaching comes second nature to me. I would say that have a teaching style conducive to community college students. In my classroom it isn’t acceptable to say ‘I can’t do math’. To me, it’s like saying I can’t do music or art - everyone can do it, you just have to practice. Math is everywhere, and if you don’t know math, you get cheated,” said Janice.

“I work in the first-year studies department with students coming out of high school that often don’t have a very strong math background. I teach them to have a growth mindset where you use your brain like a muscle that you exercise and help them to see that mistakes are good, I change their thinking about math,” she said.

“I relate to students that are the first in their family to go to college and have no guidance. There’s a pressure to succeed. There’s a pressure to prove to yourself that you can make it, and there’s a pressure to financially support yourself too. Working a service job was great while going to school, but it was also an incentive to go to school so I wouldn’t have to work every weekend, evenings and holidays. I have a lot of empathy for our students that are working full time; I understand firsthand that it isn’t easy,” said Janice.

Janice’s favorite part of the job is helping students that feel they can’t pass a class to get to the finish line.

“When you watch them walk across that stage at graduation, there’s no better job in the world. Graduation is my favorite day,”

In addition to teaching five classes, Janice has sat on multiple committees at HCC, provided assistance with the Women’s Center and orientation, and currently runs the STEAM Club. Club members enjoy speakers, as well as online and hands-on research. In the past, Janice has taken club members on trips to the Discovery and Peabody Museums. Students have participated in physics labs at Yale, attended the Math Museum in NYC and examined sledge dredged from the harbor at the Maritime Museum. A highlight was a research trip in Hawaii.

Outside of HCC, Janice has been a Pecha Kucha storytelling presenter at the Barnum Museum, showing 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each on various topics. She lives in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport and during the season, you can often find her at the Black Rock Farmer’s Market.