By Kevin Murphy
If you are looking for ideas on what it takes to be successful in college and beyond, Ed Doran holds the keys. Doran recently retired from his full time duties after 20 years at PCC. He spent the last 10 years of his career as an educational support counselor at the Downtown campus, and remains an adjunct instructor for the STU 210 University Transfer Strategies course, which helps students make the transition from PCC to a university.
Amy Davis, who works at the department for student success courses at Pima Community College, has nothing but good things to say about Doran.
“Ed is a wonderful Student Success faculty member who cares deeply about his students’ success in his courses and in their lives,” says Davis. “ He recognizes that Student Success courses are about behavior changes in learning and career and personal transitions and support.”
When talking with Doran, he makes it clear that properly scheduling time for school, homework, and life are all essential for college success.
“Poor time management is by far the biggest issue I see with many students,” says Doran. “Taking time to build a weekly planner, and even more importantly, a semester planner, to list class days, times, assignment due dates, test dates, etc., along with an allocated amount of study time, will help keep you on track.”
Doran points out that identifying their strengths and challenges helps students achieve success both in college, and beyond.
“Some students may know very well what their strengths and challenges are, but getting feedback from others is useful too,” Doran says. “Ask friends and family what they think your strengths and limitations are. I’m also a firm believer in taking career assessments to measure this. Pima’s career counselors can really help with going through the results to help identify career options that are a good fit.”
What Doran believes students neglect the most in the process of transferring to a university is inadequate time management and overlooking tuition costs.
“Transferring to a university is a multi-step process. I believe students often fail to research a school’s admissions process and timelines,” Doran says. “Missing a deadline can result in a fee, or worse, having to delay transfer for a semester. Adequately planning for the increased cost of tuition is often overlooked by students, resulting in far too many having to rely on student loans.”
Robbie Habtetsion relies on the effective student success strategies that he learned from taking Doran’s student success course at PCC (STU 210UA). He is currently finishing his last semester in the accelerated Master’s program at the University of Arizona, where he is majoring in public administration.
“He gave a lot of good advice; he really went out of his way to make sure that people understood that getting yourself networked, applying for scholarships, being aggressive about it, and just staying on top of it, and I actually took that to heart,” Habtetsion says. “I’m gonna put it this way: if I did not take that class, I would be totally in debt right now.”
Habtetsion keeps a calendar of all the yearly scholarships that might be available for him, and checks it once a week. He meticulously applies for each scholarship by the given deadlines, using a generic essay template that he revises for content depending on the scholarship he applies for.
“At that point I didn’t have any student loans, and my goal was to try to graduate with the least possible debt,” Habtetsion says.
The hard work in tracking down and applying for any scholarships has paid huge dividends for Habtetsion.
“I managed to finish my undergrad last year with zero debt. I think I’ve won about 15 scholarships now at this point,” says Habtetsion.
Habtetsion has fully embraced Doran’s advice to seek scholarships as a way to ease tuition costs. He is adamant about the importance of working internships that give students experience in their future career.
“Get involved in as many internships as possible, that is huge,” says Habtetsion. “Because I did a total of seven before I finished my undergrad.”
While Doran focuses heavily on time management and costs, he is also enthusiastic about the notion that the overall college experience prepares students for everyday life.
“I would hope that the earned degree will help students to become better citizens of this planet. A college experience exposes students to a diverse population of other learners, teaches them critical thinking skills and the ability to listen to the opinions of others, drawing conclusions only after researching multiple perspectives,” says Doran. “The college experience in general allows us to embrace those differences as a strength, not weakness, of our humanity.”
In regards to career goals, Doran lends some solid advice for students: follow their aspirations.
“I’m reminded by something Steve Jobs said to the graduating class of Stanford University during a truly moving commencement speech he gave,” Doran says. “One of the things he said was, ‘keep looking until you find what you truly love – don’t settle.’. He wasn’t talking about being a perfectionist, but rather failing to pursue what you truly love, whether it is relationships or your career. If you want something, do whatever you have to in order to achieve it. Live without regrets.”
When asked if he would change anything in terms of career preparation if he were to go back to college, Doran’s answer seems to be a warning for those taking the easiest route laid out in front of them.
“I returned to college after 25 years in the hospitality industry, and earned my counseling degree. What I would change is not having waited so long to pursue making that change,” Doran says. “I enjoyed working in restaurants, but never really took the time to think about what I really wanted to do as a career. The longer you are in a field, the harder it is to switch directions.”