Deanna Soper, Ph.D. - First Generation Faculty - University of Dallas

Deanna Soper, Ph.D. - First Generation Faculty - University of Dallas

Deanna Soper, Ph.D.Deanna Soper, Ph.D.

I was born in a poor suburb on the South side of Chicago, but at 6 my parents moved to a middle-class home in Crown Point, Indiana to escape the poor living conditions. After 12 years of education in Crown Point, I attended Tri-State University (now called Trine University) and majored in Biology and Science Education. Upon graduation, I obtained a job teaching high school biology at my Alma Mater, Crown Point High School. During my time teaching there, I went to graduate school in the evenings for a Master's in Business Administration. Although I ultimately decided not to pursue a career in business, that degree taught me that I am truly an educator and my passion is biology. Three years later, I began a Ph.D. at Indiana University (Bloomington) in the fields of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. In 2012, I graduated with my Ph.D. and over the next 4 years I had a number of different jobs including a postdoctoral position at the University of Iowa and a Visiting Assistant Professorship at Beloit College in Wisconsin. In 2016, I interviewed for a number of positions for tenure-track jobs. Although going into the process I laughed at the idea of living in Dallas, the university, expectations of the job, and the facilities that the university had would allow me to reach my professional goals. I also really liked everyone I met while on my interview and felt it would also be a great place to live and work. Fall 2016 was my first semester in this role and I have enjoyed it ever since, knowing that this is the right place for me. Throughout this journey, I had many stumbling blocks that I had to overcome and a number of them were quite higher due to the fact that I was a first generation student. For example, I never imagined that I would be able to obtain a Master's let alone a Ph.D., primarily because I didn't view myself as having the capability to do so. I was the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, so I thought I was done with being a student! But, life taught me that my true calling required me to obtain higher degrees. It took me longer to figure out how to do that because I had no one that I personally knew to ask questions of. As a result, I took every opportunity possible including three summer teacher workshops that enabled me to interact with research professors at major research institutions. It was those interactions and questions that I asked that helped to be my guiding light in the process. As a professor now, I always recommend to students to remain curious, ask questions of others, but more importantly of yourself. What is it that you really love? How can I get there? Who do I know that is already doing that job? If I don't already know someone doing that job, can I seek out that interaction? And, for those students who aren't first generation, and have parents who are already in careers, be open to helping your friends answer some of those important questions. If your friend doesn't have the means to travel and your parents are open to them coming along, invite them to come along (travel is such a great way to explore and discover one's self). If your friend needs to talk to someone in a particular field and one of your family members is already doing the job (or something similar) that they wish to do, connect them! Networking is possibly one of the most important skills to get you where you need to be (something else my M.B.A. taught me!). In the end, I think the most important thing is to remain curious, don't be afraid to ask the questions even if they are difficult to answer. And, as always, you have a home in my office! If you need anything, please let me know!