Stephanie Roeter, Class of 2006
Bio – Cashmere High School Career Spotlight
Stephanie M. Roeter, M. A. and Doctoral Candidate of Prevention Science, Washington State University
Current job title: Instructor and Research Assistant in the Department of Human Development at WSU
Description: I teach two classes at Washington State University, currently Middle Childhood and Adolescent Development, and Parent-Child Relationships. Although each semester is different I teach approximately 30 – 125 students in each class and we cover the theory and current research in the field of Human Development – which essentially aims to explain and predict developmental outcomes in the realms of physical, cognitive, and emotional wellbeing. As a research assistant, my real passion is using my knowledge base in human development, along with expertise in scientific research methods to study the efficacy of youth and family animal-assisted interventions, specifically those using equines (e.g., horses, donkeys, and mules) on positive youth development, and family environment in experiential learning environments.
The story of getting to where I am now is a little long, but interesting and unexpected. After working at a veterinary clinic during high school and then graduating, I set out to WSU intending to become a veterinarian myself. After a little less than a year as an animal science major, I was feeling like something wasn’t quite fitting and after some reflection and prayer made a big shift – and decided to pursue working in equine-assisted activities and therapies. This fit really well for me, because I’ve always appreciated how much I personally learned about “life” through caring for and working with animals. Because the target goal was to help people through interventions that had animals in them, I pursued a degree in Human Development. As I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development with a minor in Disability studies at WSU, I was introduced to the research lab of my now mentor, Dr. Patricia Pendry, who happened to be starting a now-famous research project on the effects of an equine facilitated learning program on child stress and social competence! What a perfect match. I then immediately began my graduate degree in Prevention Science, an integrative area of study that aims to identify and refine effective strategies and programs that prevent mental, emotional, behavioral, and physical health issues throughout the lifespan. As is common in most academic-focused graduate programs, my tuition and employment has been sponsored by the University through an assistantship in which I’ve held several positions – from violence prevention educator, human development instructor, and research assistant.
In addition to my education and academics at WSU, I have also been a certified therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International (PATH Intl.) since 2011, and am currently becoming certified as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. These are both certifications that do not require college degrees, just lots of quality horse experience and a passion for working with people.
My long-term career goal is to continue doing research on animal-assisted interventions, trying to answer questions of if, why, and how we learn from animals, particularly in organized intervention settings, and for whom? This could play out by pursuing a position at a University as a professor, or working with community outreach agencies that both aim to provide services and advance research and the translation of research to communities.
My most proud moment since high school so far has been the opportunity to put what I’ve learned to use through developing an 8-week family-level equine assisted learning program that’s currently being implemented in Longview, Washington by my colleagues and co-creators of the program in WSU Extension Services. It’s a project I have dreamed about for years and was finally able to produce and get running. My dissertation will be examining the impact the program has on family environment.
My (more than) one piece of advice: Recognize your strengths and what genuinely peaks your interest, and then really go for it. Take every opportunity to be curious, learn from those ahead of you, and give it all you’ve got. Most of all, don’t be afraid of mistakes or failure, we all fail at some point, and when you do, use that as valuable information on how to succeed next time.