Commencement 22 Profile: Jayne Reimel studies how higher-education professional staff support and empower their students

Monday, June 27, 2022
Jayne Reimel

Jayne Reimel (she/her) earned her Ph.D. in Education, working with Dr. Sharon Conley. She received her B.A. in Chemistry from UCSB and fell in love with the campus, so much so that she has been working as a full-time staff member in the Office of Admissions ever since. Combining her academic and professional interests, her research currently explores the experiences of professional staff in a higher-education context, including the ways in which they support and empower college students to not just succeed at the university but to help dismantle inequitable institutional structures, too. Understanding how student success and empowerment is fostered across campus beyond the classroom helps to paint a more comprehensive picture of what forms of support are most beneficial for students and the ways in which we can maximize these forms of support.

GGSE: Tell us a little bit about your GGSE Ph.D. work.
Reimel: In a nutshell, my research focused on the workplace experiences of higher-education professional staff, including their relationships with college students. I wanted to better understand the different ways in which they support and empower students on campus and explore how their relationships with students are unique from the relationships students might form with their professors or peers. Through my research I was able to see how integral student connection is for professional staff and how supportive staff relationships can promote student retention, confidence, sense of belonging, and post-graduate preparation. My hope is that by better understanding the impact that staff have on positive student outcomes, we can advocate for more institutional resources and support.

GGSE: What led you to focus on the professional staff experience and relationships with students in higher education?
Reimel: My research is really grounded in my own professional experiences. I've worked on campus for about eight years now and I was drawn to this work because of incredible staff mentors that I had as an undergraduate student. When I started in GGSE, I noticed that there wasn't as much research exploring student-staff relationships when compared to student-faculty relationships. I wanted to try and address that gap and demonstrate the critical role that staff play on campus beyond their direct operational contributions. I wanted to see how staff, in a variety of roles, connect with and support students and how that ultimately influences their own working experience. Especially at a time when many staff are choosing to leave higher education nationwide, I wanted to address through my research how student support and staff working conditions are interconnected.

GGSE: How has GGSE impacted your passion for education?
Reimel: What I've loved about being both a student and staff member on campus is that I continually get the opportunity to connect the concepts and theories we share in the classroom with my working experiences. Being able to bridge my professional passions with my education and research has been so energizing and has really helped to reinforce why I love working in higher education and why working closely with college students is so fulfilling.

GGSE: What’s next for you?
Reimel: A whole lot of rest! I plan on taking a much-needed vacation to celebrate graduation (see photo from Costa Rica above). But I will still be working on campus at UCSB so I'm not going anywhere for now.

GGSE: Are there people at the Gevirtz School you would like to thank?
Reimel: Absolutely! My advisor, Sharon Conley, has been so supportive and I'm eternally grateful for all of her guidance. My dissertation committee also included Rebeca Mireles-Rios and Victor Rios and both were so encouraging throughout the process. They really helped me to sort out my ideas and find a way to connect them through my research. I also want to thank all of the great friends and classmates I've met throughout my time in GGSE. Especially when we were all remote, it was special to have a student community to lean on.