An Interview with Research Associate Bernadette Doykos

I have a strong internet friendship going with today's bitch. I met Bernadette via East Nasty running club and we bonded over a shared aversion to running, but a shared passion of yoga, bracelets and top knots. Bernadette moved to Portland, Maine a few years ago, and our friendship transitioned from IRL to the World Wide Web. We exchange emails on a range of topics including, but not limited to:  day planners, Japanese pens, Dear Sugar, high-end lounge wear, and getting right with astrology.

In all of the years I've known Bernadette, I've never 100% understood what she does, or where the delineation is between her being a student and her being a teacher. That's okay, because turns out, no one knows! Here is what I do know, Bernadette attends more weddings than anyone I know, she's a fierce dancer, and she belongs to a legit lady coven. Meet today's bitch, Bernadette Doykos!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I'm a Research Associate in the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I thought for sure that I wanted to be a teacher, so I student-taught in New York City as part of something called The Urban Education Semester (in lieu of going to Costa Rica. Hey, 20 year old me, not sure if that was the best or worst decision). While teaching, I realized I wasn’t a great classroom teacher, due in large part to the need to adhere to testing focused curriculum. Our first graders developed some serious anxiety about filling in bubbles on standardized forms, which I felt took away substantially from the possibilities for learning. I became interested in all of the other ways students could connect with learning beyond a traditional classroom, so I've been pursuing those questions ever since.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I’m a liberal arts kid through and through, which is to say it’s hard for me to focus on just one thing at a time. I like drawing connections across the different spaces kids exist in each day (home, school, community), and considering how those experiences combine to impact students’ experiences and outcomes. I became especially interested in this line of work as I discovered the potential role for qualitative research, which is like listening to and telling stories. Breathing some life into the numbers is my favorite part.

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

I am still working on a PhD, but some things happened that made me want to be closer to my family. I found this job and applied on a whim… and here I am almost 2 years later!

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Don’t be afraid to ask for things; worst case, people will say no (this especially includes help).

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

These past few years, I’ve been failing a lot, mostly due to fear of failing. Make sense? Yeah, I know. But things stop me up and then I miss deadlines and then I feel anxious. Rinse. Repeat. I’m trying to be better about throwing things out there because I actually thrive when given feedback. Letting down a sense of nervousness that whatever I’ve produced isn’t worth someone’s time will help me to get the feedback I need… and help me to continue moving forward.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Read all of the news (that sounds more erudite than I truly mean it to be, as it is important to note that at least 37 minutes would be dedicated to USWeekly/People/Jezebel etc etc). Grow a money tree. Read books. Do more yoga. Let’s be honest, probably just watch more episodes of Gilmore Girls

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

When I taught my first class on my own at Vanderbilt, I (sort of) joked that my goal was to get compliments on my outfits on my evaluations. At the midterm, one student asked if I would take her shopping. I self-fived. But seriously, I think that my course evaluations are the things I’m most proud of. Across the board, they’ve been pretty great and I adore teaching and try to make it fun and meaningful for my students, and that means so much to me. 

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Usually Instagram, which I mindlessly one eye scroll before committing to opening the second eye. (Though a goal for 2016 is to kick my cellphone out of bed, which feels oddly like kicking a no good manpanion out of bed.)

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I am currently obsessed with spinning, so I try to hit one of those classes. The combination of seeing some friends, scream singing some pop music with no one realizing, and sweating abundantly feels like a good release after a long day. I also have recently become obsessed with podcasts, so I play those while bustling around in my apartment. Finally, in the last year, I’ve adopted one of my sister’s end of day habits and make a cup of Calming Yogi Tea with honey and milk that I drink in bed as I read or write and wind down.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

I am always juggling a ton of projects at the same time, so keeping them organized and making sure I don’t forget particular details is critical to their success. The good news is, this fuels my obsession with notebooks, pens, and planners. 

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

Well, at this point, most people think I’m done with graduate school since I’ve been enrolled for one trillion years, so it’s awkward when people call me “Dr.” or whatever (that will be awkward even if/when I obtain said degree) and I have to correct them. Also, a lot of people just really have no clue what I do and mumble when asked, which actually works perfectly for me. Maintains a little mystery.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I have recently re-watched Sex and the City, which is a totally different experience as a single lady in my 30s than it was as a gal in a long term relationship in my early 20s. Favorite snack:  hummus and… anything that can be used as a vehicle for hummus. Also, half popped popcorn from Trader Joe’s.

All photos courtesy of Bernadette Doykos

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Health Policy Director, Libby Thurman!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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