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June 2020 GPS Career Story: From AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow to Assistant Vice Provost

June 12, 2020
Graduate and Postdoctoral Success
Dr. Shannon Heuberger

Dr. Shannon Heuberger

Our first Graduate and Postdoctoral Success (GPS) Career Story will introduce Dr. Shannon Heuberger who received her MS and PhD in entomology and worked as an advisor for a United States Senator, developing her passion for all things policy. She has worked at UTSA since 2018 and is ready to share her story with you. If you think her story can’t help to shape your story, join us Thursday June 25 to hear how the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship helped to solidify her path. The STP fellowship provides opportunities (~3000/year) to outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about policymaking while contributing their knowledge and analytical skills to the federal policymaking process. To give you a little insight into what makes Dr. Heuberger tick and some details about her career path, she answered a few of our questions.

You’ve got ~ a minute or 350 words to give us your elevator pitch. Who are you? What are you all about?

I’m a higher education administrator and working mom, passionate about education, inclusive leadership, and urban farming (although the latter is a hobby at this point).  I started my career as an entomologist, and then took an unconventional career path, heading to Capitol Hill to serve as a Senate staffer. Ironically, that pivot out of academia is what got me into higher ed administration. After leaving DC, I returned to my alma mater, The University of Arizona, to serve as their Director for Federal Legislative Affairs, and later joined the Research office there. Now I work in Academic Affairs at UTSA as Assistant Vice Provost for Academic initiatives.

I love bringing people together from various backgrounds and perspectives to accomplish big-picture goals. My most exciting project to date was the launch of UTSA’s new College for Health, Community and Policy!

What was the most important thing that you learned about yourself during graduate school?

I learned that I’m an extravert and one of those oddballs who actually   likes   to spend more than half of my day in meetings, so I was on the lookout for a career path with a strong outreach component. Policy and administration proved to be a great fit! My PhD and research background are continually an asset, even though I’m not in the lab anymore. 

How did you transition from academic training into the workforce? What were the most important things you needed to learn that you didn’t get in your graduate school training?

I was able to transition to policymaking through a   AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. I just can’t say enough great things about this program—it changed my life! There was a steep learning curve going straight from the lab to Capitol Hill, but the AAAS provides training and a support network that really helps. 

What piece of advice do you WISH someone had given you when you were first starting out?

Don’t feel like you need to follow the same path as the other students in your program.  There are more careers out there for PhDs than is immediately obvious. If you have passions outside of your research area, there’s a good chance you’ll find a job that combines those interests and talents—helping you build a unique personal brand. Your graduate degree will be an asset wherever you go!

Dr. Shannon Heuberger presented her GPS Career Stories on Thursday June 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm. Although you missed the opportunity to ask her questions, you can still watch her Career Story at the Graduate School's YouTube Channel. To find out when the next Career Story will be held, check our calendar.