Growing up in communist Poland, Joanna Jezierska faced a number of challenges. Today the director of the multicultural program for engineering, sciences, allied health sciences, community health sciences, and nursing in the office of diversity initiatives, she says she is glad her job at UNLV provides her the opportunity to give back to the Southern Nevada community that has given so much to her and her family.
Why are you at UNLV?
UNLV is my alma mater ('09 Ph.D. Educational Leadership), and it is here I had my first position after moving to Nevada 10 years ago. I met fantastic people and mentors, and made quite a few friends. Love UNLV for its growth potential, research opportunities, and diverse community.
Where did you grow up?
What drew you to your field?
There are two reasons I became an educator: freedom and an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. When I was a little girl growing up in a communist country, my grandmother used to say things like: "Stay at school as long as you can. Education will give you freedom." I remember she always mentioned to me that things I own could be taken away from me, with the exception of how much I know. The more I knew, the better I could become, and have better chances to survive and be successful.
Secondly, I like helping people. As an educator, it is my responsibility to educate and to share the best practices and my knowledge with others. There is nothing better than to see someone you helped succeeding in life.
What is a misconception people have about your field?
I work with and for minorities and underrepresented students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and health-related disciplines. I meet people who still think I make exceptions for these students, and give them things for free. There is no such a thing. These students pursue majors and subsequently professional careers in rigid sciences; they work very hard for who they become.
There are a lot of talented and deserving students out there, and my role is to find them, attract them to careers currently in high demand worldwide, bring them to UNLV, connect them with our faculty members and community workforce partners, and equip them with necessary skills and support services, so they can finish degrees on time and hopefully have a job upon graduation. Nevada, and particularly the Las Vegas community, has a lot of needs and room for improvement.
Finish this sentence: If I weren't able to work in my current field...
I would want to be a landscape architect.
One tip for success
Clear goals and a lot of determination. It's your life, your investment. Respect it. Never give up.
What has been the proudest moment of your life?
Being a mother to my son and earning my doctoral degree.
Tell us something people would be surprised to learn about you.
I used to be a gymnast, and I am extreme introvert. From gymnastics I learned how to win and lose, and how to work as a team member. As an introvert, I use a lot of energy while working with people and fulfilling all the responsibilities of my professional roles. As a result, it takes a lot of quiet time at home to recharge my batteries, so I can come back the next day and do it all over again, and again.
Who is your hero and why?
I admire quite a few people. Two heroines are closest to my heart -- my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother, who shaped my mind and made me a strong woman, survived a labor camp in Siberia, World Wars I and II, and communist Poland. My mother, despite many obstacles and challenges, opened my horizons and let me take risks, so I could be fearless.
Pope John Paul II and Albert Einstein are also on my list. I don't think they need introduction. I consider them beautiful minds.
What are your hobbies?
Besides being passionate about my career, I am very busy person in my private life. I love sailing with my husband, reading, hiking with my son, making my own jewelry, gardening, restoring antique furniture, and I do love animals, including my German Rottweiler, Schatzi.