Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Jean Stirling
Counselor Jean Stirling, who grew up in Burbank, CA, describes herself as "a lucky Southern California escapee." She was counseling and teaching dance and career courses part-time at Cuesta College (CC) when she decided to apply for a counseling position at Mendocino College (MC) "on a lark." Having visited Mendocino County on camping vacations, she thought, "Who wouldn't want to live in such a beautiful place?" She expected a local person to get the job, but gave it a try anyway, and was pleasantly surprised when she was offered the position. She has been a full-time counselor and coordinator of the College and Career Success classes since July, 2000.
Stirling began her academic career with an Associate of Arts (AA) degree in medical assisting from Los Angeles Pierce Community College, in Los Angeles, CA. She then moved on to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Social Science, and a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Education, with an emphasis in counseling. She worked full-time as an advisor and admissions officer at Cal Poly until, in her early 40's, she boldly quit her job and went to Mills College to study dance. "I had always wanted to earn a degree in dance," she explains, "but it was not until my early 40's that I finally had the finances - and the artistic courage - to move by myself to a large city, like Oakland, to focus on dance."
Stirling believes most people would be surprised to know that she has a master's degree in dance from Mills College and has choreographed and taught many dance classes at both Cuesta and Mendocino Colleges. She took on most of the leadership of the MC dance program during Leslie Saxon-West's sabbatical.
As a counselor, Stirling enjoys the fact that "every student is like a new book." She feels humbled when they trust her with their stories and their dreams. She says she loves seeing students earn their degrees, "finally feeling confident enough to do what they really want to do with their lives." Graduation day is one of her favorite days of the academic year.
Stirling describes her counseling style as "a coach: encouraging students, supporting them, and being their advocate." She says career counseling is her favorite, because she gets to "help students go after their dreams."
Stirling's background includes working as a medical secretary and back-office assistant in Burbank, and as a paid Girl Scout Outreach leader for three troops in Oakland. (She taught the Girl Scouts folk and African-Brazilian dances.) She traveled throughout California recruiting students for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; and while at Mills, she traveled in the Western states recruiting students for the small women's college. One of her travel adventures was becoming stuck in a flash flood in Houston, Texas!
Stirling says she is passionate about expressing herself through collage, book arts, movement and music. She also enjoys learning Spanish and studying other cultures, especially through travel. She recently traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico, with a small group organized by Spanish professor, Susan Janssen.
In her free time, she loves to read, watch independent films, travel, walk with her dogs, and "make art." When she "wins the lottery" (and retires) she'd love to start up a dance studio devoted to multi-cultural dance - sort of like a SPACE studio for adults.