Breaktime: Amy Strayer sets goals for student achievement

During academic counselor Amy Strayer's first go-round as a UC Davis student back in the early 1970s, she chose an independent major in counseling. But after the reality of a tough job market discouraged her from working in that field, she dropped out of school, went to work and had a family.

Over the next 10 years or so Strayer worked in the Student Activities Office on campus and at a construction and development firm where she did bookkeeping. She performed well enough at the firm that her employer offered to send her back to school to study business. Despite the offer, the idea of being a counselor still gnawed at Strayer.

"I just get so much more energy out of working with people than with data or numbers," she said.

Strayer returned to UC Davis, where she began working at Student Special Services and studying psychology.

Strayer graduated in 1991 and started work on a master's degree in counseling at California State University, Sacramento. Six and a half years ago, she was hired as a counselor by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

In her office on the first floor of Mrak Hall, Strayer works with students to make sure they are on the right academic path toward graduation. She takes a special interest in working with re-entry students who must balance a number of responsibilities while earning their degrees.

"They'll say, 'I'll bet you've never seen this situation before,'" she said. Strayer then surprises the students by drawing on her own experiences of going to school, working and having a family.

She and her husband, Doug, live in Davis with their teenage children Elizabeth, a UC Davis sophomore, and Alex.

Strayer supplements her people work on campus with a number of service-oriented activities.

She is the adviser to the Prytanean Women's Honor Society, a student organization composed of high-achieving students interested in campus and community service. She has also led student retreats, taught Staff Development classes and facilitated diversity discussions.

For her commitment to students, Strayer was named Woman of the Spring Quarter by the Women's Resources and Research Center.

Center director Robin Whitmore describes Strayer as a "steady and wise presence" on campus. "She's just wonderfully devoted to students and to their development and success," Whitmore said.

Why do you work at UC Davis?

I like the stimulation of the university environment since it is a place of learning, growing, idealism and discovery. I'm not into the whole for-profit mentality.

What's your favorite part of your job?

I really like working with the students. I like the problem-solving part of it. It's very challenging and complex when you look at what students' lives are all about. I enjoy working with students who come into my office feeling so helpless and overwhelmed and who leave feeling they have options.

What's your least favorite aspect?

Sometimes I get a little bogged down in the paperwork and the details. But sometimes it gives you a feeling of accomplishment to get through them.

How do you relieve stress?

I exercise a lot. I'm totally committed to exercising three or four times a week. It helps my perspective, my outlook, my mental well-being. I go to step aerobics. I do the treadmill and I walk.

Where do you like to get away on weekends?

I really like Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. Anywhere in the Sierra. I get a lot of enjoyment out of strenuous hikes.

What's something about you that your co-workers would be surprised to learn?

The funny thing about it is, we are so close, I really can't think of anything.•

Media Resources

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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