“Back to School”, Dr. Margaret Beier, Psychology

I was very undecided about what I wanted to do. I always knew that I liked learning and I liked learning about a lot of different things. I think I always anticipated that I would be in school forever and ever and ever. I remember asking my dad whether I could stay in school for the rest of my life, and he basically said, “Well, it might not be the best idea but you certainly could.”

I have a very strange career trajectory. When I went to college, I went to Colby College in Maine starting in 1984. I knew I was good at math and so I decided I was going to be a math major. I was a math major for about a year and then I also took French classes there. I decided that I would get my French requirement out of the way by doing a semester abroad in France. I went to France and I really loved it. I loved observing people. I loved the social science aspect of it, now in retrospect. I didn’t know that then. I loved the difference in cultures, loved observing people and just learning about different cultures. When I came back, I changed my major from math to French. I ended up going back and spending my whole junior year abroad. While I was at Colby, I lived in France for about a year and a half. Then it was really easy for me to get a French major because all I needed were a couple credits.

Of course, I had to call my parents and tell them that I was changing my major from math, which is maybe not directly marketable but certainly more marketable than French literature. They took everything in stride and were very accepting of everything. They allowed me to do a lot of exploration, which I really appreciated. But when I graduated from college, it was 1988 and the stock market had just crashed and the job market was similar to the way it is now. It was very difficult to get a job and I realized the French major was probably not a great idea because French people spoke French better than I did, and many of them spoke English better than I did too.

I got a job working at a large company in Minneapolis. I went back home, and I started as an executive assistant. I worked for somebody who was high up in this company. And I went through a lot of the market research for them and kind of combined my love of social science and human behavior and math. I became very interested in research, and I went back then to the University of Minnesota and took some research methods classes in psychology. I took some business classes as well and kind of decided that what I wanted to do was return to school eventually and get a PhD in psychology. And that’s what I did. I actually started graduate school in 1998, about 10 years after I graduated from undergraduate. I got my PhD in 2004. I was a non-traditional back-to-school student. I had worked for a number of years, and I think that helped me in terms of organizing my study time. I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any questions as to why I was there.