GETTING TO KNOW YOU: GRACE ESTRADA, FROM STRUGGLE TO PROMISE TO PROFESSOR
How did you end up teaching Psychology?
My journey to teaching Psychology was not a straightforward one. I cannot say that I grew up planning to be a Psychologist. Even though I was raised in Toronto, Canada, mine was a stereotypical Asian household in which my siblings and I were encouraged to either go into medicine or engineering. I had grandiose plans to be a pediatrician and even volunteered for several years as a “candy striper.” All those plans were sidetracked when I ended up being a teen mom.
As a result, I actually consider being a parent my first career because I have been a mother literally my entire adult life. When I moved to California with my then-husband and two children, I had nothing more than a high-school education, no work experience, and, unbeknownst to me, no legal immigration status. I took classes at EVC at the urging of my parents and against my then-husband’s permission. Retrospectively, I see that I was extremely vulnerable like too many women in similar situations.
EVC will always have a special place in my heart because there were many people at EVC who mentored, supported, and helped me through a very challenging time in my life when I suddenly found myself an illegal immigrant and single parent just trying to survive. It was only because I had incredible professors who believed in me that I was even able to graduate from EVC summa cum laude in 2000.
Shortly afterward, I worked at Sun Microsystems as a UNIX System Administrator. When my job was outsourced, I trained to be a financial advisor. It did not take me long, once I worked in the industry, to realize that it did not suit me at all.
After much soul-searching, I realized that teaching others was what brought me the greatest joy in these disparate industries, whether it was about their computer systems or personal finances. This is what led me to go back to EVC and take the Psychology courses I needed to transfer to San Jose State University (SJSU) and complete my bachelor’s degree in psychology.
During this time, I remarried and became a mom to a beautiful baby girl. Just before I transferred to SJSU, I was in an accident that left me with three ruptured discs in my lower vertebrae. I was on crutches for six months and even had to use a wheelchair. With unwavering support from my husband, I graduated from SJSU with a 4.0 and was accepted into the Developmental Psychology Doctoral program at UC Santa Cruz on a Cota Robles Fellowship. Shortly after I started working at EVC as an associate faculty member, I completed my Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology.
What is your role at EVC now?