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Q&A with Jocelyn Tejeda, Senior EOP Counselor

Q&A with Jocelyn Tejeda, Senior EOP Counselor

Posted: September 24, 2019

Every year, about 200 new students enroll in the Educational Opportunity Program at Buffalo State College, where they receive counseling, tutoring, and assistance with transitioning to college, all in order to help them be successful. 

Students chosen for the program have shown the capacity to be successful in college but face disadvantages—financial, academic, or both—and need some extra support. For Jocelyn Tejeda, ’06, a senior EOP counselor, working with EOP is “near and dear” to her heart. Tejeda is an EOP graduate herself. She recently sat down with the Marketing and Communications Office to explain why she does what she does.

Q. As a native of the Bronx, how did you end up in Buffalo?
I did my undergraduate work at the University at Buffalo. I majored in business, international business. During this time, I was very involved with student organizations and clubs on campus and loved all the student interaction. As I approached my senior year, I realized I did not want to go back to New York City or work in a corporate setting. Luckily, I had a mentor, Vicki T. Sapp, who was also an EOP alum and understood some of the challenges I was having. I shared with her my passion for working with college students, and she suggested I look into the field of higher education, and think about graduate school.

Q. What’s your graduate degree from Buffalo State in?
I completed my master’s degree in student personnel administration, which is now known as the higher education and student affairs administration program at Buffalo State, and I haven’t looked back since.

Q. After getting your graduate degree at Buffalo State, where did you go?
I’ve worked at several institutions. I worked at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where I spent a few years doing work in residence life. While there, I became the associate director for the ALANA Center. I then went to Rutgers University, where I did a lot of work in student leadership, women’s empowerment, career readiness, and program planning. 

Q. How did you make your way back to Buffalo State?
I moved to Buffalo to be closer to my partner and take on a temporary position in Residence Life at Buffalo State. Ten months turned into five years, and it’s been great working in EOP as an alumna giving back to my students.  

Q. How long have you been working in the EOP office?
I’ve been with EOP since the summer of 2016.

Q. Why did you want to work with EOP students?
Because I was that student. As an EOP and first-generation college student, I did not know how to navigate the college application process, let alone college itself. My EOP counselor, faculty, and staff who were invested in me helped me succeed and graduate. My life circumstances contributed to my lack of preparation and knowledge, but they did not define who I was or where I would go in life. EOP believed in me and gave me the chance to reach my maximum potential and thrive. They taught me how to advocate for myself and seek support, and they shared resources with me that would help me develop personally, socially, and academically. EOP is invested in the whole student. I’m so grateful for EOP, because without it, I think my journey would have looked very different. The program felt like home, with people who understood my story, challenged me with love, and cheered me all the way across the graduation stage. I want to help students work through challenges and succeed as well. As a department, our goal is to give our students the tools they need to succeed, whether it’s by participating in our EOP Summer Academy programs, connecting with our academic mentors via the Academic Center for Excellence, or celebrating their achievements through our annual EOP Honors Convocation event.

Q. Does your background help you relate to students?
Absolutely. I believe my experiences in coming from a low-income background, where education was the way out, helps me relate. My parents immigrated to this country from the Dominican Republic wanting to create a better life for my siblings and me. We grew up in a neighborhood where poverty and violence were prevalent, yet we were instilled with the message that education and our values were key. I grew up in New York City, so going away to school and being away doing everything on my own was overwhelming sometimes. I had to figure out how to make good decisions, support myself financially, and sometimes questioned whether I belonged as a young Latina from the South Bronx at a large institution, more than 400 miles away from home. I believe these experiences have helped me understand my students better and have equipped me with the skill set needed to support them in their college journey.

Q. On a more technical level, what are some of the things you do to help students get through this journey
I think a large part of what we do is a mix of coaching and intrusive counseling. The first thing we do is build trust with the student and help them understand what EOP is, what it has to offer, and how we can support and guide them. I sometimes give my students tough love, but also provide a space to listen to what’s happening in their lives. As counselors, we all have a different way of counseling, but it is all aligned with the mission and vision of the department, the college, and the program.

Q. What keeps you going in the job? What does a win look like for EOP?
A win for us can mean a lot of things. It can look like a student getting off of probation, and going from a 1.5 GPA in their freshman year to a 3.0 by their senior year. It is when a student realizes that they need to focus on their mental health and mental wellness, and actually utilize the resources available on campus. It looks like a student who arrived on campus very shy, and is now thriving in leadership positions and serving as a role model for their peers. It also looks like a student who just didn’t know what they wanted or felt lost and now has a plan for what they would like to do next. And sometimes it can look like helping a student who establishes boundaries, whether with family or friends, in the interest of doing well academically and engaging in self-care. And the ultimate win is seeing our students graduate and go on to do amazing things as alumni while breaking the stereotypes of what low socioeconomic students are capable of.

Q. Now that you’ve been back in Buffalo for a few years, what do you think of the city?
Buffalo has changed a lot in the last decade. I’m excited to see the direction it’s moving in. I think it’s a great place for students and young professionals to get head start and awesome for opportunities around innovation and entrepreneurship. I’m excited to be back.



Photos by Bruce Fox, college photographer

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