Five Questions with Dr. Mavel Marina on Teaching and Higher Education

Photo Courtesy of UCSB

Huiwen Jia
Contributing Writer

Dr. Mavel Marina is an educational specialist at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), and runs the exchange program for International Academics and Researchers. She advises on immigration regulation and documentation, and teaches ED20i, a class for international students. The Bottom Line sat down with Dr. Marina to learn more about her teaching methods and teaching philosophy.


Can international students sign up for spring quarter’s ED20 (the one for local students)?

“International students can sign up for ED20 courses throughout the year but there is only one ED20 course focused on the interest and needs of international students … This course is ED20i.  I teach ED20i and this course is only offered in the fall quarter.”


Do you recommend them to do so?  

“I recommend international students to take any form of ED20. These courses help introduce all students to services that support student learning and academic success at UCSB. If international students are interested in the foundation of US higher education, its history, structures, and functions as a way to better learn how to navigate U.S. university systems as an international student then I recommend taking ED20i.

I specifically focus on addressing common mistakes international students commit in the academic writing process, strategies to academic success, and an introduction to on campus services that international students have greatly benefited from to achieve academic and personal growth.”

What (specific event or reason) lead you into the field of education?

“I come from a long line of educators in my family, but when I started my university studies in the U.S. I told myself that I didn’t want to be an educator so I decided to pursue a degree in the field of medicine. I thought working as a medical doctor would make me happy and that the field would provide a good income. I was wrong. I was very unhappy in the field of medicine. I didn’t want to admit that I had made a mistake.

I finally got the courage to ask an academic advisor to help me on my degree choice. The academic advisor recommended a “career path self assessment.” These assessments are provided by career services on all university campuses. The assessment helped me discover my strengths and my passion. I learned that education was my strength and that my passion was to help others. The academic advisor then took the time to explain to me that the field of education is very broad and that I could chose to be an educator in many capacities beyond the classroom.

I learned that the higher I went in my education the more options I could have about what kind of educator I wanted to be. This moment was the decision factor of my life-I chose to get the highest level of education to work in the field of education. So in the end I did become a doctor — a doctor in education.”


Which specific area of education are you working on?

“My PhD is in the field of higher education. I specifically work with topics of leadership, organization and internationalization of higher education. My students get a chance to see how I try to tie their experience to what’s going on in the field of higher education world wide. I ask them to do comparative analysis of university systems in the world so that they can see how they differ from one another as they attempt to achieve the same goal of producing original research and prepared citizens for the global market.”


How does someone prepare for a career in education?

“You first have to be aware that education happens all around us and that it not only happens in the classroom or in one country — education is a career that applies all over the world for people of all ages in all spaces. Once you become aware of that you have to ask yourself how would you like to share or teach information to others? Do you wish to do research and share information? Or do you wish to become a specialist in a particular topic and then share or teach that information to others? Do you wish to teach children, adolescents, young adults or adults?

If you’re having trouble answering these questions or you wish to make sure this is what you want to pursue, I recommend you go to career services and ask for a self assessment so that you discover your strengths and your passion. Have them help you determine if education is a field that fits well within your strengths and passion. I also recommend speaking to various types of educators around the world, if possible, and ask them about the practice in the field.

Once you gather this information, then you can make a better decision on whether education is the field for you. If you really want to challenge yourself you may speak to me about taking a course in the fall ED120: Practicum in teaching in higher education. In this course I introduce you to practices of teaching, course organization, and learning style analysis so that you can begin to get a sense of what teaching entails.”