Tara Bone, contributing writer
Stephanie Podgorski has guided hundreds of Utah State University (USU) students in their quest to become teachers, and on May 31 she’ll retire from her post, leaving a legacy of exemplary service.
For nine years, Stephanie has worked as an academic adviser for The School of Teacher Education and Leadership (TEAL) in the College of Education and Human Services at USU. During that time, she has helped and encouraged countless students in their efforts to pursue their goals and overcome obstacles to graduation.
Denise Taylor, The School of TEAL’s director of advising, has worked with Stephanie over the past nine years and says Stephanie exemplifies the best.
“She is someone who goes above and beyond to help all students succeed,” Denise said. “There is a group of students who without her outreach and encouragement, would not have graduated from USU.”
Denise aid not only is Stephanie an extremely caring and thorough student adviser, she is excellent in her outreach across campus. Stephanie works with 22 partner departments in efforts to prepare secondary education students. She adds that Stephanie is an excellent colleague, always willing to help.
“Stephanie is loved by everyone and will be missed by all of us greatly,” Denise said.
Current student Taylor Money, a senior preparing to graduate in December, has been advised by Stephanie throughout her academic career. Taylor is also a peer adviser who has seen Stephanie’s genuine concern for students firsthand. Taylor said Stephanie really gets to know her students, learning where they’re from and about their special interests or hobbies.
“Stephanie comes from a background of education, and she shows how to care for students,” Taylor said. “Showing to care for students like Stephanie does can’t be taught in a classroom, it’s shown.”
Prior to her work as an adviser, Stephanie earned her master’s degree in special education at USU and worked for eight years as a special education teacher in Logan. But her path to guiding and teaching students wasn’t always so clear. She said it was other people who recognized her interests and influenced her decisions through life.
Stephanie was born and raised in the small dairy-farming community of Berkshire, Vermont. She studied elementary education at Vermont’s St. Michael’s College where she met Greg Podgorski in a biology class. Ironically, Greg Podgorski is Dr. Podgorski, a professor in the biology department at USU.
The Podgorskis have been married for 42 years and enjoy hiking, backpacking, and cross-country skiing. During Dr. Podgorski’s postdoctoral work, they lived in Pennsylvania, New York City, and Germany. Stephanie said the best part of living in Germany was taking the train to hike the Alps on the weekends.
Almost 30 years ago, Stephanie said they were happy to move to Cache Valley and experience the beautiful mountains. They raised their son and daughter in Logan and have three grandchildren.
“We love it here,” she said. “We sometimes still think we’re so lucky to live here because this is the sort of place we would have dreamed of going on vacation to when we were in college.”
As Stephanie reflects on her professional work, she said it makes her most happy to realize that several of her special education students went on to graduate from college and that many of her USU students overcame challenges to reach their goals. She has enjoyed working with nontraditional students, or students who are 25 years old and older, and first-generation students.
“I enjoy encouraging students and helping them learn about available resources,” she said. “Sometimes I think students just need to know there’s one person out there who does care — we all need that.”
Stephanie believes it takes a village to shape lives. She is grateful to have been part of so many students’ lives.
“I’m going to miss this position,” she said. “I have met some wonderful, wonderful students, and I work with a great team, and meeting people across campus has been fun. It’s been very rewarding.”
Stephanie is looking forward to more free time to spend time with family, neighbors, and friends. Besides adventuring outside, she loves to bake and knit. Whatever adventures are next for Stephanie, Denise says, “I hope Stephanie has a lot of opportunity to have fun because she’s given so much.”