Heidy Contreras, PhD
In January 2012, Southern California Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (So Cal HERC) member campus, University of La Verne, welcomed Heidy Contreras as its newest Assistant Professor in Biology. Dr. Contreras is a leader in her field with a passion for undergraduate education, student mentoring, and entomological research. In a discipline where women and minorities are underrepresented, Dr. Contreras will also contribute to the University of La Verne’s strategic goal of recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty.
Dr. Contreras learned about the So Cal HERC when she was completing her Ph.D. in Comparative Physiology at the University of California, Irvine and looking for postdoctoral fellowships in 2009. Soon after starting her postdoctoral work at the University of Arizona, Tucson in early 2010 she began preparing for a career as a biological sciences faculty member. She had several considerations to factor into her search: 1. Her top priority was location. Dr. Contreras is part of a dual-career couple and needed to find a job within 100 miles of Irvine, California so her spouse could retain his job which supported their family through her graduate school and postdoctoral fellowship; 2. She wanted a tenure track job that would incorporate her love of teaching and research; and 3. She puts a high value on student mentorship and an individualized teaching practice, which she experienced when she was an undergraduate at California State University, San Bernardino, so small class size would be a plus.
The So Cal HERC website, www.socalherc.org, was the first place Dr. Contreras turned just after starting her postdoc. Early on she used the website as a research tool to identify positions in her field in order to gain extra experience that would contribute to her application. She also identified positions that interested her to sharpen her CV and application materials to enable her to submit the strongest application once she was ready to apply.
Between August 2010 and December 2010, Dr. Contreras identified three faculty positions through the So Cal HERC website at member institutions which she applied for. “I did use other sites like Higheredjobs, Science, and Nature but found more jobs on the HERC site that interested me. On the other sites I would see the same few jobs at larger institutions that everyone already knew about. With HERC, I would check back every few days and always find new things in my field. Also, because I needed to focus my search in the Southern California region, HERC was the best tool for assuring me that I was seeing everything that was available in my field.”
Ultimately, Dr. Contreras was invited to phone interview for all three jobs she applied to at HERC campuses and for campus interviews at two. She accepted the position at the University of La Verne in July 2011 and says, “This job was made for me-- it has both a strong teaching and research component and is only 30 minutes away from my husband’s office-- in Southern California that’s a minimal commute. It’s a match made in heaven because I also get to teach at an institution that shares my values about a small class size and highly personalized setting for learning. Finding this job wouldn’t have been possible without HERC. I honestly didn’t even know about the University of La Verne and I went to CSU San Bernardino which is nearby. HERC helped bring both the university and the job opportunity to my attention. I recommend the HERC websites to every single postdoc I know and recommend they start using the tool early in their job search. I thank HERC and its members for investing in this valuable resource for future faculty and their partners. It’s really made a tremendous impact in my life and given me a wonderful start to my career.”