“I kept going and I was determined to do my best work”: Q&A with Cindi Y. Quarles, MEd ’13 and EdD Student
When financial struggles and grief overwhelm us, it is easy to give up on educational pursuits. There are definitely times when it’s important to pause and focus on self-care, but to then continue working toward a master’s degree and later a doctorate, takes a highly motivated, resilient individual. Meet Cindi Y. Quarles, a Tennessee-based educator who earned her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction: Early Childhood Education from Concordia University-Portland in 2013. She’s worked in education for over twenty years and is currently pursuing her EdD from Concordia. I connected with Quarles to learn about her educational journey. Discover what motivates her, how she’s been able to advance in her career, and much more in our Q&A.
What kind of student were you when you were younger and was this an obvious career path for you?
I was creative and I loved learning. My dad is a master teacher in the field of education, and my mother (in heaven with Jesus now) was a brilliant professor in college and seminary courses. They both had a passion for learning and they instilled this in me.
What made you choose Concordia University-Portland for your MEd and EdD?
Clear focus. After 20+ years of working in Lutheran schools, I cherished the clear focus of Concordia’s organizational infrastructure.
Has your MEd from Concordia helped you advance in your career?
Yes, the MEd from Concordia has helped me advance in my career. From shining tables and chairs as an assistant staff person, making $7.50 per hour to employment with a state agency with a full compensation package, including but not limited to salary, a benefits package, travel, reimbursement for travel expenses and the option to work from home.
The advancement of my career was from God’s blessings and Concordia University-Portland’s trajectories. Before Concordia, my hobby was going to the Dollar Tree store. After Concordia, my hobbies are now: reading, writing, singing, researching, reflecting, helping others who have hardships… and going to Dollar Tree stores.
My outlook on life has been expanded. Lastly, in God’s greater plan, the Lutheran church community at Christ The King Lutheran Church, in Memphis, Tennessee contributed to helping me believe in an expanded horizon. And I really cannot start mentioning names, but my son & his wife, my daughter, my birth family, my extended family, precious life-long friends are an anchoring force for career advancement beyond the impossible. Yes, Concordia University-Portland has helped me tremendously in career advancement.
What skills have you honed as a result of your MEd and EdD work?
My career [working with a state agency] requires me to tackle projects and bear down to see them through. After years of study and research through Concordia’s coursework, I am able to complete projects that required exhaustive attention to detail.
What have you appreciated about Concordia’s faith-based values?
Humility. Humility is a quality shown by instructors, administrative staff, and all of the university’s coordinators.
What is a challenge that you face in your current position and how have you tried to address it?
I had to learn how to adjust from working in the private sector to employment in a public service venue. My instructor told me to ‘let your work speak for itself.’ Her advice helped me to adjust to some of the challenges I had to face. It helped me to focus on the task at hand versus the flow of incoming projects.
What keeps you motivated and passionate about education?
My two birth children have kept me motivated and passionate about education over the years. I have a daughter in her last year of law school and a son and his wife (my other daughter) who just had a child (my first grandchild). Seeing them grow and develop from small pods to flourishing independent grown-ups attests to the deep significance that a quality education has, shaping a young child’s foundation and life.
What has been the biggest struggle for you in your degree program so far, and who has helped you through those tough moments?
The biggest struggle for me in both the MEd and EdD programs I have participated in was not the program itself, but life’s realities. The highs and lows of living on planet Earth: financial struggles at first, high blood pressure (so much so that, even under medical care, I forgot what the topic of my thesis was), my car engine shut down (so I rode a bike for 10 miles one way to work and home until the car engine was replaced), two dear uncles passing away, and my mother’s passing. I was totally grief-stricken yet I also experienced the high of my first grandchild being born during the program. I kept going and I was determined to do my best work. The Lord helped me to press through endless hours of research and study despite all of the hardships. God works through people. One day an instructor would go ‘the extra mile’ to over-explain a concept until I grasped it. Another day, a family member would encourage my heart. I doubted my financial resources and sometimes my knowledge base to sustain the MEd program. But I obtained my master’s degree and now I’m working toward my EdD.
What type of impact do you hope to have as a leader in education?
The type of impact I hope to have is not as a leader. It is as one individual working with another individual. As an individual who has been through and is going through this journey, I hope to inspire others to love God and serve others and give their best in the field of education.