Student Profile: Vicki Fabiyi, School of Education
Some people embark on their careers in one field and stay in that career for decades.
Others take a winding road to find the right job for them.
Vicki Fabiyi’s road was full of curves.
But now, with a master’s in education in counseling from Johns Hopkins University, Fabiyi, who took classes at the Montgomery County campus, is confident about her path forward.
“I always knew I wanted to be in education,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to work with kids.”
Fabiyi was born in Kansas and spent some of her childhood in Washington, D.C. and New York City before the family moved to Nigeria. She moved back to the United States after completing high school. She attended University of Maryland, College Park.
She studied political science and, after graduation, got a job working on the 1988 Democratic National Convention. She said she hated it.
“I loved the theory of political science,” Fabiyi said. “When I saw it in action, it was not parallel to the application. When the convention was over, I just needed a job.”
Disillusioned with politics, she worked as a receptionist for an environmental engineering company. One of her colleagues told her she would be well suited as an environmental analyst.
Fabiyi had no background in environmental science, so when a co-worker told her he was taking a course at Johns Hopkins, she joined him. She ended up leaving the engineering firm and getting a master’s in environmental science from Hopkins. Then she served in AmeriCorps, teaching environmental science in Montgomery County Public Schools. After that stint, she worked as the education coordinator for Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a research program established by the National Science Foundation.
And then she moved on to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
As the youth program manager, she worked closely with students in a program called Aquarium on Wheels. The goal is to expose high school students to STEM education. She formed a close bond with several of the students and realized she was doing more counseling than formal educating. She was helping students with issues such as college and career counseling, drug use and teenage pregnancy.
“I kept saying to my supervisor, can I get a degree in counseling? They said no, it has nothing to do with science,” Fabiyi said.
So she left her job, took a class toward a Ph.D. in environmental science and withdrew.
“It’s not what I want to do,” she said.
She applied to Johns Hopkins School of Education and was accepted into the fellows program. It would have been a full-time commitment, and she realized she couldn’t juggle it while being the single mom of two daughters, one in college and one 8 years old. Fabiyi’s mother had helped her raise the older daughter but was too ill to help much with the younger daughter.
So Fabiyi decided not to pursue the fellows program but instead take courses part-time at Johns Hopkins Montgomery County. Her close-knit community in Hyattsville provided tremendous support, she said.
“It really does take a village,” Fabiyi said. “My neighbors have been a rock for me. Last summer I took 12 credits and I thought I was going to lose my mind.” A neighbor, she said, picked up her daughter from a summer program every day for weeks so Fabiyi could attend her classes.
Fabiyi graduated in May.
She recognizes her path into school counseling is a bit non-traditional, but she sees the benefit of pursuing masters degrees as an adult: her children have come to value higher education.
“My children benefited far greater than I did,” she said. “My youngest daughter saw me go through grad school. It’s been good for more than just myself. It has been a motivation for them to go higher.”