Stephanie Malmberg, who will receive a master's degree from the College of Community and Public Affairs, also works as a graduate assistant in Student Support Services and as an adjunct professor at SUNY Broome.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2014 profile: Stephanie Malmberg
May 12, 2014Tweet
Stephanie Malmberg was tired of being a night owl. Waiting tables at Lost Dog Café paid the bills, but it kept her from spending quality time with her three sons – a 7-year-old and 15-year-old twins. So she hatched a plan: to finish her undergraduate degree and earn her master’s degree in five years, and leave late nights behind for good.
“I wanted to be home with my kids, and ultimately, that was my number one goal,” said Malmberg. “I had to piece together a plan that would lead me to that goal. I had the vision first.”
Less than five years later, Malmberg’s vision is becoming reality. She’s graduating with a Master of Science in Student Affairs Administration from the College of Community and Public Affairs and retiring from the Lost Dog in August. Asked how she was able to realize her vision, Malmberg chalked it up to strategic planning and a “hyper-regimented” lifestyle.
“I set an alarm on Saturday,” she said. “I set an alarm on Sunday. I set an alarm pretty much every day. And I use little pieces of time that present themselves well. If I’m sitting in my car waiting for my son to come out of school, I have a book with me. I’m making use of my time, because there’s not a lot of downtime.”
On top of her waitressing job, Malmberg serves as an adjunct professor at SUNY Broome, works as a graduate assistant in Student Support Services, and holds various part-time positions just to make ends meet. She works hard, but refuses to take all the credit herself. Without her family, which works together like a “well-oiled machine,” none of her success would have been possible, she said.
“We all have expectations,” said Malmberg. “We work together. We’re very complimentary in that way. If I have a giant paper due, my older boys are very good at keeping my younger son occupied. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done if I didn’t have their support.”
Along with her sons, Malmberg gives credit to various faculty and staff, who believed in her even when she didn’t.
“I don’t have a family, per se, other than my own children, so I don’t have a lot of people in my corner,” she said. “To have people in your corner when you’re not used to that is empowering.”
One person in Malmberg’s corner is Associate Professor of Human Development Denise Yull, who taught her in a class called Poverty and Discrimination. Yull was continually impressed by Malmberg’s ability to remain positive despite having “a lot on her plate.”
“Although there are times when she is stretched beyond what most of us could handle, she is always ready to lend an ear or give a hand to someone in need,” said Yull. “I have an enormous amount of respect for all she has accomplished and I feel fortunate that our life paths have crossed. Look in the dictionary under awesome and I am sure you will see a picture of Stephanie Malmberg.”
This “awesome” student is sure to cross paths with Yull again – Malmberg started pursuing a doctoral degree in community and public affairs at CCPA in the spring. She just hopes that she can maintain the same level of discipline that got her this far.
“Now that I’ve tacked on another three or four years, I’m hoping that I can be just as time-effective and manage things in such a way that I can finish right on time,” said Malmberg. “I should be defending my dissertation right when my older kids graduate from high school.”
Whatever Malmberg ends up doing after school – at the moment, she is interested in prison education – she wants to help others realize their goals just as she was able to realize her own. As the Lost Dog’s unofficial “academic advisor,” she’s already helped a few of her coworkers map out their future plans.
“How can I give back?” asked Malmberg. “How can I take all of this investment in time, energy and effort and make this make sense, not for me but for other people?”
Malmberg has some advice for single parents who don’t think that they have the time or energy to pursue a college degree.
“Stay true to your vision, however rudimentary it is,” said Malmberg. “Mine was to be home at night, and I never deviated from that. If you have a good support network, anything is possible. If you don’t have a good support network, you learn to become your own support network.”