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Biology Department's new Student Coordinator Stella Rusel

Q&A with new Biology Student Coordinator Stella Rusel

Stella in front of the Taj Mahal

Stella Rusel was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. She moved to Bangkok, Thailand at age 23, where she lived and worked for 9 years, before joining the staff in WashU’s Biology Department. Stella works directly with biology undergraduates and faculty members in a number of different ways. She is the Bio 200/500 Independent Research Coordinator, Student Information Systems (SIS) Administrator, and Latin Honors and Research Emphasis Coordinator. She manages Undergraduate Course Listings and related tasks in WUCRSL for the Biology Department, and serves as the course evaluations administrator.

What brought you to Washington University?

I was an early childhood and special education teacher in Thailand, but moved to St. Louis in 2022 with my husband, who is from the area. I wanted to venture out of teaching, but still wanted to be in an education setting. I thought a university would be a great transition to a non-teaching job. I've heard great things about WashU, so I decided to look at the website and found this job post that seemed like a good fit for me.

My background is in behavioral science, a mixture of psychology, sociology, and management. As a kid, I was interested in biology, specifically animals and underwater creatures, along with brain science, which led me to psychology. When I saw the job post in the Department of Biology, under Arts and Sciences, I thought that it could be something that I connect with both personally, and with my background, even though I'm not an expert!

Is there something in particular you like about the Biology Department or the job so far?

I'm learning a lot in this new role. I like that I still get to interact with students. They say “once an educator, always an educator.” In that sense, I feel like I am still in school and still interacting with students, it's just a different role now. I like that part of the job and getting to know a lot of new people, including teachers. My workmates are great, and learning new systems, like SIS and WUCRSL, has been very interesting.

Yoga in Kangra Fort,
Himachal Pradesh

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to travel, hike, cook when I can, and enjoy going to concerts. I like music of all different genres, but lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of math rock, a style that is a mix of progressive and indie rock. I got to see one of my favorite Japanese math rock bands, Toe, live in Manila!

What's the most exciting place you've ever traveled to?

That's a hard one, but the first thing that comes to mind is India. I traveled by myself to India for a month, where I did a yoga teacher training. I'd heard stories about how it can be rough, especially for women traveling alone, and it's true. Not sure if I would do it alone again, but that’s not to say it was a bad experience. Beautiful country, beautiful people, and the food's amazing. I spent 5 days in the capital, New Delhi, where I took a bus to visit the Taj Mahal and then went north to experience the majestic Himalayan Mountains. One day while hiking, I slipped and nearly fell off a waterfall. As I was hanging there, with friends trying to help, grabbing my hands, I thought “this is it!” Luckily a big guy came along the path and just pulled me right up!

My friends asked if I still wanted to keep going on the path. Since I already surpassed that challenge, it motivated me to keep going, keep taking more risks, both on that day, and with life in general.