Angie Pool-Funai exemplifies the importance of chasing your dreams and that it is okay to change your career path, even though it may not be the most convenient.
Due to her perseverance, Pool-Funai is not only the director of the Master of Public Administration program but also an assistant professor of political science and public administration.
Pool-Funai graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a BA in communication with an emphasis in journalism. After a brief stint as a newspaper reporter and English as a Second Language teacher, she began working with non-profit organizations for 15 years, including a county based literacy program.
“We worked with adult learners [where] many had English as a second language,” Pool-Funai said. “A surprising[ly] large number of them were actually native English speakers who never learned to read at even a high school level. We would do tutoring and workshops to help them navigate life.”
Pool-Funai also worked in a grant-funded program for a community college and a grant writer for a private university. She loved the feeling of being a part of something bigger than herself.
But after being a part of the grant-funding world for so long, she was in need of a change. She felt as though she could not advance anymore in her current career. During this time in her life, Pool-Funai started teaching at a local community college and realized her new passion.
“[I was] teaching concurrent enrollment classes and realized that this is what I have been looking for,” she said. “So I just bit the bullet and went back to grad school to get my doctorate as a very nontraditional student.”
When Pool-Funai went back to school it was a transition for her because she was closer in age to her professors than her fellow classmates. Despite being a non trad student she said it was the best decision she ever made.
After finishing her doctorate, Pool-Funai started applying for jobs and thought SUU was the perfect fit because they had not only political science, but also a public administration program.
Coming to SUU was a great career move for Pool-Funai and, thankfully, the transition was easier than she thought.
“At my previous job at Baylor, I had a sense of family and a lot of people thought I was crazy to move away,” she said. “I thought I would never find that again. But I found it here! It was really a wonderful surprise. I know we do a really good job of helping students feel like they belong, but I think it is equally important that we help employees feel like they have a place too. And I feel that here.”
Since Pool-Funai began teaching at SUU, she has made an incredible impact on her students. She received the Influencer Award certificate the past three years and has been nominated for Professor of the Year twice.
“It gives me goosebumps to think someone feels like I deserve that,” said Pool-Funai. “It really is very affirming because making the decision to make the career switch, at that age, was terrifying. To find myself in a career that I love, and that apparently other people feel like I am doing a good job, affirms that decision and that I belong here.”
Pool-Funai’s favorite moments in the classroom include when her students have an “ah-ha” moment, or epiphany.
“I love those light bulb moments where the students connect with something in real life,” she said. “It’s no longer words on a page; it’s no longer just theories or history. It’s relevant to your world. I think when we can make the things we are learning relevant to real life. It expands our world view.”
When Pool-Funai isn’t in the classroom, she can be found spending time with her five boys or rebuilding her ‘88 T-Bird car.
Looking back on her life, Pool-Funai recognizes that even though she never planned on going back to school or changing her career, she believes that it all happened for a reason.
“Even if you change your major or change your path in life, I think it still comes full circle.”
Pool-Funai looks forward to see what the future holds for her here at SUU.
“I love being at SUU. It’s a great experience. It’s great to work here and the students are wonderful.”
Story by Cassidy Harmon
Photo Courtesy of Angela Pool-Funia