Q&A with Essie Bryan, director of RU’s Early College Program
Updated: Nov 19
By Damon Alexander
Essie Bryan serves as the director of Rochester University’s Early College Program, which works with local high schools to offer college courses so that students can earn college credit while still in high school. She oversees the program, recruits throughout high schools and handles admission work for dual-enrolled students.
What brought you to RC and why do you choose to work here?
“I worked at another college for a few years, doing the same thing I do now. After some years there, I was offered a job as an academic adviser here at RU, which was then RC. During this period, I was faced with a dilemma because I was in the interviewing process for another job at Macomb Community College. So I did what I always do when faced with a problem; I pray about it. I thought about this job and the other job and how much both paid. My spirit said to me, ‘The job is not your source. I am your source. The job you seek is just a resource.’ and so I’ve been here ever since. I originally worked part-time here and part-time at Specs-Howard. And then finally within my 14 years here, I became the full-time director of career services. Once our campus began the Early College Program, I was involved with testing the students...soon after my former director left, and I was then offered the position.”
What’s the easiest and hardest part of your job? Why? Is your job more difficult or easier at certain parts of the year?
“I’d say the easiest part is working with students. I love working with them. Helping them find which direction they're gonna take on their journey whether that be early college and moving on to university. I love helping them find their possibilities, which are endless. It's rewarding seeing them learn that there's so much they can do! As for the hardest part? I’d have to say that there isn't anything that’s really hard. If anything I'd say my distance? I live in the city. Sometimes by Friday, I go home exhausted due to traveling back and forth. I don't hate it all, but i'd say that's the only downside. Certain times of the year are busier than others, usually at the beginning of the school year.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“Seeing students get it. Seeing them understand what’s in front of them is beyond rewarding.”
What do you do outside of your job to stay sane, relieve stress, etc.? or What are your hobbies?
“I’m a very faith-based person, I turn to my faith during times where I feel uncertain. I’m a very active member of my church. I shop, and I love to eat! I make it my mission to be in the vicinity of good food.”
Where did you grow up? Describe.
“I grew up on the eastside of Detroit. I still live there as well. I honestly love the city, I enjoy how diverse the city is and the variety of things I can do. I also love how Detroit is in the middle of everything. If i have to go to Novi, or anywhere else I’m there in a timely manner.”
What is your favorite thing to do in the Rochester area? Or in Michigan?
“I love Mackinac Island and I also love going to the Tanger Outlet Mall.”
What is your most prized possession?
“I don’t really have one… but I’d say the best gift I’ve ever been given is time. I love that I’m able to spend time with my son. Whenever we talk and just hang out, it’s always rewarding.”
What is your most embarrassing moment?
“Oh my gosh I have so many from having lipstick on my teeth or even slipping on ice, but I’d say the most embarrassing happened recently. I was having lunch with a colleague and ‘big money Essie’ said, ‘Oh I got it’ so I then handed over my credit card. The waitress came back and said it didn't go through. I probably was as red as a beet! My colleague then said ‘It’s O.K. I've got it’. What I didn't realize was that I gave the waitress the wrong card. This situation made me bring cash next time instead of a card.”
What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome?
“I’m still overcoming this, but I’d have to say-- letting my fears get in the way of me trying different things. I'm gifted in so many areas, but when it comes to something I’m not used to, I tend to hold back. I recently was in my church play and I decided to audition for a role and to my surprise, I was asked if I would be opposed to a bigger role and I agreed. I ended up having a main role. I knew it was something I wanted to do, but fear was the reason I never tried it.”
Who was your biggest influence?
“My brother’s girlfriend; her name was Elaine. She was the first person to show me a college campus. Elaine went to Marygrove. I was her ‘little sister’ so she took me along to hang out with her on campus. This gave me the opportunity to see what college looked like and how it applied to my future. Elaine went on to get her bachelor’s, master’s and later her Ph.D. I followed her in her career and it has encouraged me in mine. I would also say my mom. We didn't have a lot growing up, but she always encouraged us to chase what we desired out of our own life.”