ASU faculty who inspire: Elizabeth Kizer

December 06, 2022 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Elizabeth Kizer discusses her journey from first-generation college student to a career in public service and her current positions as degree director and teaching professor for ASU’s health care administration and policy program.
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Discovering a passion for learning and public service

Elizabeth Kizer’s path to teaching at Arizona State University started back in high school. Her parents expected her to work after graduating, just like they did, and not go to college.

“I had friends in high school that were going to college and I thought, ‘I have the same grades as those people. I don't see why I shouldn't be able to go to college. I think I can do it,’" Kizer said.

Kizer started off attending community college, then transferred to ASU where she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in sociology. It was there she realized she wanted to work in public service. “I wanted to make a difference in the world and work with the community,” Kizer said.

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From criminal justice to public health

After graduating, Kizer became an adult probation officer for Maricopa County. While working there, she completed her master's degree in criminal justice. Not long after, Kizer began to feel burnt out working in criminal justice and started looking for something else. From there she ended up working as a county correctional health director, where she united her experience in criminal justice and public health. At the same time, Kizer was also pursuing her doctorate degree in public health.

“All of my education has always taken place while I'm working. I'm just like many of the students at ASU, I was working and pursuing education at the same time and having a family and everything else,” Kizer said.

With a wealth of varied personal and professional experiences, Kizer began to feel she had something to offer as a teacher, and academia became her next step. She felt she could share those experiences, such as being a first-generation college student, with her students.

“Maybe [I can] inspire the next generation of students to go and work in these roles,” Kizer said. “I think people should consider a career in public service because you're really an unsung hero in your community. You have an opportunity to make change.”

A leading educator in health care administration and policy

Since joining ASU in 2017, Kizer has primarily focused on teaching undergraduate classes in the College of Health Solutions' health care administration and policy program.

The field of health care administration and policy is fast growing and provides many job opportunities for students with related degrees and those with experience in this area. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 28 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Around 56,600 openings for medical and health services managers are projected each year.

“Health care administration and policy is extremely important during this time post COVID where so many people have burnt out,” Kizer said. “There has to be an understanding on the part of leaders of what is happening to everyone who's working in the environment. If leaders can advocate for their workers, for the health care staff, the first line staff, then those people are more likely to feel valued and less likely to burn out and less likely to leave the field.”

Kizer’s advice for her students

As a teacher, Kizer relates to her students — many of whom are also first-generation college students.

“Today it seems like many students have very diverse backgrounds and they're doing a lot to move themselves forward in their own goals. All of the students seem to work or do internships or have something else outside of school. I can relate to that,” Kizer said.

Kizer’s advice for other first-generation students is to create a network of people who are supportive around you.

“You have to find other people who have similar interests, maybe similar struggles so that you can bond together and overcome those struggles.. All of the instructors and faculty, we are there to help,” Kizer said.

She recommends all students form connections with faculty members, advocate for themselves and create a supportive network.

Just as Kizer’s varied personal experiences led to her wanting to teach, she wants to help her students stay open to different paths and possibilities in their careers.

“I think we can't limit ourselves to think, ‘I want to go this particular path,’ because if you do that, you don't even look at all the other paths that might be available to you,” Kizer said. “You have to just be willing to have an adventure, be willing to pursue the opportunity that's there at the moment in the right place at the right time.”

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