Inspired by the Stars: Stephen Ferris

Marcela Delgado, Director of Operations & Strategic Affairs

At the young age of nine, Stephen received a simple telescope from his father. Little did he know that this small gift would lead to a lifelong fascination with astronomy. Elementary, middle and high school came and went, and Stephen got really good at pointing his telescope to the moon. Throughout the years, Stephen has since collected six different scopes which have provided him with endless hours of relaxation and exploration. Fast forward to his time as a University of Arizona student, where he studied Special Education but ended up working as a student preceptor in a Lunar and Planetary Science lab. This lab is where his love for astronomy really took form, and despite only taking one general education astronomy course himself, he learned so much about not just astronomy but how to manage a classroom and students.

Headshot of Stephen Ferris

Today, Stephen credits that experience, along with his SALT Center peer tutoring position over two decades ago, with bringing him out of his shell and laying the foundation for how he contributes as a Senior Coordinator for Academic Intervention Services. This fall marks Stephen’s ten-year anniversary as a full-time SALT Center staff member. Stephen states, “For the last 10 years, both the SALT Center and astronomy have been big parts of my life, and I’ve never lost enthusiasm for the work I do with students who are facing academic challenges.”

These days, you can often find Stephen in the desert outside of town accompanied by his friends from the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. His newest undertaking is astrophotography, requiring different equipment and techniques than planetary photography. Astrophotography techniques require long exposure to track the sky precisely, which is something he is getting better at every time.

The recent launch and images returning from the James Webb Space Telescope are particularly fascinating to him because it is a premier spacebased observatory with so many connections to the University of Arizona. He is very excited to watch the potential for this scope unfold over the next few years. On his bucket list, you’ll find visits to observatories in Chile and Australia, both of which have some of the best sites on earth because of the quality of sky in the southern hemisphere.

Photo of Saturn

Photo of Saturn, courtesy of Stephen Ferris

In his office at the new Bartlett Academic Success Center, Stephen’s walls are full of beautiful celestial and terrestrial photographs he has taken himself. He’s added inspiring and thought-provoking quotes to them like, “You can’t choose your own universe, but you can choose your own paradigm” and, “In the universe there are no certainties, just probabilities.” He says that while a lot of his students might not notice the “wall memes,” as he calls them, he still hopes that the messaging will inspire them to persevere and succeed at the University of Arizona and far beyond.