Spring 2012 Issue | By Kim Khan
Native Kentuckian, self-proclaimed 'country girl' takes helm
Patricia Terrell, a native of eastern Kentucky, has recently come on board with Idaho State University as the new vice president of student affairs. Terrell is a "country girl" who grew up on a Kentucky farm that has been in her family for five generations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in college student personnel. After realizing how much she loved working with students, she decided to pursue a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Kentucky.
Terrell, who started at ISU last June, began her career working as a student worker in industrial education and the dean of University College's office. Nine months after graduating with her bachelor's degree, she returned to the university to work with the dean for the University of Louisville Foundation.
"I found myself drawn to students who needed help and started serving more and more as an all-purpose unofficial ombudsman," Terrell said. "Within a few months I ran into a professor on campus who asked me what I liked about what I did and I said, 'working with students.' He said, 'Do you know you can get a degree in that?' I thought he was pulling my leg. He said, 'Yes, it is called college student personnel, and I am the chair of the department.' The next thing I knew, I was enrolled in the master's program."
Terrell lived in Logan, Utah, for five and a half years and was familiar with the environment and quality of life in the Intermountain West along with the cultural focus on integrity, hard work and family. During her interview on the ISU campus, she was impressed with the faculty and staff's obvious dedication to the University and students. She felt that Idaho State University was the right place for her.
"ISU is small enough to get to know and assist so many students on an individual level, yet large enough to offer all the advantages of a bigger university without all the disadvantages," Terrell said. "It has been such a pleasure to work with so many student affairs colleagues who have such a great sense of humor and are so devoted to student development."
Terrell believes her mission is to enhance student learning and engagement, with the realization that a lot of learning goes on outside the classroom. She and her team would like to see ISU become more of a residential campus because living on campus correlates with "academic success, understanding and appreciating diversity and retention." At the same time, Terrell and her colleagues consider that the average age of undergraduates is 26, and providing programs, services and activities that appeal to and support non-traditional students is essential.
"Recruitment and admission is also a part of student affairs, so our goals include increasing our enrollment to capacity while enhancing the academic profile of admitted students and expanding the number of students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented populations," Terrell said.
In addition to the student affairs team, Terrell works closely with Provost Barbara Adamcik and Vice President for Finance and Administration Jim Fletcher to accomplish goals for students.
"There is so much potential for change but right now our focus is on gathering data and information to support evidence based decision making," Terrell said. "We need a lot of baseline data as a starting point for implementing plans, so we can achieve our goals."