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New LSCPA dean brings thirst, skills for change

Change has been the constant in education since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and Lamar State College Port Arthur has named a real agent of change as its new dean of student services.

Dr. Tessie Bradford has a wide-ranging skill set, some of it apparent from her varied scholarly degrees: a bachelor’s in computer science, a master’s in human resources management and a doctorate in sports management.

But serving students directly is what really makes her eyes sparkle.

“From my first experience with it, student services was — and still is — my passion,” she said. “I love it so much. I have an opportunity to have an impact on students’ lives that can last far beyond their time at the college.

“I strive to have an impact on the lives of every student I come into contact with, to help or encourage them as they enter into their career.”

Bradford comes to Port Arthur after spending the past two years as vice president for student services at Jarvis Christian College, which is located 25 miles north of Tyler.

The campus of the church school is in a rural area and most of its dormitory students lack personal transportation. Bradford partnered with the East Texas Council of Government to provide shuttle service to surrounding towns.

“Lamar State College Port Arthur has been working to identify from a large field of candidates an individual that will continue to move student services forward, supporting students in an ever-changing educational landscape,” LSCPA President Dr. Betty Reynard said in a message to students, faculty and staff. “We are pleased to announce we selected Dr. Tessie Bradford to fill the position. She will be a great asset to LSCPA.”

Dr. Deborrah Hebert, who previously held the position of LSCPA Dean of Student Services, retired at the end of May.

Bradford’s first jobs were in information technology and human resources, then she jumped to education and taught classes in kinesiology and sports marketing.

She was in charge of starting a satellite campus for the University of West Florida when she discovered student affairs and student services.

Before her service at Jarvis Christian College, Bradford was associate vice president for enrollment and student affairs at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and interim dean and director of student affairs at Lone Star College in Houston.

After growing up in Lufkin and Mobile, Alabama, she earned her bachelor’s from Alabama State University, her master’s from Houston Baptist University and her doctorate from the U.S. Sports Academy.

“I’m an example of how education can make all the difference in your life,” she said. “I was a kid who hated school. I never imagined I’d go back to get a master’s, or work in higher education. I majored in three different things trying to figure it out.

“I try to help students find their path as early as possible, so they can get it right the first time,” she said. “But also, I’m an example of if you don’t get it right the first time, there’s hope. You can have a career you absolutely love and just enjoy life.”

When schools were forced to close their campuses to students in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, educators had to react quickly to teach courses online.

Not only was Bradford among the earliest online instructors a decade ago, her computer science background should come in handy as the school and her department face new challenges brought to light by the virus.

“I think that student services gives you that flexibility to be creative, to be innovative, especially now that everyone is in the midst of the pandemic,” she said. “How do we move forward after we come back to a normal scheduled program? What do we take from the pandemic and continue to do once we’re through with the pandemic?

“This will be an opportunity to rethink how we do things,” she said. “We constantly want to improve how we do things.”