“My attending college was statistically unlikely, considering financial and social barriers of a first-generation college student and being African-American. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea that anyone, regardless of their background, could join a culturally diverse physical or virtual community where they would engage in academic and social experiences designed to help them develop into their best self; not only to their own benefit but to the benefit of others in the global community,” said class of 2014 alumnus Terron Phillips about his academic journey the last few years.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Holy Cross College, completing internships in the admission’s office at Holy Cross, and working a few years in both undergraduate and graduate admissions, he began to realize that his belief that anyone participating in higher education was actually not the reality.
“I noticed that many of the challenges that I faced as a college student were highly prevalent in marginalized communities. Seeing how some students are systemically excluded from higher education has motivated me to grow my own knowledge of the industry to understand ways to improve it and make it more inclusive from recruitment to degree completion,” notes Phillips who has a master’s in Higher Education Administration from Louisiana State University and is currently working on his Ph.D.
Upon his return to the College to help lead the admissions and retention strategy, he enrolled in Purdue University as a hybrid learner with the Ph.D. in Higher Education program. At the conclusion of his first year in the program, he was offered and accepted an opportunity to be an on-campus Graduate Teaching Assistant to the College of Education while working toward completing his Ph.D. full-time.
Working on a postgraduate degree has been exciting and challenging for the alumnus.
“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to deep-dive into the history of higher education as well as frameworks, practices, and new developments within the world of international higher education. I’ve really enjoyed discussing ideas and controversial topics with my cohort members, as we all draw from our professional experiences to bring unique perspectives to conversations. The Purdue Ph.D. program involves three years of coursework, followed by a year of dissertation writing. During the three years of coursework, we are also expected to produce three publications that will eventually become a part of our dissertation. Currently, my research explores the individualistic nature of contemporary retention theories and practices, while encouraging greater attention to the way that intersecting social identities impact students’ academic, social, and financial experiences in higher education,” said Phillips.
Holy Cross College, specifically his interaction with Mrs. Sherry Raven’s as a student ambassador his sophomore year, helped him discover his passion for higher education, and he would not have pursued it as a career had it not been for the admissions staff and administration at the College.
“I truly believe the academic and inquisitive foundations laid by my professors at Holy Cross as well as the transferrable skills acquired inside and outside the classroom have proven monumental in my personal and professional life. Additionally, the service learning the common good seminar and global immersion experiences allow graduates to enter into the workforce with an advanced level of intercultural sensitivity which is extremely important to personal and professional success,” comments Phillips.
He credits Dr. Angel Cortes, Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College, for creating some of his most memorable moments during his academic journey. As a history major in his undergraduate studies, he took many American history courses with Cortes that required students to complete a research project relevant to the material and time period they were studying during the semester.
“The topic could be about anything, as long as it tied to the studied era. So often during my one-on-one project planning meetings with Dr. Cortes, he encouraged me to consider a research topic that explored how the African-American community experienced or responded to moments during these time periods. This taught me early on that life experiences and worldviews are different and sometimes polarizing. This also affirmed that every perspective on the same event or separate events is valuable when attempting to understand human civilization and how history has influenced the way that we shape modern society and contemporary ideas,” recalls Phillips.
His future plans include finishing his postgraduate work and finding ways to impact the lives of young people by contributing to the improvement of higher education.