It’s been 20 years since Valeria Beasley-Ross was first hired at the University of Mississippi, and she has committed that time to three things: education, students and service.
As assistant dean of students, Beasley-Ross is responsible for the university’s recognition of months celebrating Hispanic heritage, LGBTQ history and Native American history. She also helped get the National Pan-Hellenic Council chartered on campus.
Beasley-Ross also helped rename of the UM Gospel Choir, which was originally called the Black Student Union Choir.
Beasley-Ross said she and staff in the chancellor’s office submitted a request to the IHL Board to change the name of the Black Student Union Choir to the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir. Their request was approved.
“This was a true testament to the choir who played a role in helping African-American students choose to attend the University of Mississippi,” Beasley-Ross said. “It allowed the students to include the University of Mississippi’s name in their title as they traveled from place to place.”
Beasley-Ross is also responsible for the day-to-day advising of many organizations on campus, including the UM Gospel Choir, the Black Student Union and National Pan-Hellenic Council.
Many of the programs Beasley-Ross initiated have morphed into something larger but might not have been on campus at all were it not for Beasley-Ross and her colleagues.
Beasley-Ross’ motivation, she said, stems mostly from her children.
“I wanted the trajectory of my own children’s lives to be changed,” Beasley-Ross said. “I knew that by going to college, it would result in my children likely doing the same.”
Beasley-Ross currently holds three degrees from the university, and she’s not finished yet. After being hired in 1990 as a secretary in the vice chancellor for student affairs office and being promoted twice, she decided she wanted to go back to school to finish her undergraduate degree at Ole Miss. She took classes while working and said the journey to getting her undergraduate degree didn’t take very long.
“I think it took me a year, maybe a year and a half, to finish my undergraduate degree,” Beasley-Ross said. “After I finished, instead of taking a full-time position, I took an AmeriCorps position and a graduate position together. I then started working on my master’s.”
For two years, Beasley-Ross worked and attended school simultaneously to complete her master’s degree. As a graduate student, she accepted a professional-level position as coordinator for multicultural affairs and volunteer service with the newly formed AmeriCorps.
“It was for students who were interested in dedicating a time in their life to service and volunteerism,” Beasley-Ross said. “I could do that and go to school part-time, so that’s what I elected to do.”
Beasley-Ross also worked with a program called America Reads, which places college students in local schools to help students struggling with illiteracy.
“They’d have students who would go to the school and do tutoring,” Beasley-Ross said. “I’d keep track of those students and go make sure they went to the school on time and gave them orientation before they started, going over dress appropriate behavior.”
Even now, with a Bachelor of Social Science, Bachelor of Public Administration and Master of Social Science under her belt, Beasley-Ross is not finished being a student and leader on campus. She said she hopes to finish her Ph.D. in the spring semester of 2017.
“I went to a hooding ceremony and said to myself, ‘Man, I want to be on that stage getting hooded,’” Beasley-Ross said. “That’s such a great accomplishment to do that for oneself, but also to be able to share the full story of being a secretary, to going back to school and completing a Ph.D. with students and adult learners, is something I wanted to do.”