Patricia Parrish Relies on Experience, Data to Help Faculty Meet Students’ Needs
Dr. Patricia Parrish’s career and path to Lindsey Wilson College have been marked by two characteristics: her openness to opportunity and her unyielding commitment to serving students.
Parrish began work at Lindsey Wilson College on July 1 as the college’s new vice president for academic affairs. She comes to LWC from St. Leo (Fla.) University, where she was assistant vice president of academic affairs and a professor of education.
Parrish’s work in special education and her extensive service on education committees paint a picture of someone who lives for making a difference in students’ lives. When she began her educational journey in the early 1980s at Michigan State University, she discovered a passion for serving students with unique challenges.
“As a freshman at Michigan State, I volunteered at the Michigan School for the Deaf,” she said. “It wasn’t something I had even considered before college, but because of that opportunity I found my career path.”
Parrish was inspired by the volunteer work her freshman year and eventually transferred to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., where she received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and deaf education. Parrish applied those skills to public education and had an immediate impact.
“It felt good to be able to make a difference,” said Parrish. “I taught children with significant disabilities so the classes were small.”
After several years of teaching, getting married and starting a family, Parrish earned a master’s in education, specializing in students with behavioral and emotional disturbances, from the University of South Florida-Tampa. While working on her master’s, a mentor encouraged her to continue her education by seeking a doctorate.
“When I was in graduate school, one of my professors started talking with me about going on to earn a Ph.D., and I honestly didn’t think I was ready for that,” said Parrish. “But she convinced me I could have more impact and serve more children if I helped prepare teachers. So I moved forward in higher ed with that goal in mind.”
Parrish went on to earn a doctorate from South Florida. Her openness to opportunity and service to students, especially those with unique learning challenges, have been a catalyst in her educational and career decisions.
“I’ve never really sought things out,” said Parrish. “But I’ve always tried to be open to where God is calling me to be. The students were always my main focus and they still are.”
Parrish first heard about LWC after meeting President William T. Luckey Jr. while the two were serving on a committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the college’s accrediting agency. After she took a closer look at LWC, she said she was impressed with how the college serves students.
"When I explored the mission and the outreach to students, I realized that it was the exact type of institution that fits me,” said Parrish. “It’s about service and the students come first. It just made sense to me. I’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth of the LWC community and the total commitment to students. I’m very excited to be able to contribute to that and becoming a part of this team is so rewarding.”
Luckey said that Parrish’s skills and experiences make her a perfect fit for what the college needs.
“We are all so excited about the arrival of Dr. Parrish,” said Luckey. “She arrives at Lindsey Wilson with a lifetime of achievement at increasingly difficult challenges. Her people skills, listening abilities, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to our mission will serve our faculty and our students so well as she leads the college to new heights.”
Parrish said that among her immediate goals is getting to know the college’s faculty.
“I’m excited about a shared governance institution, where the faculty really have the opportunity to step to the plate, and facilitate the changes and make the institution what they think it should be,” she said. “I’m looking forward to supporting them in that work."
“Shared governance is new for me. I’m used to unions. I’m looking forward to being at a school where the faculty have a stronger say in what goes on. The Lindsey Wilson faculty have impressed me with their commitment to the institution. Lindsey Wilson is much smaller from what I’m used to, so it’s a more collaborative community, and I like that. It brings more opportunities.”
Parrish said that her background in special education has enabled her to become well-versed in the world of data and how to use it. She plans to bring that knowledge to whatever changes or adjustments she makes at LWC.
“The changes I will make in the institution depends on where the data leads,” she said. “I want to serve the faculty’s immediate needs and concerns first. I will use data to meet their individual and collective needs. That’s how I see that skillset helping.”
Parrish is also focused on active instruction in the college classroom.
“I like the use of active pedagogies and a movement away from having faculty just read lecture notes,” said Parrish. “Engaging students with content and real-world exercises improves learning.”
Parrish said it is also critical to understand the needs of first-generation and under-prepared college students.
“First-generation and under-prepared students have a lot in common, even if they are academically different,” she said. “To combat their challenges, I believe that every student should have a meaningful connection with at least one faculty member.”
Parrish said a liberal arts education is a great service to students, and that it’s as relevant as ever.
“I’m a huge believer in liberal arts,” she said. “Most people won’t be employed in their major by the time we are 20 years into our career, but what they learned in the liberal arts courses will still be guiding them. That’s where you learn to think, care and analyze, and those are the skills you need to be successful.”