By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 24, 2015) — They say first impressions are everything.
Dr. Laura Boren got her first impression of Tarleton State University 13 years before being appointed to her new role as the school’s vice president for student life.
It all started with a basketball game in 2002. Boren was working at Texas A&M University in College Station, and made the three-hour treck to Stephenville to watch her alma mater – Northeastern State University – take on Tarleton in a Lone Star Conference game at Wisdom Gym.
“I remember Northeastern won the game, but what I remember most from that night was the Tarleton crowd. I grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma and I was raised in a basketball world, but I remember thinking I had never seen a crowd like that for a university this size,” Boren said. “It was just incredible their level of pride and enthusiasm and school spirit.”
Thirteen years later, Boren is taking in Tarleton pride on a much grander scale.
“My first impression of Tarleton is that there is a great deal of pride here. There is a commitment to take Tarleton to the next level of academic excellence and the next level of student experience,” she said. “You know that feeling when you’re striving for something greater and everyone seems to be working together toward that common goal? That’s how it feels already and it’s still my first week.”
Boren and family moved to Stephenville two weeks ago today (Friday), and her first day at Tarleton was Monday. She says she is equally impressed with the community.
“I have quickly picked up on how much the community and university value each other. The community stands behind Tarleton and the school system here, and it’s not that way everywhere,” she said. “My first impression is that this is a very caring community committed to excellence.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of the community members, from local banks to realtors and even plumbers. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been above and beyond nice,” said Boren. “Newcomers aren’t so welcomed everywhere, and it’s a special feeling.”
Boren sits on President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio’s Executive Cabinet and resides over the Thompson Student Center as well all divisions of student life, including Student Engagement, Residential Living and Learning, Transition and Family Relations, Student Leadership Programs, Health Services, Student Counseling Center, Student Publications, Recreational Sports, University Police and Parking, Judicial Affairs and even the university’s national powerhouse rodeo program, among other student services areas.
Dottavio expressed his pleasure to have Boren joining the Tarleton brass in a university-issued a news release.
“We are delighted to have such an experienced and professional leader in student development join the Tarleton leadership team,” said Dottavio, according to the release. “Dr. Boren’s leadership and involvement in strategic enrollment management and student success, and her commitment to student-focused service standards complement our ongoing initiatives and values at Tarleton.”
Boren says there are more similarities than differences between her current duties and those at Northeastern State, a regionally competitive university with approximately 11,000 students. Tarleton has close to 12,000 total students.
“Really the size is almost identical and the budget is very similar. The differences are in some swapping of departments,” she said. “When I was at Northeastern I oversaw enrollment management, and here that’s part of academic affairs. Here, I oversee the police department here but I didn’t there, and I oversee the rodeo team, which is really neat because Northeastern didn’t have a rodeo team.”
Why leave her alma mater after nine years being back in Tahlequah, Oklahoma?
“Honestly, I was not looking for a job, and I think there was some divine intervention involved,” she said. “I had a colleague who nominated me for the position and after looking at the institution and the job, it seemed like a great career opportunity and a good fit. After the interview, I knew this was a match for me and my family and that the mission and core values of this institution and the spirit surrounding it just felt right. When Dr. Dottavio called to make me the job offer, I couldn’t pass it up.
“I’m a graduate of Northeastern and I honestly thought that would be where my husband and I would raise our family, and that we would retire there,” Boren said. “But I also have career aspirations. I would like someday to be a university president, and in trying to achieve that I need to be purposeful in making sure I obtain valuable experiences at good institutions that will make myself a well-rounded leader.”
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the appointment of Boren on May 27. Two whirlwind months later, she is in her new office on the second floor of the Tarleton Administration Building with exactly one month until school begins on August 24.
“I met the ‘Purple Poo,’ (Thursday). I brought my son up here to meet them and his eyes got huge when he saw them,” she laughed. “I’m going to Duck Camp in a couple weeks and I can’t wait. I feel like I should warn the leaders that I get very enthusiastic at things like that.”
After the final Duck Camp for incoming freshmen, students will begin pouring into Stephenville in droves. And Boren is charged with caring for them. All of them.
“I want students to find me easy to approach and talk to, and I want them to feel empowered after they interact with me. But at the same time, I want to challenge them to think about things, and to live life with a level of integrity they have never thought about before. I want them to consider me a mentor, someone they look up to,” she said. “I’ve learned to listen and take in as much information as possible and not just make decisions based on black and white. You have to consider more than the policy itself and think through the gray areas to determine the best course of action for the individual, group and organization, and for the university whatever the situation may be.”
Helping students make the transition to college living and seeing them grow during their time on campus gives Boren great pride.
“The growth of a student from the time they set foot on campus until they walk across that stage is why I do what I do,” she said. “Their growth as individuals, their views of the world, their academic knowledge, all of it. It’s why I think working in higher education and in a university setting is the greatest job in the world, because you have the opportunity to influence individuals and help them become the adults they and their families have dreamed they will be.
“I’m like a kid in a candy shop,” she said. “I feel like this is a wonderful opportunity for me and my family, and I just can’t wait to see all the students back on campus and become a part of that atmosphere.”
Dr. Laura Boren:
20011-12 – Current: Vice President for Student Affairs, Northeastern State University
2006-07 – 2010-11: Dean of Student Affairs, Northeastern State University
2001-02 – 2005-06: Student Development Specialist; Program Coordinator for Extended Orientation; Leadership and Administrative Services; Assistant to the Executive Vice President and Dean of Student Life, Texas A&M University
1997-98 – 2000-01: Director of Student Activities and Special Events, Northeastern State University
Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Texas A&M
Master’s Degree in College Student Personal Services from Northeastern State University
Bachelor’s Degree in Meetings and Destination Management from Northeastern State University
Husband: Shane (married 20 years)
Children: One son named Cooper, 8, in the third grade; One daughter named Hunter Elizabeth, 3.
Crossfit, gardening and spending time with family