By Saul Eli Rosa
Jacob Patrick has a passion for first-generation college students and their success because he can relate to them well.
Raised in the rural town of Elizabeth, Colorado with his older sister and parents, Patrick moved to Kansas shortly after high school to attend McPherson College and pursue his undergraduate degree in business. After taking a class in Native American history, Patrick found his love for history and the human connection of getting to know people and their stories and what makes them tick. This experience was pivotal in his decision to change his major from a business to history.
In 2014, Patrick graduated with honors from McPherson College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, with a double minor in communication and entrepreneurship.
He then wondered, “What am I going to do with a history degree?”
Pondering the idea of attending seminary and possibly becoming a priest, Patrick participated in two internships with a church group, focusing on general and youth ministry. After God didn’t make that path clear, he continued to search.
After being involved on campus helping with orientation for new students for the Dean of Students, serving as Student Body President for two consecutive terms, working part-time as an archivist for a local museum and working in a multitude of offices across campus, Patrick finally had an awakening moment.
He understood teaching was not a good fit for him, but he enjoyed the education outside of the classroom and the life skills and leadership development that was involved with it, “so why not higher education?” he thought to himself.
Patrick continued his educational pursuits in Kansas and attended Fort Hays State University for graduate school. In 2016, he graduated with a Master of Science degree in Education, with a specialization in Higher Education Student Affairs.
Since graduating, Patrick has served as the coordinator of orientation and community engagement for Northeastern State University and as assistant director of Student Life at UT Permian Basin near Odessa, Texas, before finally arriving at South Plains College in November.
As the new director of student life, Patrick is responsible for an inclusive and engaging campus environment for all students. His department provides leadership development, education in multicultural diversity, orientation for new students, and just the basic building of a better culture for the institution. He also manages the Texan’s student identification card services and oversees all student clubs, organizations, and traditional campus events, such as Homecoming, the Miss Caprock Scholarship Pageant, and the annual Winter Lighting Ceremony.
Patrick says that he has two specific areas he wants to see grow in his office. He envisions the Office of Student Life becoming a more commuter-friendly office where students who are passing through or taking a class here or there can have a meeting place to find connections with other students. Also, he sees the potential growth of a more community-friendly office to find connections for students to become more involved with non-profit organizations and have exposure to careers, as well as to have opportunities to volunteer for scholarship or for personal reasons and be connected with their community.
Patrick says that he saw an opportunity to work at SPC as “returning to roots.” It is returning to a rural community base where his background is, and SPC also serves first-generation college students, something that is personal to him and he is extremely passionate about.
Being a first-generation college student, Patrick understands the struggles and factors involved in the first-generation identity and experience.
His advice he offers first-generation students is “to persist.”
“And you need to align with what you are doing to who you are,” he added. “You must figure out what you want to study, what you want to do and make sure it aligns with your values. If you find that area of interest or passion, you can find a career that’s fulfilling with that. That will help you persist to actually attain the goal of achieving a degree.”
He also suggests that students should not be afraid to embrace their first-gen status.
“Sometimes that will help others to understand why you are asking the questions that you are, or why you might be having some of the difficulty that you do,” explained Patrick. “And they might be better to understand and assist you.”
Patrick wants to offer resources and be supportive of first-generation students because of the generational ripple effect that can happen in a family. His grad school institution called it Project Light House.
“It is the first-generations being a beacon in their family of laying the light of, ‘This is achievable,’ Patrick explained. ‘This is obtainable to better my life and better myself for future generations in my family.’ It’s an influential piece of how much of an impact that life can have, and that degree can have on a family. It encourages others to go forward and pursue it as well.”
As for the multicultural aspect of his office, Patrick would like to shed more light on disabilities, implementing more trainings and exposure about hidden and visual disabilities.
“Most people don’t know they have a disability until they get to college,” said Patrick, “and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that your brain works a little differently. So, you must learn to adapt and study differently. If you are struggling, it’s OK. It’s nothing to be afraid to ask for help.”
Being very artistic and creative, Patrick was encouraged to be in the arts from an early age. He took dance lessons when he was young and continues to support the arts because of what can be gained from them, the human expression, and the human experience.
He used to play violin as a youth and was a champion cake decorator, winning several years at the Colorado State Fair. He also enjoys painting, does cross-stitch, collage work, photography, quilting and sewing.
Patrick embraces the challenge of learning something new. He enjoys traveling, hiking, playing golf, acting, and even training his adorable miniature Australian Shepard, Kix.
Patrick’s experiences have shaped him into the person he is today. On the back wall of his office hang pendants from every school he was employed at. At one point, he was being given a hard time for being a collector of “stuff” from everywhere he has been. But that is not the case.
“I use it as an illustration point that you never know where your journey will go, and you’ll also never know the lessons you’ll learn along the way,” explained Patrick. “I can point at any one of those pendants and tell you one of the biggest struggles I’ve had at that institution, and I can tell you the strongest lessons I’ve learned.”
So, the next time you are in the Student Center building, stop by his office and make a connection by welcoming the new director of student life.