Dr. Tessie Bradford said her doctoral education from the United States Sports Academy helped her find her voice and led to her career as the Dean of Student Services at Lamar State College Port Arthur in Texas.

A native of Mobile, Ala., Bradford earned her Doctor of Education degree in sports management in 2009. She was introduced to student services work through her Academy doctoral mentorship at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Md.

“In my mentorship I taught some sports management courses but I also worked with student athletes to help them be successful off the field in the classroom,” Bradford said. “It was there where I realized that I enjoyed working on the student affairs side of higher education. After that, my first education leadership role was at the University of West Florida, where I was able to design a student services department for a new campus they opened in Fort Walton Beach. There, my passion for student services grew and led me to where I am now.”

Bradford found the Academy through a connection she made while she pursued her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Alabama State University and her master’s degree in human resources management at Houston Baptist. Academy alumnus Dr. Gary Grandison, the men’s and women’s golf coach at Alabama State, and Academy 2011 Alumna of the Year Dr. China Jude encouraged her to pursue her doctoral education at the institution.

“They both really encouraged me to go for it,” Bradford said. “I think they saw something in me and I really appreciate both of them. Dr. Grandison and Dr. Jude supported me throughout the whole process, from the beginning of my doctoral program until the end. I’m so thankful.

“My education from the Academy was unique because it showed me that sport is more than just teams on a field. The courses are well rounded and show you a variety of experiences and aspects of management that you don’t learn anywhere else. Ultimately, it led to my work in student services because I learned that in sport, you can’t drop the ball. The game is going to begin whether you are ready or not, so you have to be ready. Life is that way. I can’t drop the ball in student services, either, because I have to be ready to serve them and help them be successful in the classroom.”

Bradford said Grandison encouraged her during the dissertation process as well. She said her dissertation, “Gender Equity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” was pivotal in helping her find her voice as a professional.

“I found my voice at the Academy,” Bradford said. “The Academy taught me how to use my voice in a way that is effective, inclusive, and meaningful.”

Before joining the Lamar State College Port Arthur staff, Bradford worked as the Vice President for Student Services at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas. She also previously worked at the University of West Florida and served as the Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Interim Dean and Director of Student Affairs at Lone Star College in Houston.