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Top UTPB official working toward student friendly enrollment

Mar. 16—With more than 24 years in higher education, Teresa Simpson has taken on a role that's new to her and to University of Texas Permian Basin — assistant vice president for Enrollment Management.

Part of her job and that of her team is to reduce barriers as they explore their college options, give them information and help them navigate the enrollment process.

They go into the high schools weekly and on some campuses there is a standing office with a UTPB representative where students can stop by and ask questions.

They take that approach with high school and two-year college students. They also work with industry and nonprofits who have employees who want to go back to school to earn credentials whether that's their first bachelor's degree or a graduate program.

"Our outreach is in all three of those sectors. With my new role, we're just getting started in that space and it's to take what we're doing and really grow the impact that we're making in equal opportunity for enrollment at UTPB and really serving the needs of the Permian Basin, meeting the needs of a quality workforce," Simpson said. "I have extensive background in student affairs, student retention, recruitment, students success and community partnerships, and have over 24 years in higher education where I've worked in various pieces of the full enrollment process, more specifically, and community partnerships, outreach, early engagement, recruitment and retention," Simpson said.

Right now, UTPB serves about 7,500 students annually.

"We are going to continue to grow that. In order to do that, I am working with the leadership team at UTPB and we are building out what we refer to as a modern enrollment management model. What that will allow for us to do is to truly build out recruitment. As we are recruiting already at the high schools and the two-year colleges, and we're working with our industry partners, we will further develop that infrastructure so that we can do that with greater impact," Simpson said.

"Community partnership is critical to my role and teaming up with the current roles that are already in that space, the stronger our partnerships are the more we can align with our common goals and we can reduce barriers and close gaps in creating access through early engagement initiatives and create seamless pathways for our students to achieve their career goals," she added.

In reference to building partnerships, she said she is talking not only about creating partnerships in the Permian Basin, but also internally to make for a smooth student experience. This will include making terminology more clear to students.

"With the infrastructure development that's taking place, I think it's important to note, we are investing in a one-stop shop. That falls within this role as well, so when students are a future Falcon, and they're looking to start their journey at UTPB, they're not having to go to different parts of the university. They're actually having to come to one spot here in the Mesa (Building). We will have great individuals that will make sure that they get where they need to go, so we come to them. They don't have to go all over the campus to find those places of support," Simpson said.

The one-stop shop will be in the first floor of the Mesa Building with a reception area. Through that one-stop shop desk that is part of the campus transformation, UTPB will bring the right people to them, Simpson said.

The renovation will start in April and is expected to take about six months.

Part of the transformation also includes making Maple Avenue the main entrance to the university.

Literally meeting the students where they are is the most important common denominator.

"Over 50 percent of our students are first-gen(eration) college students. We want to make sure that we meet our students where they are. They know where they're supposed to go and if not we can get to them sooner just in a physical space to help (them) navigate that process," Simpson said.

Students coming in this year will see the campus transform through a multi-million dollar reconfiguration of the campus.

"It"ll be finished before they're done and how exciting to be a Falcon that's gone through that process," Simpson said.

A proud first-generation student herself, Simpson said her passion is to support students that don't think college is possible "and make that a reality."

Simpson is from Beaumont and went to a two-year college and then transferred to University of Houston-Clear Lake, which was a junior-senior campus at the time. She was a double major in history and literature and started her career as a teacher and coach and wanted to go back to her town to show them going to college is possible.

At Lamar College, she earned her master's and doctorate in educational leadership.

Although the surroundings are somewhat different in Odessa than Beaumont, Simpson said the industry culture is very similar.

"I know this community. I know the people. I know the industry. The UTPB, where we are as an institution and what that looks like for the Permian Basin, I'm just really excited to be a part of and to build with this community," Simpson said.

She added that it is truly an honor to be the first one to take on the assistant vice president for Enrollment Management position.

"This role, outside of my specific leadership, is a true testament to the growth that this university is in right now. To take the impact opportunities that we're currently making available and to be able to build upon that is a huge opportunity. I'm very honored to be the one that's leading that," Simpson said.

She and her husband, Dr. Art Simpson, have two children. He is in higher education as well and his background is in recreational sports like track and field.

Becky Spurlock, senior vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, is thrilled to have Simpson on board.

"Dr. Simpson brings a wealth of experience in areas critical to enrollment and student success to UT Permian Basin. Her passion for partnerships, her success in working with K-12 and her deep understanding of the power of data will no doubt help UTPB continue to grow our enrollment. She is ready to serve West Texas," Spurlock said.