Mary Alice Snead Varga ’05 decided to attend Shenandoah because she wanted a well-rounded education that allowed her to explore and build her skills, both inside and outside of the classroom. “The faculty and staff were all so genuinely invested in my success – it was where I knew I wanted to be!” said Varga. Her fondest memory during her time at Shenandoah was opening her mailbox to find out if she had been chosen to serve as a resident assistant. She believes this moment ultimately changed her life and helped her get to where she is today.
After graduation, Varga served as housing coordinator for Shenandoah’s Office of Residence Life, and was also the first resident director for Edwards Residential Village. These positions prompted her to pursue a Master of Education degree with a focus on college student personnel at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Varga then went on to receive a doctoral degree in educational psychology and research from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Varga is director of the school improvement doctoral program and an associate professor of educational research in the College of Education at the University of West Georgia in Newnan, Georgia. Varga teaches graduate-level courses in research design, statistics, and assessment. She also chairs and serves on doctoral dissertation committees. The most rewarding part of Varga’s career? Her students. “Helping doctoral students become practitioner-scholars who initiate substantial improvements in their schools is highly rewarding,” she said. “Also, my research on college student grief and bereavement has allowed me to help students who are struggling both academically and personally during times of loss.”
Varga believes her time spent with Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Success Clarresa Morton, Ph.D., helped her transform from a college student to a higher educational professional. With the lessons Dr. Morton taught her, she was able to grow personally and professionally.
“My experiences at Shenandoah shaped me into the woman and professional I am today,” said Varga. “My involvement in Student Life helped me develop invaluable leadership skills. The faculty and staff also created a culture of support, encouragement, and mentorship, which I try to model for my students everyday.”
Peterman’s advice to students is: “Continuously learn. You can learn something new every day. I would also advise students to embrace the power of collaboration. I have learned throughout my career that we can do more and do better when we work together.”