By Teron Brooker-Parquet
When freshmen first step on campus, they bring with them their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. True, sometimes these must be tailored to ensure those students their best possible outcome in college. But that’s one of the commitments of Greensboro College faculty and staff: to promote and provide a concrete foundation for students, so that they can achieve their goals. And when students commit, they really can reach the pinnacles of success.
One individual at GC embodies both sides of this equation: Dr. Allison Palmadessa. Not only is Palmadessa a Greensboro College alumna; she is also an expert in the field of higher education; has published widely on her research, which she regularly presents at educational conferences; and has won several teaching awards as a history professor at GC, where she has taught since 2014.
So, what allowed for a GC freshman named Allison to transform herself into Dr. Palmadessa, associate professor at GC? I met with her to find out.
Here at GC, students are encouraged to participate in defining their own paths. But they are aided along the way by the student-teacher bond. Without such bonds, connections cannot be made, goals are less likely to be achieved, and limitations are placed on individuals. As an incoming student at GC, Allison made it her mission not to fall into this latter category. She formulated relationships with faculty and staff, allowing her to gain a greater understanding of what she was capable of doing intellectually at GC. When I asked her if there were any professors who had motivated her particularly on this journey, she answered immediately: Dr. Richard Crane, now on the faculty at Benedictine College in Kansas. Palmadessa describes her interaction with this former professor of history at GC as one of great mentorship. He challenged her in ways that allowed her to progress intellectually. In fact, he never let her catch a break, she says. He pushed her to achieve—which she did, through attending graduate school and obtaining a Ph.D. in history. But at the same time, he also gave her the ultimate support system.
These are the sorts of relationships that come through the everyday interactions with professors that a small school like GC provides; but they can also correlate with success that lasts a lifetime. Allison kept in touch with Dr. Crane throughout graduate school, and he guided her through trying times—so much so that in her book “American National Identity, Policy Paradigms, and Higher Education,” she thanks him for sticking by her through three degrees!
But academics are not the only thing Palmadessa recalls from her student days at GC. One particularly traumatizing time, she recalls, was the uncertainty and fear after the 9/11 terror attacks. Dr. Palmedessa described this experience as one of the scariest she has ever been through. Yet, she vividly remembers the support provided by GC staff and faculty and the efforts they made to reassure her that theirs was a community built on values of trust, communication, and outreach.
Pinnacles of success can be measured in many ways, but two measurements that seem rarely to change are hard work and consistency. Palmadessa makes her classroom a true learning environment, one that encourages students’ depth in critical thinking and facilitates their understanding of the assigned material. Palmadessa does not teach from a script, but from a GC student’s perspective of what teaching should feel like. She bases her teachings on the same defining hard work she has practiced as a student. She instills the principle of graduate school as being the goal, just as Professor Crane did for her.
Bonds are a powerful tool that influence generations of success from one to the next. Often, we find ourselves imitating what we get out of those bonds. Dr. Palmadessa gained one of the most essential tools to aid in achieving one’s goals: accepting guidance from those around you. And now, as a professor, she fosters those same tools in GC’s students of the next generation.
Teron Brooker-Parquet ’19 of Newark, Del., is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education and communications at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.