• by Paul Slocumb •

In East Texas, the school bus ride from Rye to Hardin takes about an hour each way—plenty of time for a kid from a pine-tree town to ponder her future.  Rye’s Brandy Snyder made that bus trip to and from Hardin High School almost every school day for four years in the late 1990s, and she came up with a plan: attend Baylor University, become a teacher, have a shorter commute.

“The school bus wasn’t too exciting,” said Snyder who was named Sul Ross Associate Dean of Students on August 1.  “The more vivid memory is getting to the bus from our house during the first couple of years we lived there.  We were the only house down a red clay road.  Our vehicles created ruts, and threw mud in rooster tails.  Fairly consistently, our jeep would high-center on the road, which left us walking that half mile until the dry season returned.  The first few years we lived in Rye, we couldn’t afford mud boots.  So, my ingenious mom saved bread bags for us.  We would cover our shoes and pants legs with the bread bags and ‘secure’ them in place with rubber bands at the top of our calves.  This is the story that comes to mind when people tell me they, ‘walked uphill both ways in the snow.’  My story’s legit, though.  Do you want my mom’s number?” she asked with a laugh.

“No, actually, those years were rough,” she added.  “But they are a big part of who I am today.  Those experiences made me work harder, take nothing for granted, and believe that I could accomplish things.  I’m still working at it every day!”

Snyder began building her work-ethic resume in college where she worked as a resident assistant while majoring in education at Baylor University.  After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2002, Snyder’s drive to become a teacher took a slight detour.  Baylor offered to pay her tuition for a master’s degree in education with one catch: she had to work 20 hours a week as a graduate assistant in the Campus Living & Learning Office.

“When I got the offer, I asked a lot of questions and lost a lot of sleep,” she said.  “I just couldn’t believe there was such a great opportunity for me other than teaching.

“Processing my options for a few days, I realized I could make a career out of working with college students, which I had enjoyed as a resident assistant.  Once I got my brain to accept that the teaching route I had planned wasn’t written in concrete, there was no question I was making the correct choice.  I haven’t regretted it for a day.  I love what I do.”

Six years after she earned her master’s degree, Sul Ross hired Snyder to be Director of Residential Living.  And one year later, she found a way to integrate teaching back into her schedule after becoming Associate Director of the Lobo Den.  Working in the University’s center for first and second-year students, Snyder began assisting with a new Seminar course designed to help college freshmen succeed.

Just as she had foreseen early in life, teaching came with rewards.

“Seminar impacts on the students can feel small at first, but they truly have significant effects.  Quiet, shy students want to come out of their shells and connect; they just need the opportunity to do so.  With each new Seminar class, I’ve tried to find new ways of structuring that opportunity.  For me, FYS has reaffirmed the fact that our students do not come from a one-size-fits-all experience.  We need to provide a varied experience to meet their needs.”

Despite the new title and increased responsibilities, Snyder plans on continuing to teach the Seminar.

“The opportunity to get to know the new Lobos and ensure they’ve been introduced to the skill sets that can make them successful is very important to me,” she said.  “Another positive is the ability to see them walk across the stage four years later at the end of the journey.  I’m getting smile lines around my eyes from the pride I experience on those nights at graduation!”