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March 6, 2018
Dr. Matteel D. Jones believes you have to get personal before you can get real about change. The keynote speaker for the New Directions in Student Development Conference at Piedmont Technical College on March 1 asked the educators in attendance each to identify their personal “ouch” ― that internal tipping point that finally puts one on the path toward transformation. A first-generation college graduate, Dr. Jones today is vice president for student services at Greenville Technical College. For Jones, her obesity was one “ouch” that was exacerbated by divorce and a spiritual awakening. These combined to put her on the path to her own transformation.
“There are so many life lessons in the wellness journey,” Dr. Jones said. It is a process from which no one is exempt. First there has to be an acknowledgement of a problem and a change in mindset. Then the person must take action and find help. Part of the journey is undoubtedly painful. “Endure the pain,” she said. “You have to go through it.” And at the completion of the journey, the individual ultimately experiences their “butterfly moment.”
Many students enroll in technical colleges because they are determined to make an enduring, meaningful change and achieve the career success that comes with a quality education.
“We are in the transformation business,” Jones said. “We pretty much promise our students that if you come to us, we can change your life.” Educators must be cognizant of their role in this transformation.
Jones’ most recent transformation began around 2009. “I got sick of it,” she said. “I kept trying and failing at weight loss. So I got help. I worked with a trainer.” And that hard work paid off. To date, she has dropped more than 170 pounds, “and I’m still not done.” She also got baptized, as an adult. “When I went down under the water and came back up, I felt different. It was a transformation.”
She already had been working to address gaps in her education. She had taken some college courses but hadn’t completed a full program. “I got tired of checking ‘some college’ on every application I filled out,” she explained. She had enjoyed previous work as an executive assistant and a paralegal, “but God had a different plan for me. I ended up at Piedmont Tech and started growing.”
Over the ensuing years, she completed numerous college programs, eventually earning an Associate of Arts degree from Piedmont Technical College in 1999. She went on to earn a bachelor’s in counseling and human services from Limestone College, a master’s in career and technology education from Clemson University, a graduate certificate in higher education leadership from the University of South Carolina (USC) and a Ph.D. in higher education administration, also from USC. Before coming to Greenville Tech, Jones served for nearly six years as vice president for student affairs at the Technical College of the Lowcountry and, before that, 10 years in various roles at PTC.
Jones likened her own process to that of most technical college students. She said college faculty and staff are privileged to help guide and witness students’ transformations. “Some of us have the pleasure and opportunity to see what they go through, from ‘beast mode’ to achieving their butterfly moment,” she noted. “It’s about inspiring others, inspiring students.”
Dr. Matteel Jones, vice president for student services at Greenville Technical College, talks about the process of transformation.