Students may have had him as a teacher, perhaps, passed him on his Segway or maybe you spotted him in Les Miserables. One of Mississippi College’s favorite faculty members Terry Dent is constantly changing roles and using his various skills to serve MC.
Dent, who taught biology for 11 years, is now kicking off his 12th year at MC as the Director of Student Success. It is a new position that Dent is very passionate about because he loves helping students. Dent is a 1981 graduate of MC who also has a strong connection and history with the college.
Dent’s involvement with student success began when he started working with Blue and Gold 101.
“In Blue and Gold 101, I realized: we, as a campus, have a need for somebody to sort of coordinate these incoming students,” said Dent. He explained that there were many different offices associated with Blue and Gold 101.
“I kept saying there is a need for someone to stand in the middle of all this as a hub in the wheel and hold all of this together,” Dent said. “I didn’t know it, but at the same time the administration was thinking the same thing.” The position of Director of Student Success was created last year, just as Dent was getting the urge to do something different that would challenge him.
“I applied for this position based on my strengths. We have the students do the Strengths Finder test. MC agreed that I would be a good person for this position. It came out through God’s providence, and I am looking forward to doing this for however long.”
Dent also explained that the reason for him coming to Mississippi College was God. “Because I did not want to come here. I don’t know how I ended up here.” Terry Dent grew up in Holly Springs, Miss., where he graduated from Marshall Academy.
Dent said that he felt like he somewhat grew up in his brother’s shadow, who is a year older than him. When his brother left home and went to MC, Dent said, “It wasn’t that I hated him, but it was like ‘Oh my, gosh I feel like a different person’ when I wasn’t in his shadow. So I was going anywhere he wasn’t.”
Dent made plans to go to Sanford but ended up at MC. “Honestly, I have no idea how I ended up here, but I am so glad that I did. I wouldn’t change it now…For one thing, the guy that I roomed with was one of my best friends from high school. It’s weird; I can’t explain it. I just think God wanted me here.”
While at Mississippi College, Dent got involved on campus and made decisions that would help shape the rest of his life and career. “I was a Swannanoa beau, and I absolutely loved that,” Dent said. “Back then Swannanoa was the extremely small one, like 7 members…so I got to have a big impact and help them with rush skits…I really had a good time.”
Dent started off as a music major, but he fell in love with his science classes and changed his major to biology. “What made me change to biology was Dr. Stark. I was in his first class he taught here. And he made me love biology! I thought ‘Shoot, I love this!’” Dent graduated with a major in biology, along with minors in chemistry education and music.
Dent fell into teaching after he graduated. His father passed away during his last year at MC, so he moved back home to be with his mom and teach at his high school. He did not plan on being a teacher for very long, but according to him, God had other plans.
Dent said, “Every time I try to get out of teaching, do church music or anything like that, God just laughs and says ‘Oh really?’” Dent has been a teacher at the junior high level, high school, and college. He has taught in small towns in Mississippi, Nashville, New Orleans, and even in Johannesburg, South Africa when he was a journeyman.
After he and his wife settled down in Clinton and had their son, Dent taught at Clinton High School for 8 years. “I’ve enjoyed being at each place in my life,” Dent said. “I’m really glad I got to teach here. It’s fun being a teacher in a place that really wants to push students academically. The students are very enjoyable. It’s fun getting to know them.”
Being involved with parking for the Clinton High School band is how he started with using a Segway. Walking the parking lot all night, Dent said he, “walked his legs off.” So, he thought about getting a golf cart. A friend of his did Segway tours in Olde Towne at the time and let him borrow one, which Dent eventually bought from him.
“After being on it for three minutes, I thought, ‘I will never walk again. I love this!’” He brought the Segway to campus to be able to rush to the many meetings he has to attend. “I have a certain legend I have to maintain,” Dent said.
Dent has three tips for any student, especially freshmen looking for help with success in college and also after college, too. 1. Do not wait until the last minute. 2. Do not be reluctant to ask for help. 3. Have a variety of groups to be involved with (at least three).
A student needs a support group and a place to belong because once a student feels disconnected, he or she may just quit. “For MC, success is producing successful citizens through a college degree,” Dent said. “So if we lose a student after one semester, we have not been successful.”
To Dent, faith and education go hand in hand. This was true when he taught biology and it is also true now that he is involved with Student Success. “I love being able to talk to a student about basing your sense of academics and your performance and your goals on what God is calling you to do. I don’t know how you can separate that out.”
Dent also said, “We tend to say ‘call’ in reference to a career goal. Really, God’s call for us is a daily walk with Him.
“And as we daily walk then His call becomes a lifestyle. So in speaking with student’s struggling to find their daily walk today and how that fits in with what they think God has called them to do career wise, I think it is as individual as the student. As you get to know who God is, He calls you to Himself. Then he uses your strengths in a life being called out to Himself.”
– James Osborne, Contributing Writer