In a legacy handed down by her parents, Dr. Andrea Wesley is lighting the way for her students.
Wesley, a veteran member of The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Psychology faculty, is the university’s nominee for the State Institutions of Higher Learning’s (IHL) Black Educator of the Year award, held in conjunction with Black History Month.
Each nominee is scheduled to attend a luncheon Feb. 17 at the University Club in Jackson, where the award recipient will be named.
“I’m truly humbled to be nominated,” Wesley said. “This recognition confirms the IHL and university’s commitment to recognizing the positive impact diversity has on the total educational experience.”
Her father was a mechanical drawing and sheltered workshop teacher and her mother a nurse who went back to school to earn her master’s degree and taught at the college level for more than 20 years. Their examples continue to inspire her life’s work as an educator and mentor.
“My father once said that sometimes you teach for only one for that day, and count it as a blessing when he or she experiences the moment when you turn the light bulb on in their mind. And if only one has been touched, then you have served your purpose, for you have been touched,” she said.
“So from both parents I realized then and now I can’t deny the spiritual spark needed for perseverance, tough love and gentle persuasion in this ‘cookbook’ of education,” she said, “for the recipe is not the same for every student.”
Wesley joined the university in 1977. Her research areas include mentoring learning styles and minorities/women's issues. In addition to teaching and research, she has served on the university’s Cultural Diversity Committee; First Year Experience Task Force; screening committee for selection of dean for the College of Education and Psychology; and the Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity’s Employee Mediation Team Training, among many other campus activities and initiatives. She was honored in 1998 by Students Promoting, Educating and Empowering for Diversity (SPEED) with its Outstanding Female Faculty Award, and received the Outstanding Achievement Award for Civic Involvement from the Mississippi State Association of the Order of Elks in 2001.
Wesley is actively involved in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and is a volunteer advisor and leader for local Boy and Girl Scout troops.
LaShawn Thompson of Pascagoula, Miss., a doctoral student in experimental psychology, said she’s grown as a student and as a person for having Wesley as an academic advisor, role model and friend.
“She brought to my attention the importance of contributing to the legacy of so many African Americans who paved the way for us,” Thompson said. “I look forward to establishing positive mentor relations in my own career with the foundation she’s given me.”