Impact of faculty, coaches and advisers still resonates today

whetsel ribeau headshotDr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau ’80, ’08, who earned a Bachelor of Science and a Doctorate in education from Bowling Green State University, addressed degree candidates of the colleges of Education and Human Development and Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering on May 5 during commencement at the Stroh Center.

“I want you to know I am a very proud two-time BGSU education degree holder and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Whetsel-Ribeau, who also earned a master’s degree in higher education counseling from Kutztown University. “Looking out at you, I can see me. I will forever remember my first day coming to BGSU as a small-town, 18-year old girl from rural Ohio —Ridgeway to be exact — and I knew no one on this campus and I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here in this metropolis?’

“That was the day when my parents moved me into a room in Kreischer Compton, and a few hours later, when they pulled away in their 1975 Chevy Impala, tears rolled down my cheeks; it was the scariest time of my life. I was afraid. I was afraid of failing, not only failing classes but probably more important at that time, failing to make my parents and extended family proud because I was a first generation college student.”

It didn’t take long for the education faculty to take Whetsel-Ribeau under their wing. In fact, the enormous impact that faculty, coaches and advisers had on her life, still resonates today.

“I still feel chills run up and down my spine when I step on this iconic campus because of some of the deep emotional connections and ties all of the amazing memories and lessons that I will carry with me forever,” she said. “I’ve been a very proud educator all of my life and it has been an awesome ride. After all, having the opportunity to touch others’ lives to make a positive difference on a daily basis is one of life’s most powerful and amazing gifts.

“BGSU is an incredible place to call home. And now it is time to begin next steps forward.  The world is ready for you. The world needs you. More than ever before.”

Whetsel-Ribeau, who is married to Sidney A. Ribeau, president emeritus of BGSU, is currently the associate provost for Student Engagement and Success at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She has provided innovative leadership in the development of new academic programs, strategic planning for diversity and inclusion and collaborative work with faculty and staff in the area of student success. Creating an environment that enables students to experience the rich complexity of life and culture in America has kept her highly motivated throughout her career. 

“The first step in knowing yourself is gaining a good understanding of who you are."

She quoted Aristotle, saying “’Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’ The relationship with yourself is one of the most important relationships in your life. If you do not have a full understanding of who you are then how are others supposed to get to know you? How will you help make the world a better place?

“The first step in knowing yourself is gaining a good understanding of who you are. Take an introspective look at yourself: What are your values, your strengths, your principles, your character? Knowing yourself means understanding your passions and fears, your desires and dreams. It means being aware of your convictions and uncertainties, your likes and dislikes, and your tolerances and limitations. Knowing yourself means knowing your purpose in life.”

Whetsel-Ribeau previously worked at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she was a co-principal investigator of a $3.4 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant. The “Institutional Transformation Grant” established to increase diversity of women in higher education, specifically in STEM fields. She was also the executive director for the Howard University alternative spring break program and founder and chair of the Howard University Women as Change Agents organization. Prior to working at Howard, she served as the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Education at Bowling Green State University.  

She was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education to the National Board for the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. She is a member of multiple professional organizations, involved in various community service activities and has provided keynote addresses, presentations and a range of other levels of support for several of our schools and organizations across campuses as well as throughout many communities both locally and nationally.  The numerous awards and citations she has received characterize her commitment to goal attainment, ethical leadership and a tireless commitment to creating institutions that improve the lives of others.