Associate Professor of Education Sherry E. AdrianAssociate Professor of Education Sherry E. AdrianHow long have you been working in higher education?

I’ve been teaching in higher education for 33 years—5 years at Austin Community College as an adjunct and 28 years at Southwestern.

What inspired you to pursue a career in higher education?

Originally, I thought I might go into special education administration, but a teaching assistantship in graduate school and adjunct work helped me choose higher education. The primary factor was my enjoyment in teaching and my relationships with college students.

During your years at Southwestern, how has the university changed but also stayed the same?

My first visit to Southwestern was in 1971 as a 10th grader in high school. I came to visit a friend and stayed in a residence hall that no longer exists. The campus has changed with demolition and the development of buildings. Of course, technology has changed how we teach and learn in many ways. The curriculum has changed, though our commitment to the liberal arts has remained. Many faculty and staff have come and gone; I am the only faculty member remaining in my department from when I began at Southwestern. Two things have remained the same for me. First, I have always had the academic freedom to develop my courses as I’ve chosen. I appreciate that tremendously. Second, the students continue to be the best part of Southwestern. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach and learn with interesting people who make me laugh, question ideas, and help me to keep learning. I believe that I have a better understanding of the world around me through my relationships with my students.

What is something your students or colleagues would be surprised to know about you?

I make myself do things that I’m afraid to do, and I really enjoy alone time. I would much rather have an intimate dinner with someone than go to any party—ever! 

When not working, you can find me … 

hanging out with grandkids, reading and listening to books and podcasts, and quilting. I hope to travel again once I retire.

If you could have a drink at the Cove with anyone in the world, living or dead, what would the beverage be, who would the person be, and why?

The “who” might seem odd. I’d like to meet the girl I started out becoming before my accident at 11 years old. I look at pictures and wonder what she would have been like without the dramatic change. I don’t want to be her, but I would like to meet her. She used to drink Kool-Aid, but today, we’d have water or a soda.

Describe your dream vacation.

The qualities of a dream vacation to me are having sustained time (at least three weeks), spending time outdoors, being with people I enjoy, and eating in restaurants that are unique to the locale.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

I choose the superpower of invisibility. I could suss out truths and get in and out of places unnoticed. Bring on the invisibility cloak! 

“Know the why behind what you believe.”

What advice would you give students today?

Know the why behind what you believe. Education is a privilege. So many still do not have the opportunity to go to school, much less college. Don’t waste it. Be trustworthy. This isn’t about covering for your friends or keeping secrets. Trustworthiness is when others know that they can count on you to be present and that you are authentic. Giving—true giving—sometimes requires you do for others when it isn’t easy for you. You are not stuck with the decisions you’ve made. You can change. You don’t have to live into labels that you’ve been given. You can make amends, and you will be different in 50 years.