Leading BEAR Central with knowledge, heart and joy

For Halloween 2023, the BEAR Central team dressed as the emotion characters from Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out,” with Teena Brooks, M.A. ’17, in the role of Joy. It was a perfect choice, a reflection of the passion, enthusiasm and joy Brooks has brought to academic advising and support at Lenoir-Rhyne since she joined the staff in 2017 and now as the newly named director of BEAR Central.

Teena Brooks

“I always say LR has been good to me. I’m proud and delighted I’ve been able to give back in my roles here,” Brooks shared. “I’ve worked with students in multiple capacities, and I’ve been passionate about students who are struggling. I’ve been passionate about first-generation college students. I’ve been passionate about undeclared students. I also teach a graduate class in the counseling program. Each position has brought me where I am now, personally and professionally.”

Brooks began working with students at LR as an academic coach while she was completing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. After completing her degree, she became a full-time advisor for first-year students, then coordinator of first-year advising. 

In addition to advising, Brooks has been instrumental in building a framework to support first-generation college students at LR – who comprise around 40 percent of the total student population – including the First-Gen Student Association, which hosts monthly First-Gen Fridays and celebrates National First-Gen Day in the fall semester. She also started the academic recovery program that gets students on academic probation back on track toward completing their degrees.

“Their story is my story. I struggled as an undergraduate. I was a first-gen college student. I was on academic probation. I didn’t know what major to declare. I never asked questions and was afraid to approach my professors,” said Brooks. “I empathize with those students, and I know there’s a way forward for them.”

Teena Brooks at a First-Gen Friday event

BEAR Central opened in fall 2023, a redesigned version of the student success unit at LR, which includes undergraduate advising, undergraduate and graduate student success services, writing and speaking services, tutoring services, peer academic coaching and faculty academic coaching, among other services.

The director of BEAR Central coordinates with other campus leaders through the newly created Student, Faculty and Institutional Success Collaborative, which includes the director of BEAR Central, the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, the director of general education and the director of institutional assessment. The goal of the collaborative is to advance student success through teaching excellence and continuous institutional assessment and improvement.

“Teena’s years of experience in student success, exceptional qualifications, and impressive achievements are what led the search committee and academic deans to support the hiring of Teena into the role of Director of BEAR Central. I am thrilled to welcome Teena to my leadership team and excited to partner with her to enhance student success at Lenoir-Rhyne,” shared Jennifer Burris, Ph.D., provost and vice-president for academic affairs.

The BEAR Central staff dressed as the emotion characters from the film "Inside Out"

Along with bringing support to a growing number of both undergraduate and graduate students, Brooks looks forward to continuing the collaboration and strengthening the relationships BEAR Central has already formed among academic and administrative departments.

“The outpouring of support I’ve already had from faculty and staff has been amazing,” said Brooks. “I know I’m not alone, that we’re all doing this together to make students successful.”


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