Student affairs vice president ends 35-year career on campus

News Writer

Dr. Sandra Pacheco, or Dr. P for short, is retiring after 35 years of working at St. Edward’s University. She first came to the university at a time when there were only four residence halls, several unpaved parking lots, one buffet-style dining hall, and a separate health center and counseling center.

“I didn’t really know that much about St. Edward’s, but I really, really liked it. I really liked the people, and I was real impressed with the faculty,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco was born in Houston, and she received her Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Houston and her Master of Science in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University as a first-generation college student.

She arrived at St. Edward’s in 1981 after just having received her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She began as a part-time psychological counselor, and within a year was promoted to director of the counseling center, a position she served until 1989.

“(When) I became the director, over time I started growing (the counseling center) and teaching people how to use a psychologist,” Pacheco said.

In 1989, the vice president for student services presented Pacheco with the opportunity to join the administrative staff for the dean of students. She was initially discouraged when she realized that accepting the job meant giving up her position at the counseling center.

“I never dreamed of being an administrator,” Pacheco said. “All my life has been as a therapist. So I had a hard time; it took me two weeks (to respond). I talked to some friends, and I finally accepted it, and I never regretted it.”

She was promoted to associate vice president for student services in 1993, and she assumed the position of vice president for student affairs in 1998 when her predecessor and supervisor of 16 years left the university.

Over the 27 years that Pacheco has served in administration, she and her departments set and saw the completion of many goals for growth, including creating the positions of Residence Director and Area Coordinators in Residence Life, renovating all four existing residence halls, establishing co-ed residence halls, building on-campus apartments and hosting the Dallas Cowboys when they trained on-campus for eight summers. She even made time to teach social psychology classes as an adjunct for three years.

“Not many individuals have been as fortunate as I have to spend a significant part of their life working at a place that foster(s) work with a sense of purpose,” Pacheco said. “There’s this feeling — this atmosphere — that the students are first and everybody cares about the students.”

She said she’s going to miss her students and her staff when she leaves.

“I know that we talk about teaching students but students teach us, too, and we don’t talk about that. I learn a lot from students, informal things. The students — you’re very vibrant, excited, young and full of energy, and that’s great to be around. I will miss that because I’ve made so many connections to many students,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco is leaving behind a legacy that will be impossible to replace and recreate.

“The wisdom and love that she has shared with faculty, staff and students over the years is part of what makes the Hilltop so special, and her ethic of caring is just amazing, and we will miss her,” Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Lisa Kirkpatrick said. “She is irreplaceable.”

At the annual ring ceremony last month, President George E. Martin presented Dr. Pacheco with a class ring in honor of her retirement.

“I love this place, and I wish I could’ve gone to school here. They put (the year) 1981 (on it), when I came. I just love it, I feel so privileged and I’ll wear it in honor of students,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco always boasts about how proud she is of all St. Edward’s students, and she makes the time to form personal connections and give advice and guidance to as many of them as she possibly can.

“It is this kind of genuine commitment to the student body that the campus community will truly miss,” senior Samantha Mendoza, president of the Student Government Association, said.

Besides pursuing personal interests, Pacheco doesn’t have any specific plans going forward, but she’s pretty comfortable with not having everything worked out.

“I trust the universe,” Pacheco said. “I am open to what may come along. I do know that there will be some time for adjustment, going from fast pace to, almost, a sudden stop. Even if I experience some challenges, I know it will be okay.”

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