Blazing a new trail
Dr. Roberta Teahen went from first-generation college student to college administrator
Dr. Roberta Teahen didn’t know what she wanted to do when she came to Port Huron Junior College in 1963.
Teahen, who is now the Doctorate in Community College Leadership Director and Associate Provost at Ferris State University, wasn’t sure if she would even finish a degree, so she took some business classes to be prepared to work as a secretary. Her experience at PHJC (now known as St. Clair County Community College), however, turned out to be the spark for a successful career in education.
“A frequent line I use when I’m speaking to groups is that I’m a proud community college graduate,” Teahen said. “It was the best quality education that I had, and I’m a three times over Michigan State graduate – I’m very proud of that education, as well. The focus at most community colleges is on helping students learn. That was my experience in Port Huron. Class sizes were much smaller and you get to know your faculty and they get to know you. I also had a lot of leadership opportunities. In community colleges, you have a great opportunity to be engaged.
“Had I not gone there, I don’t think I would be a college graduate.”
Teahen, a Marysville High School graduate, earned an associate of arts from PHJC before transferring to Michigan State where she earned her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D.
She made the decision to transfer to MSU after talking with the late Chet Aubuchon, who was then the dean at PHJC. In what was a chance meeting, Teahen explained to Aubuchon that she hadn’t planned on transferring because she didn’t have the money to attend a four-year school.
“He said, ‘That is not the issue, we’ll figure it out,’” Teahen recalled. “He helped me with finding a scholarship, and I hadn’t ever applied for financial aid. It was a major turning point in my life.”
Her professional life has been spent in education, including time as a high school teacher and faculty member at multiple higher-learning institutions. She was a faculty member and administrator at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City before going to Ferris State in 2002 as the Dean of Extended Learning. While in that role, she made Ferris State’s Bachelor in Science in Criminal Justice program available to SC4 students. The program allows students to finish a Ferris State degree while taking classes at SC4.
As each new opportunity has come up, Teahen has been ready to take it on. It’s something that started back in her days as a student at PHJC.
“I do often work with students at all levels,” she said. “While we do encourage them to make career plans, more often I tell them to keep yourself capable for an opportunity that could come along, and to be open. That’s been the story of my career, is to be open to opportunities.”