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The indissoluble bond between Triplett and UWA

Dr. Veronica Triplett.

Dr. Veronica Triplett won the 2022 Nellie Rose McCrory Award at UWA.

Assistant professor of marketing also directs DBA in rural business online program

Story: Phillip Tutor | Photo: Betsy Compton

As silly as it may seem, the reason Dr. Veronica Triplett is an institution at the University of West Alabama can be traced to a long-forgotten item tucked inside a storage space in her family’s new home.

It’s her clarinet.

That is, after all, why she initially made the two-hour drive to Livingston from her childhood home of Monroeville. Recruited as a teenaged clarinetist for the UWA Marching Tigers band, Triplett graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2007 -- and hasn’t left. 

Today, Triplett is an assistant professor of marketing and management in UWA’s College of Business and Technology. Last December, she received the 2022 Nellie Rose McCrory Award that honors a faculty member for service to the university and the surrounding region. She also directs one of the university’s newest academic additions, the Doctor of Business Administration in Rural Business online program.

Since arriving in Livingston in 2003, Triplett has earned three UWA degrees -- a bachelor’s and two master’s -- and either worked in or directed a queen’s collection of business-related departments. It’s as if the campus and the professor are indissoluble.

“I’m going to be honest with you. When I was leading up to graduation, I thought I'd end up back in Monroeville in my hometown,” she said. “I've never had a vision to be in a big city. I've never had a vision to get away. It's one of those things where you go off, you get educated, you come back and you pour into the community that raised you. 

“But I found an opportunity to stay here, and I think it worked out for my good. I don't know of any other place I could have ever gone.”

A career of opportunities at UWA

Here’s another example of how intertwined Triplett’s life story is with UWA, as well as a testament to undergraduate networking. She graduated on a Saturday in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration; the following Monday, she started as a counselor in the university’s Small Business Development Center, where she’d been a work-study student as a senior. Her first job search was embarrassingly simple.

Other opportunities limited Triplett’s initial UWA role but kept her in Livingston. Though teaching had held her childhood interest, she rose in leadership positions with the university’s Community and Economic Impact Grants Program, Certified Nursing Assistant Program, Applied Manufacturing Technology Program, Summer Transportation Institute and Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Services.

She earned her first master’s, in counseling psychology, in 2009, but one wasn’t enough. She earned her second, in business administration, in 2016. Her fourth degree -- a Ph.D. in business administration and marketing -- is her only non-UWA honor. It came from Liberty University in 2020.

“To me, rural students often have fewer educational opportunities than their peers in metro areas,” she said. “We have the opportunity in teaching rural students, even at the collegiate level, to not only work with the students, but work with their families to improve the outcome they're going to have. That's important to me.
-- Dr. Veronica Triplett

The result of this constant jumble of role changes and academic achievements is a job Triplett adores. It allows her to teach in the Department of Business Administration, Management and Marketing and direct an embryonic doctorate program that’s engendering lofty expectations within the College of Business and Technology.

“I think the primary reason this program was started was because there are so many times we sit in meetings -- strategic planning meetings, community meetings, city government meetings -- and there's somebody from the outside telling these people in rural communities what they should be doing,” she said. 

“We realized really quickly we're not developing enough rural leaders. We're not developing enough individuals invested in leadership, or investing in entrepreneurship in rural communities specifically. So the ultimate goal is how do we create rural business consultants to help inform these decisions that are made in rural communities?”

Never far from Triplett’s thoughts, though, are UWA’s core students, she says, many of whom hail from rural regions in Alabama and Mississippi similar to the university’s Sumter County home.

“To me, rural students often have fewer educational opportunities than their peers in metro areas,” she said. “We have the opportunity in teaching rural students, even at the collegiate level, to not only work with the students, but work with their families to improve the outcome they're going to have. That's important to me.

“These students have unique problems related to their academic performance, whether it be resources, whether it be literacy, any of those types of things. We have a large population of minority students here that may have special needs or accommodation … It's one of those things where we have the opportunity to have a greater impact because our learners are in such a small environment in class size.”

A trendsetter in higher education in Alabama

Triplett’s normal cadence -- rapid, staccato, friendly -- slows to a thoughtful stroll when she’s asked about being an African-American woman in a prominent university position. 

After all, Monroeville, her childhood home, is forever linked to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s transcendental novel that explored issues of race, jurisprudence, equality and humanity in the small-town South of the mid-20th century. Triplett realizes “that I represent a minority in a lot of instances,” in race and gender, and that America’s slog toward workplace equality has historically hindered women and people of color. Only in 2020 did the United States elect its first African-American woman as vice president, Kamala Harris. 

“I don't take it for granted one day,” she said. “There's not a day that I take for granted the opportunities that I've been given. I don't take it lightly. I use it as an opportunity to really show that you can be where you want to be.”

The clarinet that ushered Triplett to Livingston isn’t as fortunate. She hasn’t played it since 2007, back in her final days with the UWA marching band. Given the hectic arc of her career, though, the former clarinetist hasn’t had much time to spare.

“I actually love the band,” she said. “I love music. I still love music.”