NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Ask Paige Vadnais, the new student regent for Stephen F. Austin State University’s Board of Regents, to list the things in life most important to her, and she will quickly respond, “My family and my dogs, whom I also consider family.”
They factored greatly in her decision to attend SFA. Vadnais’ sister, Skyler ’19, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the university and provided “a little bit of home away from home” when Vadnais left Forney for Nacogdoches.
Vadnais’ three childhood dogs — Bella, Jake and Bear — engendered a love of animals that led to a Bachelor of Science in agriculture she received in December 2021 and an agriculture student teaching stint for Central Heights Independent School District.
“My sister was the family who got me here, but the faculty, staff and students at SFA were the family that made me stay,” she said. “The professors are so personable. They gave us their phone numbers and said, ‘If you need anything academic-related or you get yourself in a pickle somewhere, call us.’”
Her Lumberjack family expanded a bit when she joined the Traditions Council, now known as AXEperience, as a first-year student and held offices for the next three years, including president. Lacey Folsom, SFA’s director of Student Engagement, was the advisor for the council.
“Lacey was there every step of the way,” Vadnais said. “She gave me advice. She always put students’ thoughts forward and encouraged us.”
Her time in Traditions Council led Vadnais to pursue a Master of Arts in student affairs and higher education at SFA.
“Honestly, I’m working on this master’s degree because of Lacey,” Vadnais said. “Just seeing her impact on me and other students was so positive and helpful. And I thought, ‘I want to do that, too. I want to help students.’”
Appointed as student regent by Gov. Greg Abbott for a term that expires at the end of May, Vadnais plans to apply the lessons she learned from Folsom when helping students communicate their concerns to the board.
“I hope to be a positive and productive voice for SFA students when working with the board,” she said. “I want to listen to students’ concerns and build them up in a way that turns negatives into positives and helps us take some action, even if it’s small.”
Folsom believes Vadnais will serve students well.
“It was clear from the beginning of Paige’s student leader experience that she had a deep love for SFA,” Folsom said. “I am excited to see how she uses this position to not only advocate for student needs and engage with the campus community, but also provide a true Lumberjack perspective to the issues that the board faces in the coming year.”
While pursuing her master’s degree and serving as student regent, Vadnais is working as a graduate assistant in Student Life, which oversees the Center for Career and Professional Development, Orientation and Transition Programs, Student Publications, and Student Engagement.
“Every student who walks into Student Life sees me right there, so I get to talk to so many people throughout my day — students from all the different colleges,” Vadnais said. “I get to hear what they’re mad about and what they’re happy about even if I’m just standing in the background watching their body language. That gives me an advantage when advocating for students.”
She is especially looking forward to working with first-year and transfer students during the involvement fair SFA holds at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters.
“I tell students who can’t find where they fit in to email me,” Vadnais said. “When I meet with them, they’re nervous and scared and want to leave SFA. But we talk about their hobbies, and I connect them with different organizations.”
When she has time for fun, Vadnais, of course, spends time with her family, both two- and four-legged. She enjoys fishing with her grandparents in Oklahoma and learning from them about her Choctaw heritage.