May 26, 2021

Shawnee State University has always been part of alumnus John Ross Campbell’s life. Born the same year the university was founded, some of his earliest memories are of the university where his mom attended class – sometimes attending class with her when she didn’t have childcare for the night.

portrait of John Ross Campbell

“Shawnee has always been a part of my life,” he said. “When I was a student, I not only had great educational opportunities but I was also given a lot of student leadership opportunities. I had the time to really learn how universities work and about student support. These things really continue to help me in my career and led me towards going into higher education.”

A 2008 SSU English & Humanities graduate, Campbell quickly found a way to connect across campus in his classes and in student organizations.

“Shawnee offers a lot of opportunities to engage and get involved,” he said. “Because Shawnee is smaller, I got to be involved in ways I might not have been at other schools. It was the right fit because I got to build my own experience and piece together the things I wanted out of my experience.” 

Throughout his time at SSU, Campbell connected with several mentors on campus, including Marcie Hatfield-Simms, SSU’s Dean of Students and Tiffany Hartman, SSU’s Director of Student Life. That mentorship led him to look into a career path he hadn’t considered before.

“Through the mentorship of Marcie and Tiffany, I learned a lot about the field of student affairs and higher education administration,” he said. “I started looking at different programs, completed an internship in New England for a summer, then applied to a master’s program in higher education administration and college student development. All of that is because of the mentorship that I received at Shawnee.”

After completing his master’s degree and starting to work in the residence life field in the New England area, he accepted a position as an Associate Director in the Office of Housing & Residential Services at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his role, he works mostly with undergraduate students while also serving on several committees within the institution.

“My favorite part of my job is to work with students who are first-generation college students or who come from a low-income background like I did,” said Campbell – who, while his mother did attend college, has a father that did not finish high school and is the only sibling in his family to complete a college degree. “It’s really rewarding to help those students feel and know that they belong, build that confidence, and see them grow and navigate this very different world than they’re used to.”

Looking back at his time at SSU, Campbell is thankful for the opportunities the school was able to give him.

“Shawnee was so special to me and I didn’t really realize that until I left,” he said. “You can have a significant impact on the Shawnee community and have a lot of support to make that happen as well.”

This spotlight is part of an ongoing series by the SSU Alumni Association in celebration of the university’s 35 Years milestone. To learn more about alumni making a difference in their careers, visit for more features.