In the span of four hours, Jessica Lofland went from knowing nothing about Oklahoma Panhandle State University to finding a home.
“I missed too many days of school my senior year, but I wanted to go with mom to visit my grandpa in Perryton, Texas. The vice principal told me to stop at a college on the way and he would excuse some days for me. I figured we would stop at Colorado State or something. The day before we were supposed to leave Perryton, my mom mentioned a little school in the Oklahoma Panhandle that my grandfather attended. She figured a campus visit there would be quick and we could get back on the road after an hour.”
Lofland’s mom was right. They were back on the road to Montana an hour later and about two hours after that, Lofland announced that she thought she would apply to OPSU.
“Mom just about drove off the road.”
Lofland came to Oklahoma Panhandle State University in August 1996 as a freshman from Miles City, Mont. She spent two years in Goodwell before leaving to pursue a geology degree at the University of Idaho as a junior.
“I love geology and earth science, I just missed the fact that I would need chemistry and physics too,” Lofland said of her brief stint in Idaho. “I came back to OPSU for homecoming that fall and that was it. I knew I would be back in January.”
“During my sophomore year, I was a resident assistant in Holter Hall. When I came back, there weren’t any openings for RAs, so I had to find another job. The only thing open on campus was editor of The Collegian. I took the job and really loved it. I ended up staying during the summer and working for Public Information writing press releases and editing publications printed on campus.”
In addition to her work with The Collegian and the Public Information Office, Lofland worked for High School and Community Relations and served as a student ambassador and orientation leader. She also worked with The Plainsman yearbook and was a member of the Media Club.
Lofland also took an active role in student government while at OPSU. She served as a student senator and took an active part in the homecoming and honors reception committees. Jessica eventually ran for and served as the student association president.
“I loved being a part of the student government at that time. We were just getting the announcement and fund raising for the Noble Center underway and it was exciting to be a part of something new and big. President Goodwin was great to work with and really valued our opinions about the project,” said Lofland.
Lofland graduated from OPSU in December 2000 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a marketing option. She was inducted into the Alpha Chi honor society and graduated cum laude.
Following graduation, Lofland moved to Chadron, Neb., to work as a communications specialist for Chadron State College. She then returned to Oklahoma to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration degree at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Lofland then returned to Montana and served as the development director for the Miles Community College Endowment.
In the fall of 2005, Lofland received an email from Dr. Wayne Manning, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Outreach at OPSU.
“Basically, Dr. Manning told me about a restructured position they were developing for a Director of Student Affairs for OPSU. He asked me if I would be interested in the position and then sent me the job description,” said Lofland. “It wasn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, but it definitely looked like something that I could do that would be a challenge and allow me to grow professionally. So I applied.”
“I started as the Director of Student Affairs in January 2006. I started out in charge of student housing and student activities. The position really grew with me as Dr. Manning and President Bryant turned more responsibility over to me. I really value the trust they had in me to do what was in the best interest of OPSU and our students. Eventually, I became the Dean of Students and I took over student conduct, emergency management, Title IX, and a variety of other campus tasks. I like to say that I oversaw just about everything directly related to students that was non-academic and non-athletic.”
Lofland was already a lifetime member of the Panhandle State Association of Alumni and Friends when she returned to OPSU. Therefore, she did not hesitate when the nominations committee asked her to serve on the Board of Directors. She went on to serve two terms as President of the Panhandle State Association and currently serves as the past-president.
Lofland added, “I made so many friends through my work with the Panhandle State Association. I just love visiting with past Aggies and swapping stories.”
After 10 years at OPSU, Lofland returned to Montana in the spring of 2016 for family reasons. Lofland stayed in higher education and serves as the Admissions Representative for Miles Community College.
“I wouldn’t trade my years at OPSU for anything. I loved the campus and the tight-knit community. I think I grew into my own while I was a student and embraced every opportunity that came my way. I guess you could say that I loved my time in college so much I decided to make a career out of it.”