Where Passion Meets Purpose

Does finding your passion lead to success? For Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc, it did.

Photo Courtesy: Megan Suttles

According to Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Higher Education, her professional career had a rocky start. LaBanc, a first-generation college student and Lisbon Ohio native, obtained her undergraduate degree in accountancy from University of Akron.

Regarding her first job as a tax accountant, LaBanc noted that, “I didn’t really know what I missed, but I knew I didn’t love what I was doing.”

Thus, like any other sensible, young professional, she went back to school in search of something more. An abundance of advice and one awkward conversation with her parents later, she enrolled at Kent State University where she worked to obtain her master’s degree in Higher Education.

Post graduation, her new journey involved working in residential life, greek life and student affairs at various universities across the country including Arizona State University, University of North Carolina Wilmington,University of Akron and Northern Illinois University, where she received her doctorate in Higher Education.

LaBanc has been at the University of Mississippi for the past seven years, and her current role as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs includes overseeing three primary areas on campus: enrollment, student success and wellness and student life. “We deal with students outside of the classroom from enrollment to landing that job,” she explained.

She continued to express that her days are always filled with a variety of tasks, but that her goals are always the same. “I get to think about students and their success everyday,” said LaBanc. “I see myself as a servant leader. My job is to come to work and try to make this place a little better everyday for the students that are enrolled here.”

For LaBanc, she has found that helping others is what motivates her and is where she has found her passion. “I do love what I do.” she said.

Despite the bumpy start of her journey towards success, LaBanc feels that she is exactly where she is meant to be, saying that for her Ole Miss “means home.”

“What Ole Miss means to me are the people,” she said. “When I came here, it was more than just the job. It was an opportunity to engage in a place that has strong community and strong sense of self. At least, in a self we want to be.”

LaBanc is no stranger to reaching towards an ideal self. To get to this point in her career, she has overcome many obstacles. From ending up in a career she was unhappy with to going back to school and realizing her passion, she has made an effort to fight for the things she wants in life. Despite all the situations that have been both in and out of her control, LaBanc looks back on her life experiences as instances from which she can learn.

“There have been multiple times where I’ve made major mistakes, and I think that you have to go through that,” LaBanc said. “Failure is the best thing that refines you and teaches you…and we’re so afraid of it and to talk about it, but failure is important.”

Through her shortcomings, she has learned that “sometimes it’s a game of patience in life.” However, she also credits a lot of her success to her work ethic, determination, self-awareness and the advice of the many people who have helped her along the way.

She continued to highlight the importance of “finding those folks who will continually lift you up and will continually say ‘that was a really bad idea’ and be really real with you.”

“That’s really valuable to me in my life that I’ve got someone who will push me when I’m resting on my laurels, tell me what I don’t want to hear when I don’t want to hear it, and will also encourage me as my biggest champion.” LaBanc explained.

However her biggest life advice is to “find what truly makes you happy,” recalling that as a tax accountant, she didn’t love her job.

“It’s good to have goals, but at the end of the day being adaptable and understanding the challenges and blessings that come along are there for a reason and going with it,” she said.

In a world that says a mediocre life is good enough, LaBanc is a shining example that if you follow your passions, anything is possible.

This story will be featured in the 2019 yearbook.