Palm Beach State College provost returns to her roots

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Dr. Coleman-Ferrell now leads PBG campus where she took her first classes

PALM BEACH GARDENS — When Dr. Tunjarnika Coleman-Ferrell enrolled in summer classes at Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens back in 1990, she never imagined that she would one day lead the campus.

She was a newly-minted Palm Beach Gardens High School graduate with a full scholarship to Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and had plans to become a doctor. However, before leaving her South Florida roots, she got a head start by taking courses in the summer at PBSC before starting her freshman year.

“At the time, I was a premedical student, but I always knew the goal was to help people. Although I decided not to go to medical school, I’m living my dream because I’m helping all people reach their goals,” said Coleman-Ferrell, who is the new provost and dean of student services at the Palm Beach Gardens campus.

Coleman-Ferrell was appointed to the role in December after spending 20 years at the Boca Raton campus as a professor and administrator. Her path to get there is partly what drives her passion.

After losing both of her grandfathers during her freshman year at Washington & Jefferson, she returned home and enrolled at Florida Atlantic University. She earned four degrees from FAU: a bachelor’s degree in sociology, master’s degree in public administration, an educational specialist degree and a doctorate in education. 

She joined PBSC in 1998 as a professor of teacher education after working as a middle school teacher in Broward County. She served as a department chair for six years and associate dean for four years before being promoted to dean of academic affairs at the Boca Raton campus in 2015.

Coleman-Ferrell, a Riviera Beach native, said the move to the northern campus is “like coming back home.”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to pay it forward and give back to the younger people in my community.”

In just a few short months, she has implemented several initiatives and events to help engage the community and students. They include hosting an upcoming event to encourage community members to become ambassadors for the campus, working closely with local chambers, supporting career readiness initiatives with businesses and mentoring students through creating opportunities like Pizza with the Provost, where students can discuss hot topics on campus over lunch.

“We are an amazing campus,” said Coleman-Ferrell. “Through continued strengthening of community partnerships in the northern corridor, building business relationships with an increased focus on connection to industry for career readiness and being a visionary servant leader for students, faculty and staff, together I know we will take what’s already a great campus to the next level.”

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