Traci Royster

Family first - then and now
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By Susan King

Traci Royster’s path to a number of leadership roles at Appalachian State University began in the summer of 1995. Just before her high school senior year, she worked for a short time at the textile mill where her parents were employed. For eight hours a day, in a room by herself, she loaded a machine with yarn. Knowing of her interest in people, Royster’s father introduced her to the factory’s human resources director, who subsequently invited her to shadow him in the mill as he interacted with employees. Royster’s natural curiosity about what makes people tick was ignited by this experience, as was her interest in business.

One year later, after her parents had insisted that she apply to a number of colleges or universities, the diligent 18-year-old received letters of acceptance from four of them: Elon University, East Carolina University, N.C. State University and Appalachian State University.

She chose Appalachian twice. Royster earned a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial/organizational psychology in 2000 and a master’s degree in human development and psychological counseling in 2003, effectively combining her early interests to prepare her for a career in what might be called “the business of people.”

Her professional trajectory has been informed, in large part, by the bedrock principles that shaped her life. Luck is not in play here – Royster’s achievements are meritorious – but inspiration has always been a key factor in her accomplishments. She learned her work ethic from her parents, both of whom held two jobs so that she would have the chance to go to college. Other noteworthy influences were elementary and middle school principals who encouraged her to follow her dreams and to remember that, “They all start with education!” When severe homesickness hit during her freshman year, Royster credits Cindy Wallace, former vice chancellor for student development, with a timely intervention that convinced her that she could stay in school and succeed.

In the last decade Royster has succeeded in academic affairs and several areas of college student development:

  • 2002-06, director of student support services in Appalachian’s Learning Assistance Program
  • 2006-09, internship and student employment coordinator in the university’s Career Development Center
  • 2009-15, the first director of the university’s Parent and Family Services
  • 2015-16, interim director of multicultural student development
  • 2016-present, director of staff development and strategic initiatives for the Division of Student Development

In her most recent position, Royster facilitates professional development, fundraising, assessment and communication for the Division of Student Development.

An active volunteer for the university and community, she was the first African-American president of Appalachian’s Alumni Council, currently serves on the Boone Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Trustee of the Crossnore School, Chair of the Member Advisory Committee of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She also serves as the faculty advisor to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Omicron Kappa Chapter. Royster is passionate about community service and giving back to those things that touch her heart and can continue to help others for a lifetime.

Royster is well-positioned to share her knowledge of the greater community with students and parents. She is a recipient of the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations. Royster deftly embraces both the High Country and university communities and is an essential presence in each, a servant leader whose professionalism is underscored by perennial gentleness, humility and easy laughter.

What has kept Royster “on the mountain” for 20 years? Her answer is simple: “My passion for students, parents/families, and for Appalachian.”

Learn more about the Division of Student Development at