(Mallory Graves/Staff photographer)
By Mallory Graves
Ross Peterson-Veatch travelled all over the world just to end up a couple of hours from his hometown.
Peterson-Veatch has served as the vice president of the academic affairs and dean of the college for four years.
Peterson-Veatch grew up in Tulsa, OK, where he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.
Peterson-Veatch said, “What I most wanted as a high school kid was to leave town. I also wanted to study abroad, so I picked a college in Indiana that is famous for that. The summer before I went off to college, I worked at a hardware store and saved up all my money, and took a trip to Taiwan. I stayed with my friend and his family; they generously hosted me for a couple of weeks and I learned a lot of Chinese during that time. That was my first adventure out of the country.”
Peterson-Veatch unexpectedly took his next trip with his college friend.
“My roommate in college was from Mexico. I wanted to better communicate with him, so I decided to take Spanish,” Peterson-Veatch said. “We became good friends and then he invited me to come visit his family in Mexico during the summer.”
That summer served as the turning point for Peterson-Veatch. He realized what he wanted to study and where he wanted to do it.
“After that summer, I wanted to stick with the Spanish language and culture and visit more Spanish-speaking countries. I spent my junior year of college in Bogota and the summer before that, so altogether it was around a year in Columbia. I loved being there. I studied anthropology and found myself a guest student at many different Columbian universities while I was there. In the evenings, I taught an English class to working adults.”
Not only did Peterson-Veatch learn about things taught in a classroom, but he also learned many things about life and himself while he was away from home.
“I definitely learned a lot about listening and how important it is in communication,” Peterson-Veatch said. “Understanding what people are asking of you is vital when speaking with someone. You do not want to agree to something and have no idea what you agreed to do. It does not take very long to get confused whether you’re in your native language or not. It is just important to listen so you can understand what is going on.”
“Another thing I learned is that you don’t need a lot to make it on your own. I can think of so many times where I just went with the flow and if I needed to buy a plane ticket or food, I would just save up my money which didn’t take very long, and then I would have enough to get what I needed. It was pretty simple living.”
Language has always been thought of as a fun puzzle to Peterson-Veatch.
“I have loved learning different languages since I got into college,” Peterson-Veatch said. “I have spent about 14 years of my life teaching and making a living teaching Spanish. It has been a lot of fun and a big dream of mine that I have had the opportunity to do.”
Peterson-Veatch returned back to Indiana to finish up his last year of college as an undergraduate student.
He spent the summer after he graduated college with a friend in Spain.
“I scraped together enough money for a one-way ticket. My friend and I left from New York and took off,” Peterson-Veatch said. “We mostly just hung out on the beach and met tons of people while we were there. Those people turned into connections, and we would go visit and hang out with their friends and their friends and so on and so forth. It was the never-ending cycle of making new companionships and meeting new people. It was a blast.”
Following college graduation, Peterson-Veatch earned his Master’s degree in folklore at Indiana University.
In 2017, Peterson-Veatch landed his current job as the dean of the college here at Southwestern.
“I was looking for more of a permanent role instead of going from place to place,” Peterson-Veatch said. “I kind of did want to move on to somewhere different, but at the same time, I didn’t. My oldest son had graduated from high school that year, so it was a good time to either stay or go, and I had to make a quick decision.”
Life is full of surprises, and for Peterson-Veatch, he never knew that he would end up in a town he visited often as a young kid.
“Winfield was a very attractive place to me even though that might be hard to understand for younger college-aged kids,” Peterson-Veatch said. “The reason for that is because, in middle/high school, I really got into Bluegrass music. It was my dad and I’s thing. We used to come up here often and attend the annual Bluegrass Festival for many years in a row. I’ve loved Winfield since I was a little kid and my wife was a big fan of small towns, so it worked out perfectly to move here.”
Peterson-Veatch jumped at the opportunity when he saw the job offer as the dean of the college.
“Taking this job and moving to Winfield turned out to be a really good fit for me,” Peterson-Veatch said. “It was a good landing place in my journey. We will see where it leads, but for now, this is a really great place for me and my family.”
Peterson-Veatch has learned that things he already knew had become more important as he gets older.
“I have learned going through my job as a college leader and all of these intense things, I have learned a lot about things that I knew before. For example, listening and communicating with people. I have also learned in many concrete ways that things don’t really turn out the way they first appear. Waiting and seeing how things play out is a very important part in living your life especially when making decisions concerning a college.”