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Dr. Patricia Virella

Professor, Educational Leadership

Posted in: Spotlights

Dr. Patricia Virella

Dr. Patricia M. Virella is a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership. Dr. Virella’s research focuses on implementing equity-oriented leadership through leader responses, programmatic interventions, and preparation. Dr. Virella also studies equity-oriented crisis leadership examining how school leaders can respond to crises without further harming marginalized communities.

What was your college experience like?

College was tricky for me. I started out at the Ohio State University, following my big brother. I thought I would love the large setting but it wasn’t for me. In a class of about 1000 students, I realized I needed more support to be successful. So I left a couple of years after I started and took some time off. I quickly realized that I needed to finish my degree and enrolled in Adelphi University’s continuing ed program. I went to school at night and felt really supported by my advisor. He would regularly check in and to this day he still does. My advisor made a difference in getting through college.

Did you go to college with the intention of being a professor? If not, how did your path bring you here?

No way! I wanted to be a teacher but it wasn’t until I was getting my Masters of Ed Leadership degree that it clicked. I took a course on research with Dr. Jessica Blum-DeStefano and a light bulb went off! I realized research was cool and creative and I could make a small difference by studying a phenomenon that was understudied.

What is one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate/graduate career?

It’s ok to take your path. Whatever the “norm” is, may not be for you. Don’t get down on yourself!


Because I watched my high school friends finish in four or five years. But I had been a failure of sorts and was working. So many years later, I am truly grateful for my path.

What is the best part about being an MSU faculty member?

The students! I think that being an Afro-Boriqua at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) is like being on a campus that feels like home in some ways. I remember one of my first weeks on campus, I was walking to my office and I heard some kids on their phones talking in Spanish. This meant so much to me. The students in my classes also wanted me to be authentic and that can be hard as a woman of color, but I felt so welcomed.

Also, I have great colleagues that support my work. We laugh together, cheer each other on and there is genuine care. I am very lucky!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Oh goodness! Depends on the day. So most days I wake up early, take my kiddos to school if I am in Connecticut and then take my two dogs for a run. I then check in with my MSU writing group about writing goals and get busy. Mornings are for writing and I am vicious about this time. Afternoons are for emails, student work and meetings.

On Tuesdays, I get to do some really great work with the Paterson school district on equity-oriented leadership. It is invigorating and the partnership we have with MSUNER and ELAD is going to be really transformative for the district and us.

But honestly, in this world…what is typical?!

What are a few of your recent accomplishments?

I would say the Paterson partnership is the biggest. It is a three-year partnership that will allow me and other ELAD colleagues to work with them and develop their equity literacy, capacity building, and leadership skills over the next three years.

I am also very proud of my edited volume that will be published next year which features ELAD students.

What is your favorite class to teach at MSU? Why?

Leading the Learning Organization hands down. This class is so important to me because when I was an elementary school principal, I found that there were so many components to leadership that had I not had a class like this in my own preparation, I wouldn’t have known what to do.

What advice would you give to incoming students in order for them to succeed?

Enjoy the learning! There will come a time when you will have to put all the learning into action. Soak it up! Ask questions, and stretch yourself so you can use all the resources MSU has to offer.