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Traci Royster, right, director of Parent and Family Services at Appalachian State University,
helps a student with his luggage during Appalachian's Freshman Move-In Day.
Photo by Marie Freeman

Originally published: 2012-09-11 17:04:59
Last modified: 2012-09-11 17:04:59

Family first, then and now

by Susan King

Traci Royster's path to Appalachian State University and director of Parent and Family Services 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.

University bound

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, North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University.

She chose Appalachian twice. Royster earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial and 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 formed, 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, now vice chancellor for student development, with a timely intervention that convinced her that she could stay in school and succeed.

At Appalachian State

In the last decade, Royster has succeeded in three areas of college student development: from 2002-06 as director of Student Support Services in Appalachian's Learning Assistance Program; from 2006-09 as internship and student employment coordinator in the university's Career Development Center; and since 2009, as the first director of Parent and Family Services. Here, Royster coordinates the summer orientation sessions that deliver an in-depth introduction to the community at Appalachian for incoming students and their parents. After that, she becomes an integral part of these students' lives while they are at Appalachian and sometimes, beyond.

A member of the board of directors of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Boone, Watauga Education Foundation and Yosef Club and past president of the Appalachian Alumni Council, Royster is well-positioned to share her knowledge of the greater community with students and parents. Her extracurricular on-campus roles are many as well: adviser to Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternities Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and recipient of the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations.

Her passion

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 16 years?

Her answer is simple: "My passion for students, parents and for Appalachian."

Learn more about the Office of Parent and Family Services at