A stack of business cards, one for each title she’s held at UMW, paints a picture of the kaleidoscopic career of Sallie Washington Braxton ’77. But her 33-year journey on the corporate ladder has been more horizontal than vertical.
“I so enjoyed working at Mary Washington that I think the realization that [my job changes] were lateral moves wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind,” said the associate dean for advising services for the College of Business. “I just saw different openings and different areas of opportunity, and I knew what I enjoyed doing.”
When Braxton came to work at her alma mater as assistant dean of admissions and financial aid in 1978, she discovered a particular passion for advising. Since then, she has worked as a director and a dean, with graduates and undergraduates, in Fredericksburg and in Stafford. Through all the changes, though, one thing has stayed the same: her focus on fostering students’ success.
“Maybe I sacrificed my goals for theirs,” she said.
But Braxton is where she wants to be. She has a strong faith, a job she loves at a university she respects, and a large and loving family that includes husband Warren; daughter Lyndsey, a UMW freshman; J. Bettis Chaos Braxton, their lap-loving Jack Russell terrier; and seven siblings.
Braxton was inspired by a close family friend, the late civil rights leader James Farmer. But her drive to help others shine, especially academically, came mostly from her mother. An activist for education, she walked miles from her Rappahannock County, Va., home to support construction of an African-American high school in Culpeper. Five of her eight children went on to work in education.
Braxton received an associate’s degree in education from Germanna Community College before earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Mary Washington.
“I think I had an affinity for advising transfer students because I had been one myself,” she said. “I enjoyed working with students who’d had college experience.”
Her guidance has helped shape the educations of grads and undergrads for decades, but Braxton has contributed to UMW in countless other capacities, including serving as co-director of the Student Transition Program, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, and director of the BLS degree program and Project SOAR.