Edinboro Alumni Issue: James Troha

Friday, September 28th, 2018 at 12:09 PM
Edinboro Alumni Issue: James Troha by Hannah McDonald

It was America’s favorite pastime that led James Troha to Edinboro University as an undergraduate student. 

But he quickly realized something. 

“I soon discovered that I had probably reached my talent limit for baseball,” Troha said, laughing. With the extra time on his hands, he buckled down, focusing on academia and getting involved on campus. 

As a senior, he joined the peer advisors program at Edinboro that is still offered today. “This was a really eye-opening period of time,” Troha explained. He enjoyed helping students be successful and giving them the assistance they needed to flourish.  

That on-campus job Troha held in his last semesters at Edinboro would serve as a shift in gears, ultimately changing his career path forever: one that currently has him at a college presidency. 

After graduating in the spring of 1991 with his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Troha returned that fall to begin graduate work, this time in counseling. 

“I share this story a lot, but it’s true,” Troha began. “How I arrived at a college presidency started as an undergraduate student because I got involved in student government; I got involved in my fraternity. I met different college administrators. They’re the ones who really steered me to think about a career in higher education.” 

A series of educational experiences — some that he received while earning his master’s and doctoral degrees, and others he provided during his multiple professional positions in college administration — led him to the place he is today: 12th President of Juniata College, a liberal arts school in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. He’s also father to a daughter who is in her second year at Juniata, along with two high school students (of course thanks to his wife, Jennifer, an Edinboro alumna whom Troha met his first year of graduate school). 

“I feel blessed to come to work every day and truly love what I do...I truly feel like I’ve found a vocation that both serves me well and, hopefully, serves those around me,” he said.

If Troha were to give any advice to students today working to navigate their own trajectory, it would be to find good counsel in trusted people.  

“I certainly didn’t get here just by blind ambition,” he began. “I got here through, yes, some hard work and getting degrees I needed to get, but you get here through being around other talent...good mentors are invaluable. You have to find somebody who you can respect and that you want to learn from.”  

It is with the knowledge he’s garnered over the years from his mentors — some being fondly-remembered Edinboro faculty and staff members — that he looks upon the decisions of recent ‘Boro administration and his own at Juniata. 

“When you are put into this position (as a higher education institution president), any leadership position, you have to realize you’re not going to make everybody happy...You just have to believe in your gut that you’re doing the right things. Stick through to who you are and be authentic in who you are and how you do things.”  

He continued: “If you do that, people may disagree with you, with some of your decisions, but hopefully they know that you’re making those decisions because you know that’s the right thing to do.”  

It’s these qualities and an effort to understand students that Troha believes have allowed him to serve in the position he has. 

“Good presidents and good administrators understand the importance of the folks that you are leading. It takes time to do that, but there is nothing more important than building relationships on your campus.”  

“Hearing and seeing some of the struggles Edinboro has gone through has been hard to read and see,” Troha said. He keeps up with the news from his two-time alma mater closely — with a unique insight gained from years in educational administration himself —  and he can honestly say: “I know Edinboro will emerge. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.” 

Hannah McDonald is the executive editor of The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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