Dr. Brian Joyce, ’03, came to Eastern Kentucky University with a plan to attend law school and enter the political scene. He had no interest in joining a fraternity, but, as it so often happens at EKU, he would soon be introduced to his true passion — in his case, through a game of pickup basketball.
“During the fall of my freshman year, I passed by a table of Lambda Chi Alpha brothers recruiting guys to play pickup basketball later that night. One of the brothers, Scott Jackson, asked me if I was interested in joining a fraternity,” Joyce recalled. “I said no; I had yet to hear a positive story about fraternities, and I didn’t think joining was the right decision for me. But I hadn’t really found a solid new group of friends at EKU, so I agreed to basketball.
“That basketball game would change my life.”
Today, Joyce serves as director of Greek Life at historic Dartmouth College, an Ivy League research institution in Hanover, New Hampshire. He oversees the administration of fraternities and sororities, as well as senior and undergraduate societies. He also researches and publishes articles on violence prevention, creating inclusive environments, modern masculinity and more. He has authored chapters in two books — one on the sorority and fraternity experience, and another on hazing.
The Lexington native’s journey to EKU was kickstarted by his high-school principal, Jon Akers. Akers, who now serves as executive director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, which is headquartered at EKU, encouraged Joyce to visit campus and funded the scholarship that helped pay for his education. During Joyce’s initial visit, he realized quickly that EKU was the right fit.
“I knew the faculty would challenge me to think differently, and I was excited about being a student under their direction,” he said.
Joyce soon joined Lambda Chi Alpha and, in November of his sophomore year, he was elected president of the fraternity. In that role, he learned valuable leadership skills such as motivating a group, planning events and managing a budget. The networking skills he gained and the responsibility he learned in that role marked an important turn for Joyce, a self-professed “class clown” in high school.
“Leadership development is particularly powerful when you are surrounded by individuals you trust, care deeply for, and truly enjoy,” Joyce said. “My journey as a student leader at EKU and in Lambda Chi Alpha is only as meaningful as the relationships I built with the brothers in my chapter, and I am forever thankful for them, for EKU, and for the doors opened for me as a result of being a member of that chapter.”
However, the political science major still planned to attend law school after graduation until Jey Marks, former director of Greek Life at EKU, introduced him to the idea of a career in Greek Life administration.
“He told me, ‘You know you can do this for a living, and you would be pretty good at it,’” Joyce recalled. “So many student affairs practitioners have a similar story, and the moment Jey made me aware of the possibilities, I knew it was the right choice for me. I owe him a lot of credit for being a person who supported and believed in me, and I carry the mentorship and advising he provided to me into my work with student leaders today.”
After graduating from EKU with a degree in political science and earning a master of education at the University of South Florida, Joyce embarked on a career that saw him leading Greek and student life programs at colleges in South Carolina and Texas. He completed his doctoral degree in educational leadership from Clemson University in 2016 and began searching for his perfect position. He found it at Dartmouth, relocating to New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife, Brittney, and son, Cameron.
To students who hope to find similar success, Joyce offers one simple piece of advice: “step out of your comfort zone” — whether that’s moving to a new area for graduate school, accepting a job offer outside of your area of study, or simply playing a game of basketball with strangers.
“Dr. Tom Miller, one of my graduate school professors at the University of South Florida, says, ‘You can do anything for two years,’” he said. “If you think about your professional career with this mantra in mind, you’re more likely to test yourself and take a chance.”