Baylor University

Reorganizing: Enhancing the Student Experience

Sept. 21, 2012

With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 academic year, several Baylor departments underwent reorganizations to continue to improve their focus on the University's mission and to enrich the student experience, providing students with the skills and knowledge to become people who make a difference in their homes, communities, work and world. Following are brief looks at changes within the Division of Student Life and the Paul L. Foster Success Center.

Division of Student Life

Through the realignment of staff and reallocation of resources, the Division of Student Life plans to expand the impact of community service and civic engagement and enlarge student leadership development opportunities.

Beginning June 1, the Office of Community Engagement and Service (CES) centralized the division-wide opportunities for community service, civic engagement and service learning. The creation of CES was recommended by a committee led by Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean of student development, along with faculty, students and Student Life staff. The committee explored best practices and researched effective and transformative community engagement models in higher education.

"The year-long task force explored the work we are currently doing, as well as different models that might enhance our work in the community," Palacios said. "The team found that Baylor could make a greater impact by intentionally partnering with our local and global community; providing meaningful experiential learning: supporting our students, staff and faculty with resources; and serving as a 'hub' for Baylor's collective great work already done through Student Life and academic research and teaching. By consolidating University services, Baylor will be able to build strong and positive local and global alliances."

Ramona Curtis, previously located in the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement, now is the director for civic engagement and educational development, and Erin Payseur, also from the Academy, is the associate director for community-based learning. Rosemary Townsend, director of business affairs and community partnerships, AmeriCorps VISTA, and student and administrative staff also will be part of CES.

Curtis said she enjoys working with students and connecting them to people and agencies in the Waco community. As part of the CES, she looks forward to seeing students grow and really transform the community.

"Community service is an important experience that will last long after their time at Baylor," Curtis said. "No matter what profession they choose, it is important that they can understand and relate to their community and the community of those with whom they work."

"The mission of the Office of Civic Engagement and Service is to promote an ethic of care and citizenship that fosters human capability, transformational learning and positive social change." Palacios said. "This year, we hope to begin building the infrastructure with the staff, resources and funding to be successful and to work with new and existing partners across campus and in the community. We are also working alongside our faculty partners to develop a hybrid model that fits Baylor's mission."

CES will collaborate with University Missions, working with Rebecca Kennedy, associate chaplain and director for missions in the Division of Spiritual Life, who has expertise in urban missions and spiritual formation.

The CES team is excited about bringing together their strengths, experience and passion to the initiative. "The CES team will build relationships within the Greater Waco community to match service needs with sustainable commitments, and work within the Baylor community in establishing commitments that lay the foundation for excellent 'town and gown' relationships," Palacios said.

With the CES online in June, the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement became the Academy for Leader Development. Shelton Lewis serves as program director for the Leadership Living-Learning Center (LLC) under the direction of Jennifer Massey, assistant dean for student learning and engagement.

Dr. Jeff Doyle, dean for student learning and engagement, said these changes in the Division of Student Life will allow the Academy for Leader Development to continue to strengthen the Leadership LLC, a residential home to more than 150 students who enroll in leadership classes. Strengthening the Leadership LLC includes the introduction of a multi-year leadership curriculum, accompanied by newly created Lead LLC scholarships of $3,000. In addition, the Academy will be part of a team of faculty and student life staff expanding a new leadership minor. Other new projects for the Academy include the creation of campus-wide leadership development programs and enhanced assessment of existing leadership classes and programs.

Paul L. Foster Success Center

The Paul L. Foster Success Center (PLFSC) - which includes academic advisement, academic support programs, access and learning accomodation, career counseling and career services - transitioned in April from the Division of Finance and Administration and Enrollment Management to the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs.

"This transition will more deeply integrate the academic fabric of the University into the Paul L. Foster Success Center structure, which plays such a vital role in students' academic success," Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Davis said.

Davis appointed Dr. Sinda K. Vanderpool, assistant vice provost for academic enrollment management, to oversee the Success Center. Vanderpool will lead four of PLFSC's departments, including academic advisement, academic support programs, access and learning accommodation and career counseling. Dr. Wes Null, vice provost for undergraduate education, will serve as interim director of career services, as a national search is conducted for an executive director of career and professional development to lead that unit.

"The high expectations that we have of Baylor students in our rigorous academic programs are combined with excellent support in the context of the Paul L. Foster Success Center," Vanderpool said. "We stand at the crux of tremendous collaboration between faculty and staff. Together, we create an environment for all of our students that is challenging, invigorating, enriching and supportive. I am blessed to work with an outstanding team of professionals who commit each day to improving and elevating the experience of all Baylor students."

"I am very excited about what these changes mean for Baylor and the students we will serve in the years to come," Null said. "Sinda Vanderpool is perfectly suited for this role, and I look forward to working with her and everyone else in the Paul L. Foster Success Center to achieve the goals embedded in the University's new strategic plan."

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