Baylor's Brooks College Honored With 2010 NASPA Excellence Award

March 25, 2010

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Residential college earns top Gold Award for initiatives revitalizing residence life

Baylor University's Brooks Residential College has been recognized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) as the nation's top honoree in the organization's annual Excellence Awards competition. The awards recognize the contributions of members who are transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services and effective administration.

Brooks College was one of NASPA's 10 Gold Award honorees, with Baylor earning the top spot in the category of "Housing, Residence Life, Contracted Services, Judicial, and related areas." NASPA is the nation's foremost professional association for student affairs with more than 11,000 members representing 1,400 colleges and universities. Baylor officials with Campus Living and Learning received the prestigious award at NAPSA's annual conference held during the university's spring break in Chicago.

"This is unprecedented recognition for Baylor," said Terri L. Garrett, interim assistant dean for Campus Living and Learning. "There is no doubt that we do many things well at Baylor, and we need not have recognition as the 'best' in the nation in order to continue doing good and effective work. Still, what a wonderful thing it is to have NASPA acknowledge our efforts to revitalize residential life at Baylor through initiatives like Brooks College."

"This is a truly historic accomplishment for Baylor, and it signals our growing stature as a national leader in the area of Student Life," said Dr. Douglas V. Henry, associate professor of philosophy in the Honors College and Faculty Master at Brooks College. "To put this into perspective, no other residential life effort at any other college or university in the country is being featured by NASPA at the same level of affirmation or recognition this year."

Programs selected for recognition received one of three award designations: Gold, Silver or Bronze. Gold recipients from each category were then judged for the designations of Grand Gold, Grand Silver and Grand Bronze. The judging was based on the following criteria:

    • Positive impact on student learning, transitions, retention and/or success
    • Relevance to institutional mission
    • Demonstration of success in addressing student needs and/or critical campus issues
    • Importance to one or more program areas included in this category
    • Collaboration with academic affairs and other departments
    • Originality and creativity
    • Effective use of technology and other resources
    • Innovative practical use of research and/or assessment and linking to learning outcomes
    • Evidence of sustainability
    • Quality of program description and submission

As the residential college's live-in faculty master, Henry has a unique perspective on his "home" and that of nearly 300 Baylor students. He is jointly appointed by the Vice President for Student Life and the Provost and is charged with sustaining a sense of community that fosters academic excellence, intensive faculty-student interaction and a tradition-rich student experience.

"Brooks College has transformed my understanding of the ideal form of student learning in the modern university," Henry said. "I have witnessed firsthand how architecturally designed spaces, co-curricular learning opportunities and joint faculty/student leadership in a residential college model can improve learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. Along the way, I have come to embrace my student affairs colleagues as indispensable partners in the educational mission of the university."

Henry said Brooks College expresses a commitment to meeting students' academic needs through its library, faculty offices, seminar and study rooms; social needs through its Great Hall, central Quadrangle and Junior Common Room; and spiritual needs through the Robbins Chapel. The residence hall director, resident chaplain and undergraduate student leaders are important members of the college leadership team and share in decision making about how best to shape the residential college experience.

Classrooms and offices house 10 faculty members in classics, comparative literature, English, French, philosophy and theology, all of whom teach in an interdisciplinary Great Texts Program.

During the college's first year, Henry noted the involvement of 10 Senior Fellows appointed from the faculty by the master, as well as 97 members of the university's faculty representing 38 academic departments. In addition, the residence hall director, resident chaplain and undergraduate student leaders are a vital part of the college leadership team and share in decision making about how best to shape the residential college experience.

In 2008, Baylor participated for the first time in the ACUHO-I/EBI Resident Assessment, a national study that compares results to other 270 institutions. In the composite score of Overall Learning Experience, Brooks College, along with five other residential communities with a faculty member in residence, scored above the campus mean, indicating their experience on campus enhanced their overall learning.

"We were especially delighted to see the study results show that for our top predictor of overall program effectiveness - namely learning outcomes based on personal interactions - Brooks College ranked first out of every residence hall at Baylor," Henry said.

In 2001, Baylor approved a new 10-year vision for the university called Baylor 2012 that included "creating a truly residential campus." The Office of Residence Life was renamed Campus Living and Learning, which symbolized the unit's intention to transition Baylor housing from "sleep-and-eat dorms" to "live-and-learn residence halls."

In 2004, Baylor opened North Village, the first new residential facility built on the Baylor campus in nearly 40 years. Three years later, Baylor opened a second residential community, Brooks Village, which included the university's first residential college. North Village and Brooks Village increased the percentage of undergraduates living on campus from 30 to nearly 40 percent, moving closer to the 2012 goal of 50 percent of students living on campus.

Baylor's residential communities include classrooms and faculty member offices. More than 1,400 students are actively involved in living-learning communities, and faculty-in-residence - who also call campus home - help facilitate academic engagement in the residential communities.

Baylor's transformation in residential living and learning has caught the attention of several universities, including MIT, SMU, the University of Arkansas and the University of Texas at Arlington. Each university has sent site teams to Baylor to tour the university's residential facilities and learn more about living-learning communities.

Randy Alexander, executive director of housing at Arkansas, has spent the better part of 30 years as a chief housing officer and a consultant on college housing. He submitted a letter to NASPA in support of Baylor's nomination, describing Brooks Residential College "the most exciting new residence hall facility" he has ever seen.

"Brooks Residential College underscores the role of residence halls in advancing the mission of Baylor University," Alexander wrote. "I believe that Baylor University has gone 'back to the future' to create a community that represents new thinking about the way in which residence halls can promote and support student engagement in the learning experience. Brooks Residential College offers a valuable model that will guide and inspire future residence hall design for generations."

Baylor's nomination also received support from Jane Cady Wright, CEO and president of Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas, the architectural firm that designed both Brooks College and the North Village.

"Baylor University's Brooks College is an outstanding example of a residential initiative that is transforming the academic success of its students and one that is much deserving of a NASPA Excellence Award," Wright wrote. "Brooks College is important for all that it represents in terms of living and learning. It also is a superb example of 'why place matters.'"

For more information about the program, visit the NASPA website at www.naspa.org. For more information about Campus Living and Learning at Baylor, go to www.baylor.edu/cll. To learn more about Brooks College, visit www.baylor.edu/cll/brookscollege.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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