Students and faculty work together to find new Student Life VP

Jan. 22, 2009

By Ashley Corinne Killough, Lariat Staff Writer

A search is now underway to fill the vice president for student life position, soon to be vacated when the current holder, Dr. Dub Oliver, leaves to become the president of East Texas Baptist University in July 2009.

Dean Jon Engelhardt, chair of the appointed search committee, said Baylor intends to hire a replacement before the semester's end to avoid having an interim period.

"That's the institution's goal. That's the committee's objective," Engelhardt said.

"We're working toward that, and we have a process and timeline that's designed for that."

To facilitate the search, Baylor hired Greenwood/Asher and Associates, a firm that specializes in executive search, consulting and training.

The firm will assist in recruiting potential applicants and using its resources for thorough reference checking.

As the pool of candidates narrows to a small group of finalists, the firm will help organize off-campus interviews between the search committee and remaining candidates.

Engelhardt said the position is open to applicants from both within and without the university.

"This is a critically important position," Engelhardt said, adding that aside from fiscal affairs, the university's two main sets of activities are student affairs and academic affairs.

"So it's very important to get someone leading student affairs who appreciates and wants to partner with academic affairs and vice versa."

The 15-member search committee includes four students, five faculty members, five Student Life staff members and one member from the provost's office.

With members representing different university constituencies, an inclusive committee allows room for varying viewpoints, Engelhardt said.

"Everyone on the committee has a different background to bring and is encouraged to speak from that perspective, as well as to think of the institution as a whole, so that we end up getting the right person for Baylor," Engelhardt said.

At their first meeting Jan. 9, committee members reviewed and discussed the job description.

The description includes qualities and qualifications, for the next vice president, as well as details on the search process.

"There seemed to be a consonance of perspective on the committee -- people sharing very similar views of what this person could and should be," Engelhardt said.

"If you generally talk around, people would say, 'Just clone Dub Oliver and you would find that right person.' That's an indication of the kinds of skills, predispositions and knowledge that Dub has brought to the position that just about everyone associated with him wants to find."

During his 17-year tenure at Baylor, Oliver has served as assistant vice president for student life, director of student activities and dean for student development.

In 2006, Oliver was named vice president for Student Life.

He has since worked with various departments and programs on campus, including the Academy for Leader Development and Civic Engagement, Baptist Student Ministries, Campus Living and Learning, Campus Recreation, Counseling Center, Health Center, Judicial and Legal Student Services, Multicultural Activities, New Student Programs, Student Activities and Student Life.

Dr. Cindy Fry, assistant dean for the School of Engineering and Computer Science, is a faculty member on the search committee.

Fry said she hopes the next vice president for Student Life will carry a sincere desire to serve students, as well as a vision for student affairs that takes advantage of improvements made to on-campus housing and the first-year experience.

"Baylor has made tremendous strides in the last several years in the area of Student Life, and I would love to see what can be done to leverage these with both the latest and upcoming trends and our Christian mission," Fry said.

Greenville senior Jordan Powell said he hopes the committee recruits candidates who strongly value Baylor's Baptist heritage.

"I'm hoping the university finds a new Student Life vice president who stands on the principles upon which this university was founded and doesn't give in to the latest fads and whims of the student population," Powell said.

He also cited his disappointment with the regent-approved decision in 2008 that now allows formal recognition of non-Baptist Christian groups on campus.

Nicole Yeakley, student body external vice president, said Oliver has been a strong advocate for students.

She hopes the next vice president demonstrates an understanding of students' needs.

Yeakley also is on the search committee.

"It's imperative that students are allowed input in many university decisions, and my hope is that the vice president for student life will be proactive in seeking those opportunities for students and willing to listen with an open mind to student concerns," Yeakley said.