Season 5 - Episode 523
The summer months present a significant opportunity to connect incoming Baylor students to the Baylor Family. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Sharra Hynes, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students in the Division of Student Life, shares how. From Line Camp to New Student Orientation, discover how distinct programs give incoming students a head start on friendships, campus traditions and more.
Derek Smith:Hello, and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and today, we are talking about summer at Baylor with Dr. Sharra Hynes. Dr. Hynes serves as Associate Vice President and Dean of Students in the Division of Student Life. In that role, she oversees the student-facing departments, campus living and learning, new student programs, student activities, and student conduct. Dr. Hynes has executive experience in many of the areas she'll be overseeing, as well as assessment, program planning, fiscal management, and leadership. It's a busy time, maybe busier in your department than most on the Baylor campus as you welcome so many new students to the Baylor family, so many families as well. Dr. Sharra Hynes, thanks so much for coming on the program. We're really glad to have you on today.
Sharra Hynes:Thanks for having me, Derek. It's great to be with you.
Derek Smith:Well, we've had a chance to visit with you before, and I'm excited to talk about this new summer 2022. Really, an incredibly vibrant time for Baylor students. The campus is not dead like some people might picture when so many of the students leave. A lot of the students who are incoming, those taking part in summer school are here, and I know it's busy for you and your colleagues. So what's the start of the summer like for you all in Student Life?
Sharra Hynes:Well, some might think that we're relaxing and we're having a summer vacation, but that is not the case. We usually, in many of our departments, get a short breath after the close of the spring semester, and then we dive right into preparations for not only all of our summer activities, but we gear up and start preparing for the fall. That will be here before we know it, and so our units that are programming units, student activities, campus living and learning, multicultural affairs are all preparing and readying for a great fall experience. But our probably busiest department is New Student Programs. That's the office that has the opportunity to formally welcome our new Baylor Bears, both first year students and transfer students, to the campus this summer. And so the Department of New Student Programs is very active, and so it's great to kind of journey with them and support them as they prepare for our first orientation session, which starts next Monday.
Derek Smith:I'm guessing over the next several days, if we were to tag their locations, not everyone's just sitting around in the office these days or won't be shortly. Where are some places around campus, around town we might see your staff members and your colleagues doing the work that they do?
Sharra Hynes:So it's great that you ask, Derek, because just yesterday, we spent the day with all of our orientation and Baylor Line camp leaders in a day called Waco Day. We really wanted our new students to have the best, most up to date information about not only joining the Baylor community, but joining the Waco community. We really believe in the integration of our campus with our Waco community, and so we took our students to lots of high point places, student leaders yesterday, and they really enjoyed learning about Waco, about the many opportunities. We went to the Art Center of Waco. We went to the Mayborn Museum, Magnolia, Cameron Park, the zoo. They really saw it all yesterday and got to learn, intentionally, about all of those different places in Waco.
Derek Smith:Yeah. I have a feeling even those of us who have lived in Waco for a long time might have discovered something new on a tour like that. That's great.
Sharra Hynes:It was very educational.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sharra Hynes from Student Life. And as we talk about some of these programs more specifically, I'd like to zoom out sort of philosophically first, broadly very certainly. When you think about the summer months, how important are those, how meaningful are those when it comes to integrating students and their families to feel more fully a part of the Baylor family as soon as they can?
Sharra Hynes:Yeah. I think they're really critical. I read a book once that talked about change is not the hard thing. Transitions are the hard thing. And so I think that's the philosophy that we try to keep in mind as we prepare and program for students and their families, that we really help to provide guidance in how to effectively navigate the transition, both from high school for that student that might, for the first time, take a college class, for the first time live apart from their nuclear family. For transfer students, it's how to navigate the change from the institution they were at before to the institution they're coming to. And we really want them to know and understand all of the things that are available to them at Baylor. And so these transition spaces are the ways in which we provide education. We partner with our Offices of Advising, so we make sure that the students get the right classes and the right academic schedules. They feel prepared and equipped. They know those resources. They know they can raise their hand for help at any time. So that transition window is a very important season. We want every student that walks on our campus for move in to feel as though they're ready, they're prepared that they can be successful here. And so that's what we focus on across the summer.
Derek Smith:Let's talk about some of those programs, two that are very well known right off the bat. Let's start with orientation. I think most everyone who's gone to college has gone to an orientation, but why don't you describe that and what's distinct about it here at Baylor.
Sharra Hynes:So at Baylor, our orientation is definitely student-centered. We try to think about all of the different points of information, the different offices, the different entities on campus with whom those students should interact from the very beginning. But it's also family-centered. We invite students to bring guests with them, folks who are supportive of them, parents, guardians, grandparents, to come so that they know what the Baylor experience is all about, and they can be supportive of that student as they walk through that journey. So orientation really focuses on a lot of the preparation for the academic experience, helping students learn about academic resources, how to be engaged as a student on campus, gives them an opportunity to explore different opportunities like studying abroad or having an on-campus job, internships. They interact with the career center. So many different campus partners come together. We certainly do not do orientation by ourselves. We could never manage all of that. And so we invite lots of campus partners to come and join with us in the way in which we onboard students. This year, we've changed a couple things about orientation that might be worth noting. One is we have tried to sort of lessen the frenetic pace of the schedule a little bit. We kept getting feedback from families that it's all good information, but maybe a bit too much. So we have pared down the schedule and provided a little bit more breathing room, and then we're also talking a bit more about sort of the arc of a student's experience from the beginning to the end and how they can prepare and be successful. So those are the things that we're doing. We're still doing a lot of the also introduction to the rich traditions of Baylor at orientation. We want to be mindful that not all students will get to come to Baylor Line Camp, which is probably the second program that we'll talk about. But orientation is an important opportunity to also introduce students to traditions and ways to be highly involved.
Derek Smith:Well, no surprise you got it right when you guessed that Line Camp was another one of the major programs that I wanted to ask you about. As we dive in, could you give people who maybe aren't familiar with it a little bit of a Line Camp 101 to know what that is?
Sharra Hynes:Well, Line Camp, I think, is really that initial invitation into what a privilege it is to be a part of the Baylor line, of that legacy, the lifetime legacy that when you come and join the Baylor community, you're not just coming here for four years. You're joining a family that is a forever family and that being part of the Baylor line is such a joy and a privilege, and so Baylor Cine Camp gives students that overview. We introduce them to the history of Baylor and take them down to Independence to see where Baylor was founded, allow them to walk the grounds of the initial campuses that became Baylor University here in Waco. We introduced them to some of the storied and most treasured traditions, so running the Baylor line, seeing and other student activities. They have an opportunity, really, to spend a lot of time with each other in small groups. That's probably one of the greatest assets of the Baylor Line Camp experience is that the students themselves and the way in which they create a rich community with an upper class student leader across the four days of Baylor Line Camp that give them a solid foundation for when they get here in the fall, that they have a group of peers that they can connect with and feel that they've had a shared experience. So there's a lot of value in the way in which we do Baylor Line Camp, not just in the whats that are included in the program.
Derek Smith:I'd probably be remiss, would definitely be remiss if I... at the top of the program, I mentioned some of the student-facing departments under your leadership, Campus Living and Learning, New Student Programs, Student Activities, and Student Conduct. I know you've got a great team. You probably see, whether it's the students who are involved or your professional staff who do great work, whether it's Line Camp or others, what stands out to you about the people who make these programs, make this programming possible for students and execute that?
Sharra Hynes:Yeah, I think probably at the top of my list of things that stand out about that team of staff, professional staff and student leaders is their belief in what they do. They don't approach it as just a task to be completed. Their roles and their responsibilities are things that are very much connected to their identity as a member of the Baylor family and the Baylor community. And I have a mix of folks, some who graduated from Baylor and some who didn't, but the thing that ties us all together is the commitment to our mission and the strong belief that what we are doing is valuable. It is worthwhile. It is hard work, but it is so rich and rewarding when you see the ways in which students grow and develop across their four years, the transformations we get to see across that time are such a, just a treasure. And so the team that I get to work with are highly dedicated folks, many who have been here many, many, many years. One of my team members just celebrated 40 years of service to Baylor earlier this week.
Sharra Hynes:And you don't stay at a place that long if you don't believe in what you do, so...
Derek Smith:Absolutely. That's great. Visiting with Dr. Sharra Hynes and as we sort of conclude this portion of the show, I want to ask you, you mentioned orientation and Line Camp and families can register at the same time this year. That's something new. Obviously, it's nice to be able to attend both at once, but how did that come about, and what's the response been?
Sharra Hynes:Yeah. Oh, such a great change, in my opinion, and really something that's been in the works for a few years. We had long wanted to offer what we call, internally, combo sessions where a student can move straight from orientation into Baylor Line Camp. And this year, we are able to offer the majority of our students that combo session chance. So about 2,500 students so far, we still have students registering, but 2,500 students will move straight from orientation into their Baylor Line Camp experience. And our goal is to get as many of our incoming first year students and transfers to attend both orientation and Baylor Line Camp because we feel like both experiences are so pivotal and foundational towards student success, and again, having that rich relational group to draw on when a student arrives to campus, that comes more through Baylor Line Camp. We do some of that during orientation, but comes more through Baylor Line Camp. So the combo sessions are, again, something we've been working toward for years and feel grateful that we've been able to work that out with our schedule, with access to campus facilities. Having the institution really create this as a priority has been something that's allowed us to have these combo sessions.
Derek Smith:That's great. This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Sharra Hynes, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students in the Division of Student Life. Now, I want to ask you about some other things taking place on campus this summer within your areas of Campus Living and Learning. I know we've been seeing a lot of great improvements to many of our residence halls in recent years across campus. Collins is having its moment in the spotlight. Could you give us an update on that? And maybe for people who attended Baylor, but haven't visited the residence halls in a while, what they might see if they visited?
Sharra Hynes:Yeah, it's an exciting time to be part of Campus Living and Learning and like you mentioned, when Collins closed this May, it closed for longer than usual. It will be offline for the entire next 15 months and will be completely revitalized from sort of top to bottom, side to side. We have plans for a new sort of grand entry into Collins Hall that gives nods to the past and the rich history of Collins, but also is very much forward looking into the folks who will live in Collins for generations to come. We will have all new HVAC, new... I mean, really, truly top to bottom, side to side. The women will be very grateful that we are vastly improving the restrooms. That's something we have always had some feedback about that we needed more restroom spaces. I think the women of Collins enjoy getting ready together for activities, and so this will give them lots of space for community, even in their community restrooms in the Hall. And then the new lobby area is just gorgeous, so I'm so excited to see that project come together. It's one of many projects that we've taken on. We had paused for a couple of years in terms of our renovation cycle, but we are now back into a regular cycle. So right on the heels of Collins, we'll be Memorial Alexander, and we're partnering with the Honors Residential College to revitalize those two buildings. And then we have plans after that to renovate Allen Dawson and lastly, Kokernot Hall. So that cycle will get us across all of our facilities in this renovation window. And at that time, we'll probably start needing to think about sprucing up and improving the halls that were at the start of the cycle, and that's just the way that it goes. But, we're really fortunate at Baylor to be able to house about 5,000 students each year and, of course, last year, we brought online an extra facility because we had a lot of students and we are maintaining that facility. So Baylor Cityside will continue to be one of our halls this year and will house first-year students, and so that's also a unique, but really dynamic experience and will be front row seats to the construction of the new basketball pavilion. So the students over there will get to see that transformation of that construction site from the very beginning this summer, so...
Derek Smith:That's great. That's great. Well, so many exciting things take place, and I know that campus experience, that living with your classmates, so many of them is such an integral part of the Baylor experience. You described so well some of those changes taking place within Collins and other residence halls, but I'm curious. Is there a, beyond merely improving, beyond making the living spaces better, is there a philosophy behind how you approach that in Campus Living and Learning?
Sharra Hynes:Yeah, the thing that pervades the philosophy of the way in which we invite students, our residential students into the Baylor experience is authentic Christian community. It's a place where we want students to be challenged in the way that they consider their faith and the way they integrate their faith into their everyday living. So that, for us, can also include some opportunities for rich, sometimes challenging conversations around the way students practice their beliefs or the way in which they have integrity to their beliefs. And so the authentic Christian community also gives us a space where we show care for one another. So when a student is struggling, their peers that live with them are encouraged to come together and support them in not just Word, but also in deed. And so sometimes, that means a student might go grab a meal for another one of their peers who's having a hard time, or they might stay up late with them and help them through a particularly challenging relational issue. They might encourage them if they've experienced a loss in their family, so that we see lots and lots and lots of examples of the ways our students practice authentic Christian community, but it is the hallmark of the Baylor residential experience, that that is the way in which we want students to be able to look back on their first or second or however many years they decide to live on campus, that they will have had that opportunity to both give and receive within that authentic Christian community.
Derek Smith:Well, that's such a great way to describe the Baylor community, even the context of buildings and beyond, and as we wind down here, as we head in the final moments of the program, Dr. Hynes, I just wanted to ask you I know we are still a little ways off, but not that far off, from the start of the fall semester. And I'm just curious as we close today if there's anything on the horizon that's most exciting to you and your colleagues is as you look ahead, even past this summer.
Sharra Hynes:Yeah. I would say we've got a great fall ahead of us. I know homecoming is something that I always look forward to. I feel like it's in the fall, the thing on the horizon that keeps me excited and motivated, but there's so much more beyond that. When we get back in the fall, we'll have Mosaic Mixer, which is a great opportunity for our cultural organizations to highlight what they do and the different opportunities for engagement that they bring. We'll have Late Night, which is just this overwhelming night, but super exciting where all of our student organizations have the opportunity to share with the incoming class what they do. And then, of course, our athletic programs. We love the opportunity to bring together our students around supporting student athletes and both on and off the field and on and off the court. And so we always look forward to football and football season starting and the joys of being together in community around a tailgate experience, or again, that first running of the Baylor line. It's hard not to just have your heartbeat a little bit faster when you think about some of those rich traditions that Baylor offers. I think, for me, the first morning of move-in is just this... it's ripe with energy when I think about all those volunteers who are ready to help students get settled into their residence halls. And then I also... I really love the Sunday night before classes begin, the very meaningful ceremony called Candlelight where we sort of commission our students into their Baylor experience and do that through prayer and song and, of course, a ceremonial lighting of candles together. So there's so many things. I have a hard time just choosing one, but I love the summer because I love the feel of it on campus. I love the lots of visitors to Waco and to Baylor with orientation, but man, I'm ready for the fall and all that it will bring and the opportunities that we get to serve students and work side by side with faculty and administration to create the best Baylor experience for these students that we possibly can.
Derek Smith:Well, certainly a lot to look forward to, and I know that the work that you and your team are doing right now for our incoming students who pay dividends and even in a lot of those activities you just described in the fall and as they become part of the Baylor family. And I know it's a busy time for you all, so thanks so much for joining us on the program and sharing today.
Sharra Hynes:Thanks for having me. It was great to be with you.
Derek Smith:Great to visit. Dr. Sharra Hynes, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students in the Division of Student Life, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. Reminder: You can hear this in other programs online, baylor.edu/connections. You can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.