Season 6 - Episode 612
How can a university help new members of their community feel like a true stakeholder with a deep sense of belonging? Last fall, Dr. Stephen Reid was appointed as Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging. As a Christian research university, Baylor seeks to build a nourishing and hospitable environment that promotes excellence and equity in living out the Baylor mission. In this Baylor Connections, Reid shares both the vision and specific approaches to support underrepresented faculty at Baylor.
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 pleased to welcome Dr. Stephen Reid to the program. Dr. Reid serves as Baylor's Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging. A longtime faculty member in Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He was appointed to the role of Vice Provost last fall. In this role, Dr. Reid supports excellence and equity in the Baylor faculty by facilitating the flourishing of underrepresented faculty through improved interactions with non underrepresented faculty, staff and students, and he works to seek greater recognition of the contributions of underrepresented faculty here at Baylor. Dr. Reid and his office support these goals through faculty hiring, retention, tenure and promotion. Appropriate for Baylor as an R1 Christian Research University, and he continues to serve as professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Seminary, which is the role you were in when we had you on last time a couple years back. It's great to have you on here today, Dr. Reid. Thanks so much for joining us.
Stephen Reid:Oh, thank you. This is a great opportunity. It's always good to connect with the voice of Baylor.
Derek Smith:Well, one of them anyway, but good to have you out here as well in the various roles that you've been a part of and we really appreciate that and appreciate what you're doing. And let me ask you first. You've been a longtime Baylor faculty member. Now you're serving in a different role, but whichever side of the ledger you're on, what are some things that you enjoy about working and serving with your fellow faculty members across campus?
Stephen Reid:One of the things that I enjoy and I hear time after time when you talk to people who work at Baylor, they say, "We can bring our whole self to the job." In so many positions in higher education, you can bring your scholarly self, but you can't bring your faithful self. Part of what Baylor does is it provides an opportunity to understand persons as whole persons who are scholars and people of faith at the same time. So that's one of the key things that I really enjoy about Baylor.
Derek Smith:Well, you've been part of this for a while now here at Baylor on the research side, working with students, working with your faculty, and enjoyed talking about your research and now this work that you're doing, moving over to Pat Neff Hall and working with those faculty in a different way. Let me ask you, as we dive into this, was a role like this, your new role again, vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging, was that something you ever anticipated doing? Was that something you saw yourself moving to at some point?
Stephen Reid:This is not something I ever saw myself moving into. I really enjoyed the classroom and when this opportunity arose, it arose in a funny way. I was talking with a friend of mine and he said, "Well, you may hate me for this, but I just nominated you for consideration for this position." And I thought about it, I prayed about it, and lo and behold, it came to pass, but it wasn't something that I had put on my to-do list of things.
Derek Smith:Well, and you enjoyed teaching and you enjoyed what you were doing, which sometimes makes it all the more interesting when someone moves to a different role, when they're happy in the one they were in. What was it that was appealing about this? What was it that got your attention right off the bat?
Stephen Reid:It's easy to come into Baylor and to feel sort of lonely or isolated and not connecting with the broader Baylor community. I've been very fortunate. I've had good mentors and friends at Baylor, and I want to be a good mentor and friend as new people come into Baylor and as people try to navigate and getting the most out of all the resources that we have at Baylor, I think of things like Communio, I think of things like the Academy of Teaching and Learning. We have so many rich resources that often faculty, especially new faculty, don't know how they can connect with, and part of my position is to help them connect with the things that are going to help their teaching, help their research, but also help their faith life so that they really blossom during their time here at Baylor.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Stephen Reid, and this is a new role. Again, vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging. You've described what it was that attracted you to the role, but what were some of Baylor's goals in creating this that they shared with you as you looked at it?
Stephen Reid:Baylor's goals had to do with it really, I think, would reverse the words so that belonging would be first. During the coach survey, one of the things that became apparent is faculty and staff and students really enjoy being a Baylor. However, underrepresented faculty, staff and students don't enjoy it quite as much, and so part of what the administration understood is that maybe we need to have someone who pays attention to closing that gap so that the satisfaction level is high all across our various populations.
Derek Smith:You described that sense of belonging, and I got to think there's a lot of different ways that closing that gap benefits faculty, students and everyone with whom they come in contact, the university as well. What are some of the ways you see that benefiting the different stakeholders, if you will?
Stephen Reid:It benefits all the stakeholders because each time a stakeholder has a sense of, "I am a stakeholder, I am someone who belongs here." Then they convey that and they provide a different sort of hospitality. There's a hospitality when you're a guest and you're sort of trying to navigate, "Okay, I want to be a good host, but I really don't belong here." But it's a very different world when you say, "I am a host, I do belong here. God has put me here for a reason. The people around me know that I am here for a reason." And we work together to provide a hospitable and nourishing environment for all who come in.
Derek Smith:You touched on coming here to Baylor, I should say, a little bit, but I wanted to dive into that a little bit. As you think about that vision that you just shared with us so well, how have your own experiences shaped you for this role? Are there things that stand out to you that you're excited that you think, "Man, it would've been nice if when I got here, when other faculty that I know when we got here X number of years ago, if this was here for them."
Stephen Reid:One of the things that happens at Baylor is that Baylor is steeped in tradition, but there's no booklet to read about Baylor Traditions. So one of the things that I'm looking forward to, and one of the things I try to do with new faculty is I try to send them notes saying, "Something's coming up. This is a Baylor tradition. You may not have gotten the email." For instance, this year when it was homecoming time, I sent out a note saying, "It's homecoming. This is a big deal at Baylor. This is a chance for you to get connected to the Baylor community." Now, I know that sounds pretty trite on some level, but Homecoming is big at Baylor. People who enjoy Baylor often enjoy homecoming, and it's a time to sort of find yourself part of that broader Baylor community and just knowing those sorts of things. Diadeloso, a tradition that doesn't happen in every other school, and often if you're a new faculty member, you don't find out much about it until someone says, "Oh, this is an opportunity for you to belong." There are all sorts of those sorts of things that happen on Baylor's campus that we often can miss out on. For instance, I'm still struck by, we have over 300 musical performances at Baylor every year. This is an opportunity for people to make a connection, to be part of the Baylor community and listen to some really good music. So part of my office helps people connect in these ways. Another thing that we do is really faculty and staff can support one another. I'm excited to say that we are getting a new employee resource group, an ERG. I know that sounds much more HR than it needs to be, but what this is it's a group of folks who work for the school who come together to celebrate, to socialize, and to support one another. We have a new group of veterans who are forming an employee resource group, and they're just going to get together and chat, talk about ways in which they can support one another, talk about ways in which they can help vets who are on the faculty and staff get better acquainted. We have also a new Latinx faculty and staff association, and one of the things they're doing is they have an Instagram which introduces you to various Latinx faculty and staff and gives you a picture, a little bit of a bio. These are just ways in which the people who work for Baylor also nurture other communities in ways that really help us be a community of belonging. We have the Black Faculty and Staff Association, which started several years ago. Dr. Dominque Hill was one of the instigators of this group, and it provides a place just to come together to chat, to share and have that sense of belonging. So these are just some little things, but they make a really big difference in how one encounters Baylor.
Derek Smith:Dr. Reid, as you described that, I'm thinking we put ourselves in positions at new situations or socially or in a group environment. Is there a element of the more quickly you get people connected and feel, like you said, that idea of being a stakeholder. The reverse can also be true if it's not there. The more you feel separate from an event or unsure one year and then the next year. Does that kind of slightly loosen the bonds you feel? So it's a positive, but there's also, if it's not there, there can be almost a slow pulling away that if they don't have someone inviting them in could become a bigger deal.
Stephen Reid:That's such a good question and such a great observation. One of the things that happens is when you are interviewed, the university makes you feel like, "Oh, you are a valued person." And the university really needs to continue that conversation once you land in Waco, because often you can get the sense of, "I was recruited to be here and now that I'm here, I'm just chopped liver." So we really want to help people get connected to other students, faculty and staff, help them get connected to churches and synagogues, help them get connected to civic groups in Waco and McLennan County because all those connections help people understand that when they come to Baylor, they're coming to a community that enjoys one another that works together and that working together makes us all flourish and thrive.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Stephen Reid, Baylor's Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging, and you mentioned some of the programs, but let's dive into some of those even more. Dr. Brickhouse at the faculty meeting last week was talking about how you're doing some cool things with faculty. You mentioned the groups that are forming, the social media connections. What are some other programmatic elements that you're excited about?
Stephen Reid:One of the things I'm excited about is we are having a reception and celebration of women faculty at Baylor. People often think that women faculty are late comers to Baylor, but already in the 19th century we have women faculty and we will be celebrating during Women's Heritage Month, we'll be celebrating women faculty. Our women faculty are doing groundbreaking work in research and in teaching and in collaboration with one another. So in this reception, we're just going to celebrate that. We've already had a discussion of African American recovery of stories through digital humanities. We'll be doing more of that in the fall. We hope to have a digital humanities and the Latinx heritage, so the more we recognize that we are a diverse community that has voices and really new images, the more we can see ourselves moving into the future. President Livingstone talks about Baylor as a preeminent Christian R1 university, and in order to pull all of that together, we have to pay attention to what holds us together as a Christian community and what holds us together as people who belong to one another because we belong to Christ. So those things really do connect, and so we want our programmatics to go with the real mission of the university.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Stephen Reid. And Dr. Reid, as you describe that, is there anything like a "typical" day for you as you build that? I would think each day brings something different and exciting amidst that.
Stephen Reid:There is no typical day in the life of a Vice Provost. I try to get to the office, I try to go through my devotions and then I deal with whatever fire is on my desk. Sometimes the fire is on my desk and I don't get to those devotions right away. Part of what I like about this job is you have all sorts of challenges and they change by day to day, and so there's really no time to get bored. Because one moment you're trying to think through issues of recruitment and retention of faculty or students, and the next moment you're trying to think of what are ways you can help folks improve their research so that they can get more support from the university. You get to move back and forth. There's never really much time to just sort of get bored in the everydayness of things.
Derek Smith:Well, you've described programs and interactions that build that sense of belonging in the community. You mentioned research as well. What does that look like as you serve faculty or departments across campus in their research endeavors?
Stephen Reid:Research endeavors are really core to what makes Baylor an R1 school, and one of the things that really is interesting and helpful is that we can benefit from research without having to be an expert. One of the things we often miss is how many wonderful lectures there are on Baylor's campus every week. You can learn all sorts of things. The history department during Black History Month had a speaker talk about Black and Brown in Panama, a wonderful lecture built on her research. We've seen similar lectures in religion at the seminary, in fields, in the STEM fields, so part of research is also a way in which the community can be educated about things that aren't their own research interests by hearing experts in the field.
Derek Smith:A lot of great examples there. It kind of reminds me even as you're talking when you talk about the music and the lectures, how many things, probably most of us, if we can get too busy in the day to day can miss out on as well and need to make those connections. As we visit with Dr. Stephen Reid. So you connect people on campus in various ways, you serve them. That speaks to that belonging and retention. What about that sense of recruitment? We are growing the faculty. Illuminate forward, a hundred net new faculty over the next five years and we want to build a diverse faculty. What does that look like? In what ways do you serve trying to build that great R1 Christian University faculty?
Stephen Reid:Building a great Christian R1 faculty means we have to be proactive. I apologize for using sports metaphors, but a coach who just waits for the players to sign up and doesn't do recruiting isn't a good coach. Baylor doesn't keep coaches like that. And when we do a faculty search, we need to be just as intense as coaches in recruitment. If we want to have a diverse faculty, we've got to reach out, not just make an advertisement, but we have to make a call, we have to send an email, we have to connect with people. As one of my colleagues, Jim Benninghoff says, "It's called a search for a reason. It's not called an advertise, it's called a search." The more we look for excellent people in the communities that we're used to looking for, and in communities that we've not looked at before, the more likely we are to bring excellent people here from diverse backgrounds because we've looked in diverse places. One of the things that really energizes us at Baylor is that we work at a great university, and so we should be able to call great people, and excellence is always a part of what we're working at. But that means, as I said, you got to make a call, you got to send an email, you got to connect with someone. Because if you're asking a person to make a wager in their career that Baylor is the right place for them, they want to be able to look you in the eye and have you say, "We know that God is calling you to this place and that this is risky, but it is worth it." So in the process of search, I want to be a cheerleader for the search committees, but I also want to be a guide. Sometimes a search committee needs to know, if I call or email this institution and talk to this person, then I'll get the best applicants for my position and my office is increasingly doing more of that sort of matchmaking. You're in this field, these are the places you can go to connect with applicants.
Derek Smith:You used the term matchmaking. I like that. Is that fun for you? And also what does it mean? Whether it results in a higher for that position or not, what does it mean? What's the compound interest of searching in new places over time?
Stephen Reid:The compound interests of searching in new places is that you meet new people and you learn new things. Now, some of those will turn in the faculty lines and some of those will turn into just good relationships you have over the course of time. So let's say that we bring in a guest lecturer from a university and that person gives a great lecturer and we don't have a faculty spot for that person. Well, we've made a relationship, and so that relationship will start a conversation. That conversation can start new research together. It can start all sorts of ideas and collaborations that we hadn't thought of before, and maybe eventually those will turn into a new faculty position, but even if they don't, the conversation carries enough research benefit that the university really does come out ahead.
Derek Smith:It's going to be exciting to see the results of that in various ways in the years ahead as we visit with Dr. Stephen Reid. Dr. Reid, as we head into the final couple of minutes of the program, as you look down the road here a bit, two years, three years, five years, whatever it may be, what are your hopes for the impact of this work on the future of Baylor?
Stephen Reid:My hope for this work is that the whole faculty recognizes that we are a whole faculty. We are not subpopulations. What holds us together is our Christian mission. What holds us together is that we are Baylor Bears. One of the things I find interesting when you look at the religious demographics of Baylor, we are currently a community without a religious majority. And here's what I mean by that. We have a significant number of non-denominational Protestants. We have a large group of Roman Catholic Protestants. We have a large group of Baptists, we have a group of Orthodox Christians, we have a group of Jewish faculty and students, but no one group is the majority group. But together we are a faithful majority, and I think that becomes a good model for us institutionally. There is no one group that sort of says we are in control, but together we are a community following really the lead of our Christian goals to move us forward.
Derek Smith:Well, that's exciting. That's a great summary and a great vision. And Dr. Reid, really appreciate you taking the time, and we look forward to having you on again as we talk about more exciting initiatives and opportunities that come from your office.
Stephen Reid:Thank you very much.
Derek Smith:Thank you very much. Dr. Stephen Reid, Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this in other programs online, baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.