Saylors to serve as student voice for presidential search

March 19, 2009

By Ashley Corinne Killough, Lariat Staff Writer

Chelsea Saylors has had politics on her mind since the 1992 presidential election -- when she was four years old.

While the T.V. news anchor was calling out the state-by-state results on Election Night, Saylors was putting in each state on her own wooden puzzle of the United States.

"I blame my grandfather," Saylors said. "Whenever I was little and got in trouble, I would try to talk myself out of it. My grandfather started calling me a politician, and it stuck."

Chelsea SaylorsSo it's no surprise that Saylors has been selected to serve as the sole student representative on Baylor's presidential search advisory committee, an announcement made public March 5.

The body is made up of members from Baylor's various constituency groups and will provide input in the search process.

The 10-member committee includes representatives from the Baylor Alumni Association, Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Texas Baptists and the Waco community.

The advisory committee will work alongside an all-regent search committee, which has the final vote in the process.

In February, Dr. Howard K. Batson, chair of the Board of Regents, requested from the leader of each constituency names of people who could possibly serve on a committee.

Of the three students recommended by Student Body President Bryan Fonville, Batson chose Saylors.

Fonville said he nominated Saylors because of her hardworking and articulate leadership skills, as well as her ability to communicate with faculty, staff and administrators.

But he said he's disappointed that Student Government is the least-represented Baylor group, with only one member on the committee.

"I've continued to communicate to the regents that students didn't feel adequately represented in the previous search and are articulating a greater need for representative seats for students on the advisory committee."

The last presidential search also involved one student member on the committee.

Fonville said that while he's dissatisfied with the lack of representation for students, he believes Saylors will do a great job.

"She has enough voice for all of us," Fonville said.

While Saylors graduates in May, she will continue her education at Baylor as a graduate student, earning a masters degree in communications.

She's a university scholars major, concentrating on political science and communications, and is part of the honors program.

She's currently finishing her 50-page thesis on politics and pop culture, with a focus on how "Western" movies make an impact on American political identity.

In graduate school, she will work as a research assistant to Dr. Martin J. Medhurst, distinguished professor of rhetoric and communications, and help with a journal he edits titled, "Rhetoric and Public Affairs."

"She's a good choice (for the committee) in that she's very bright and extremely hard working," Medhurst said. "She has a very curious nature and doesn't just accepted things that are handed to her the way they are. She's very good at doing research, and she's honest and forthright."

Saylors started working on campaigns, both local and state races, in high school and held a congressional internship in Rep. Louie Gohmert's, R-Texas, home office in Tyler during college.

"It was really neat working in the home office instead of Washington because I got to meet with constituents one-on-one. You get to see how decisions affect the people. It really gave me a different perspective because suddenly it's not a bill or policy but it's someone's life, and you have to think differently," Saylors said.

Saylors said she hopes to follow in the footsteps of Peggy Noonan and Ted Sorensen to become a presidential speechwriter, a goal she already has a head start on with her work in Student Government.

"Political science is a broad field, and when I got to Baylor, I discovered I like the communications aspect of it, such as speech writing and public speaking," Saylors said. "I like finding what words make the most impact. That's really what has pulled me in."

Saylors first got involved with Student Government by serving as a class officer her sophomore year and then chief of staff on Fonville's cabinet her junior year.

She now works as Fonville's director of communications. Her job description involves writing speeches and managing communication between his office and Student Government or the administration.

For community service and social opportunities, Saylors remains active in her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.

"It's been a phenomenal experience. They are a great group of girls, and we get to do things that are both fun and have real meaning behind them," Saylors said, citing Relay for Life and Race for the Cure, two of Zeta's philanthropic associations.

Saylors said she's looking forward to serving on the committee and providing input on behalf of the student body.

She helped draft the resolution that Student Senate passed unanimously in the fall, which requested voting rights in the selection of the final candidate, a move also made by Faculty Senate and the Alumni Association.

Batson, however, has reiterated in recent months that voting power will remain an exclusive right to the Board of Regents.

"While the resolution said we would like a voting position, I don't think students are going to lose a voice," Saylors said. "It's been made clear that we as an advisory committed will be working close with the (regent) search committee. I really think now that it's just a matter of working together with the system we have and I still think students can and will be adequately represented."

One of the main qualities she's looking for is an approachable president, one who students can easily approach but who also frequently seeks input from students.

"That's one of the things that would really make a candidate stand out to me," Saylors said.

As for other qualities, Saylors said the university needs someone who is open, has good communication skills and who not only values Baylor's Christian heritage but has the academic background to "push Baylor into the future."

"I'm sure that as we start to look at individual candidates and put together a larger picture, it will be fairly evident of what we need," Saylors said.

This article appeared in the March 17 edition of The Baylor Lariat