As members of an institution of higher learning, we'd like to think that college students are spending their time in stimulating classes, working alongside gifted faculty, or studying in the library. In fact, we know that about two-thirds of a college student's waking hours are devoted to activities other than attending class and studying. The research is clear: students who are actively involved in both academic and out-of-class activities gain more from the college experience than those who are not so involved.
This certainly underscores the importance of creating institutional conditions that encourage students to take advantage of learning opportunities. At Trinity University, this validates our efforts to promote integration and campus coherence to provide a Trinity education that is larger than the sum of its parts.
As a transformational liberal arts university, student success matters. The Trinity Tomorrow strategic plan calls upon us to foster a strong sense of wellness in every aspect of our students' lives – personal, professional, physical, financial, social, and spiritual. A greater integration of the academic and student life areas has created momentum as we look holistically at the student experience.
Re-establishing the Vice President for Student Life position – I am pleased to announce that Sheryl Tynes, professor of Sociology and associate vice president for Academic Affairs, has been appointed as Vice President for Student Life effective June 1. Since arriving at Trinity, I have been impressed by the quality of Sheryl's leadership. Her ability to integrate student life, academic pursuits, and student services are valuable assets.
She will serve as the University's chief administrative officer for all areas of student success, including academic support, counseling, health services, student accessibility services, as well as residential life and student involvement. Working together, we will build on the momentum of the University's strategic plan and strive to achieve the goal of maximizing the educational and personal benefits of a residential liberal arts university.
Kudos for Trinity Student Life Professionals – Sheryl joins a remarkable group of student life professionals who continually work to translate the University values that guide us – discovery, excellence, impact, the individual, and community – into activities to help students think about the ways they are living those values. Their award-winning programs and activities complement the learning that takes place elsewhere on campus. As an example, the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals recently recognized Melissa Flowers, director of Residential Life, and Lyndsey Aguilar, Residential Life coordinator, with a silver award for their financial literacy initiative called "Game of Life."
The "Game of Life" involved a life-size game board in which students were the players. Collaborating with multiple departments across campus, the financial literacy event was designed to help students understand what a month of bills could potentially look like post-graduation and to help them begin strategizing ways they can effectively budget their money for life after college.
Other programs recognized with competitive, prestigious awards include H.O.P.E. Hall, one of Trinity's many living learning communities, and Sophomore College. As I travel the country and meet with alumni and parents, I often hear about the incredibly supportive role that David Tuttle has played for them as Dean of Students. Whether helping parents adjust to their children being in college or assisting students who have had challenges, David excels in the role of mentor.
First-Person Experiences for a New President – The range of activities is immense, and during my first year I have sought opportunities to engage directly with students in a variety of contexts and venues. In the past month alone, I participated in the Black Student Union's soul food and rent party and judged the Spotlight talent show. I particularly appreciate the impromptu welcome and good humor when unannounced I invite myself to join a group of students during lunch at Mabee Hall.
College can be a profound and challenging time in a student's life. A Trinity education is anchored by powerful touchstone experiences that sharply define a student's identity, sense of self, and lasting relationship with the University. I have had alumni describe the way faculty and staff at Trinity promoted their passions, how they helped them grow as students and discover the dreams that have shaped who they've become.