Baylor University hosted a leadership seminar this week for administrators and faculty members of Christian colleges and universities, featuring speakers with deep Baylor ties and insights into the future of higher education.
Twenty-four people attended the seminar, which lasted Sunday through Wednesday. Baylor has hosted the seminar annually since 2007.
“Higher education has a lot of opportunities to try to develop leaders, but there are much fewer opportunities that really focus on what it means to lead institutions that are faith-based Christian higher education institutions,” said Rishi Sriram, a Baylor associate professor of higher education and student affairs.
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, lectured Tuesday about curricular and co-curricular partnerships for higher education mission advancement.
“If we don’t do this, then what the university can end up becoming is just a dispensary of services,” said Oliver, a former Baylor vice president for student life. “It can become a training ground for people who are on their way to a job, or it can be a holding place for people who are not sure what to do next.”
Oliver left Baylor in 2009 to become president of East Texas Baptist University in Marshall. He previously held several roles in the Baylor Division of Student Life.
When asked about what he considers the “conscience” of a university, Oliver recounted Baylor’s scandal of 2003, when a basketball player murdered another player, and the coach was found to have orchestrated a cover-up of previously committed NCAA violations.
“It was the darkest thing I’ve ever experienced in higher education. … There was nothing darker than that,” Oliver said.
He attended many tense executive council meetings at the time .
“You and the leadership have to be people of integrity, to be that conscience of the institution, no matter what the cost is,” he said. “It’s better to be honest and straightforward and deal with the problems, as opposed to try to protect whatever you’re trying to protect for the institution.”
Oliver pointed to tools including academic-specific campus residential communities, undergraduate research with faculty members, spiritual formation, service integrated into coursework and cross-campus collaboration as ways to build a robust co-curricular environment.
Minority students should also be fully supported by the institution, he said.
“If you want your heart to be broken about something, look up the retention and graduation rates of students of color at your institution,” he said.