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Magazine Essays

Student life, well lived
Fall 2004
PDF Version

At the end of the 2003-04 academic year, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Thomas Carver retired after 26 years of exemplary service to Berry College. Of course for someone as energetic as Tom Carver, "retirement" has a special meaning. He will teach two psychology courses a term, offer a freshman seminar and continue to advise freshmen. He will also begin a program of reading and research dealing with the process of brain adaptation to injury or surgery. These endeavors plus racquetball, tennis and spoiling grandchildren represent as much retirement as he will be able to manage.

The best tribute I can make to Tom Carver is to recognize the quality of the programs over which he has presided for more than a quarter of a century and which he now hands over to his successor. On July 1, 2004, Debbie Heida, vice president of student services at Wittenberg University, took up her new duties as Berry's vice president for student affairs.

Student life operations at Berry do not consist of a single office but are rather a constellation of nine programs: student activities; athletics; career development; counseling; health and wellness; judicial or disciplinary hearings; multicultural student affairs; residence life; and student orientation, advising and registration, known at Berry as SOAR.

In a broad educational sense, our students learn as much outside the classroom as they do in their courses. Out-of-class learning is sometimes referred to as "the hidden curriculum" because there is not an established list of requirements for this dimension of college life. Indeed, student affairs professionals now use the term "co-curricular" rather than "extracurricular" to point to the essential role of these critical learning opportunities as complements to academic requirements.

A good example of healthy student programming is our student activities office in the Krannert Center. Krannert Center director Cecily Crow (94C) and her student activities board offer 100 activities annually, half on weekends when such events are especially appreciated by Berry students. The 17 students on the Krannert Center Activities Board (or KCAB) who organize and then help to present these activities gain major benefits from their service to the campus, including the mastery of organizational techniques, teamwork, marketing and supervisory skills. It takes hard work to enable others to have fun. The Berry student activities office also sponsors a comprehensive leadership program tailored to all students ­ freshmen through seniors. Leadership programs at Berry rival the best I have seen at similar institutions. Indeed, the only student activities operation I know about that compares to Berry's rich and varied offerings is at Furman University, where the student activities budget is more than four times ours. Krannert activities compare with the best of the best of colleges of our type.

The importance of the career development center is clear. Led by director Wes Moran and associate director Dora Ditchfield (90C), this office sponsored 95 career workshops and presentations last year. Students rated the career development center with a 4.66 on a five-point scale for the quality of services offered.

Our counseling center similarly plays an important role on campus. Nationally, 85 percent of colleges report increased severity of psychological problems on their campuses. Even at Berry, we notice that an increasing number of students bring problems with them to college. With strong leadership from Marshall Jenkins and Marg Suffill, Berry's counseling center responds actively to students who find themselves in distress. Moreover, the successful Peer Educators drug- and alcohol-awareness program has helped significantly to decrease alcohol consumption by Berry students with statistics dramatically below national averages. Good habits gained during college years could persist for a lifetime.

The world that today's Berry students enter after college is more diverse, pluralistic and international than the world of which I was aware when I left college in 1964. The office of multicultural student affairs under Dr. Clarice Ford was formed in part to help our students understand the rich cultures they will confront in the future. Dr. Ford also coordinates the Pathways scholarship program, the summer PLUS program for minority high-school students and most recently, the summer Project Success program for minority youngsters from Atlanta. PLUS and Project Success will help us recruit additional minority students even as Dr. Ford's office will help us serve minority students once they arrive at Berry. As Dr. Ford would be the first to remind us, her office serves all Berry students.

A student's home on campus is a special place. The residence life office under director Dennis Goshorn and associate director Alison Lounsbury (94C) provides comfortable lodgings as well as educational programs and social activities. The college houses 1,400 students in 12 residence halls and 15 townhouse units with 58 students serving as resident assistants or RAs. Our newest residence hall, which features single-bedroom suites with kitchens, opened in August 2003. Many colleagues have commented that it is more splendid than anywhere they lived during college, graduate school or even early married life!

Under the leadership of Associate Vice President Carol Willis, student orientation or SOAR provides a bridge between the high-school years and higher learning. Assisted by 15 student-orientation leaders and some 30 freshman-seminar instructors, Dean Willis ensures that every first-year student is shown a path that can lead to college success. I have participated in various first-year activities since 1968, and I have never seen better orientation programs than Berry offers. What I most admire about my SOAR colleagues is their commitment to continuous improvement. Each year, SOAR changes for the better.

Most students enjoy sports. Athletics at Berry under the leadership of Todd Brooks requires an essay of its own. Let me simply note that our athletes as a whole carry slightly above a B average in their studies and typically place within the top five to 10 percent of NAIA athletic programs nationally. Indeed, the national director of the NAIA has told me that Berry athletics represents the cream of the crop of the 302 college and university members of this organization. The expression "student athlete" has real meaning at Berry College.

To celebrate the 42 total years Tom Carver has spent in higher education leadership is to celebrate day-to-day student life on the Berry campus. Indeed, when asked about the highlights of his career, Tom always talks about the students he has known. He acknowledges that one of the highlights of life at Berry for him and his wife, Betty, was raising their three children on campus. All of us at Berry are delighted that Tom and Betty will remain members of the college community and that Tom will continue to live an active life as teacher and mentor to Berry students.

Dr. Scott Colley
Berry College President

 

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