Holistic Approach to Student Life
Adam Ecklund may not have a degree in engineering, but he speaks the language of engineering students.
Ecklund is the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences' assistant dean for undergraduate programs. He and the staff members in the ECS Student Life Office are attentive to the whole person - mind, body and spirit. They strive to see beyond the rigors of the School's academic programs and identify the personal struggles and obstacles that students face, and they work together with faculty to help those students move forward toward graduation.
"The student's goal is to get a degree, and we do what we can to make that happen," Ecklund said. "Our favorite day is graduation day when we're able to see them walk across that stage."
ECS is committed to a holistic student life structure designed to guide and support its nearly 1,100 students through their university experience. The Student Life team assists with everything from recruitment and academic advising to organizing the first-year experience and supporting the new Teal Residential College in Baylor's East Village.
"I believe it is my job to help students grow and learn about themselves outside of their technical classroom experiences," said Emily Sandvall, assistant director for ECS student initiatives.
Sandvall's job includes serving as the program director for Teal Residential College, managing all incoming student activities, and helping to organize summer programs. She also works to train and maintain a staff of ECS peer leaders who work with incoming students.
"I try to keep a holistic focus on my work with students — what can I provide students with that will help them to be more successful in the classroom, in their leadership roles, in their lab groups, etc.?" Sandvall said.
Ida Jamshidi, ECS academic advisor, has the opportunity to meet prospective students and their families during recruitment events and work with them throughout the entire university experience. That time together strengthens the advising relationship, she said.
"When it's time for the student to sit across from me in an advising session, it's impossible for me to see him or her as simply a number," Jamshidi said. "As an advisor, it takes time to build trust with a student and turn those surface-level conversations into something honest and meaningful. Having opportunities to build that foundation before advising even starts is huge!"
ECS staff and faculty work side-by-side to support their students. The ECS model showcases a unique and effective partnership, Jamshidi said.
"When a professor notices that a student is struggling academically, those issues usually extend beyond the classroom. We spend time strategizing about how we can work together to help individual students be more successful."
Jasmine Moody, a senior mechanical engineering major, is a community leader in Teal Residential College. She encounters students who are challenged by the transition to college and making new friends.
"I sometimes see students get caught off guard by living away from home for the first time," she said. "It's that initial adjustment to a new environment and atmosphere most students aren't aware of until they experience it."
That adjustment, coupled with the rigorous academic work associated with pursuing an ECS degree, can be overwhelming to freshmen who aren't used to that amount of studying in high school.
Moody said she has experienced first-hand the support and encouragement of the ECS faculty and staff. During her freshman year, she said she made the mistake of not engaging her professors when she was struggling.
"I thought that I was too cool to do that," she said with a laugh. "Over time, I've realized that the interactions with the faculty and staff of ECS are important and extremely helpful. In direct and indirect ways, they challenge me to be a better person, helping me grow in many areas of my life."
That includes spiritual development.
Ecklund said he enjoys the opportunity at Baylor to address faith when meeting with students.
"It's so much more than "Hey, we need you to pass this class,'" Ecklund said. "At Baylor, we have opportunities for ministry. It's nice that we're able to integrate calling and faith when we advise the students. It means a lot that we can pray for them."
In addition to advising, you'll find the Student Life staff sharing meals and playing games with students, participating in the annual cardboard regatta and engaging in other after-hours activities.
"Seeing my coworkers go above and beyond their job descriptions challenges me to give my best each day and never settle for mediocre," Jamshidi said. "Not every day is easy or stress-free, but what gets us through those late nights and long hours is a joyful attitude that comes from being Christ-centered and passionate about serving college students."