LCU strengthens connections to students with new organizational structure

By Dr. Elizabeth Christian

Pineville, LA (LCU News)-  College students today face very different technological needs than their parents’ generation. The increased demands on their attention and seismic cultural shifts that have occurred in the last few years call for a college campus that can accommodate today’s needs without sacrificing integrity and rigor.

With that at the forefront, Louisiana Christian University President Dr. Rick Brewer has announced a restructuring of the organizational structure as well as a new mission statement for the school.

The new mission statement: Louisiana College is a Christ-centered community committed to Academic Excellence where students are equipped for Lives of Learning, Leading, and Serving.

The new mission statement of the college was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees at its May 8 meeting.

“It isn’t meant to disregard the elements of the previous mission statement established in 2006,” Brewer said, “rather to build on the strong foundation that already exists at LCU. The former mission statement has become our Guiding Principle.”

Brewer has worked diligently since taking leadership of the college in 2015 to address organizational and fiscal issues to lead the school both effectively and efficiently—for both a changing student body and the changing economic situation.

Colleges and universities were already facing economic issues today due to a smaller college-age population and the rising cost of education, and LCU is no exception. Since Brewer became president, he has been reorganizing, and student retention has increased.

But faced with the new challenges that Covid-19 has wrought, it became imperative to strategically streamline all academic and support services.

“I believe it’s my duty to the student body and this community to reach our students’ educational needs but also spiritual and emotional needs,” Brewer said. “The faculty and staff at LCU continue to be up for the challenge of preparing students for their future careers even in the midst of some very new, real challenges.”

Dr. Cheryl Clark, Provost, Vice President of Academic Affairs

Research by the college as part of the formal restructure showed that a periphery of students never felt connected, and that was not acceptable to know that students were coming here and didn’t feel their needs being met, said Dr. Cheryl Clark, Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“Over the past years at LCU, a core of students that came here and bonded through engagement with other freshmen and they did well,” said Dr. Cheryl Clark, vice president of Academic Affairs. “But there was another group of students who didn’t feel included, and we want to engage them, all of them.”

Part of the restructuring included naming a Provost, the first in Louisiana Christian University history. Clark, who has served as VPAA since 2017, has been named Provost, and will oversee all Student Support Services in this role. In addition, Dr. Joshua Joy Dara has been named to the new position of Associate Vice President of Student Engagement and Enrichment.

“My role as AVP is primarily to help the president achieve the mission, vision, strategies, goals and objectives of LCU,” Dara said. “I will be serving as a bridge between our college and the community, and I will humanize diversity and inclusion in the process. In short, my role is to get people simply to connect.

Dr. Joshua Joy Dara, Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrichment, Dean of the School of Human Behavior

“For our diverse student population, it means more opportunity to be heard and be included. Diversity and inclusion are not a nice to have, it is a business imperative. We want people to feel welcome, feel safe, and feel they’re a part of the LCU community.”

Dara will be responsible for the experiential learning initiative, diversity and inclusion, strategic planning, faith integration, student life which encompasses the freshman year experience, and the Center for Calling and Career.

The new three-pronged organizational structure, with Clark as provost, includes:

  • Center for Residential Life and Student Engagement
  • Center for Social, Mental, Physical and Spiritual Wellness
  • Center for Academic Support and Enhancement

“It’s a comprehensive model that enhances the student experience by being more focused and intentional to a student’s individual needs,” Brewer said.

Brewer believes it will resonate with returning students, as well as the incoming freshmen, because of the school’s continued focus on being relational, relevant and rigorous.

The Center for Residential Life and Student Engagement includes housing, campus activities, student government and organizations. Clark said moving forward the college has future plans for new, innovative learning communities.

“This new model for the total student learning experience effectively builds upon the strong faculty base that has shaped the culture of the college since its inception,” Brewer said. “I am confident Dr. Clark will provide leadership enabling the college to fulfill its Mission for Christ-centered Academic Excellence and its Vision for Preparing Graduates and Transforming Lives.”

The Center for Social, Mental, Physical and Spiritual Wellness includes counseling and health services, Title IX services, Chapel and spiritual events, as well as academic and behavioral integrity issues.

The Center for Academic Support and Enrichment includes the Library and Student Success Center, which houses many types of services for students.

“Students who need extra help or tutoring in math, English, or any other accommodations can find can assistance here,” Brewer said.

In addition, this center includes a new advising and career planning center that builds on the former weeklong freshman experience and creates a year-long experience for freshmen.

Future plans include a new Center for Calling and Career that will provide a place for students to identify their own strengths and explore their interests as they seek to determine God’s will for their future professional role in the marketplace.

“This innovative career center is grounded in the meaning for “vocation,” a Christian based belief that God has uniquely designed each one of us with gifts and talents oriented toward a certain call upon our lives,” Brewer said.

The Experiential Learning Initiative will provide students opportunities to participate in internships, service learning, study abroad and research. The college’s 2025 Strategic Plan includes a service-learning initiative. Brewer said the college’s goal is for every student to have credible documented experience in two of the four initiatives.

“We want our graduates to be competitive in the marketplace, and we want them to be well-rounded and purposeful in their life direction,” Brewer said.