As Babson College re-creates its organizational model in alignment with its strategic plan, two prominent leaders have new positions: Ken Matsuno is The Murata Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, and Lawrence P. Ward is the new vice president for learner success and dean of campus life. We recently caught up with them as they embark on their new roles.
Here, Ward shares his thoughts and vision on campus life and learner success, including how the College is supporting students now and what he’s learned about the Babson community this year:
Read our Q&A with Ken Matsuno, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college.
In your new role, what are your primary focal points and objectives?
“Our student body, along with the higher education marketplace, continues to evolve in ways that offer opportunities to rethink how the College is organized. I believe that our structure similarly must evolve to be more responsive, impactful, and efficient. My goal, in partnership with Ken, is to be more intentional about integrating the academic, student life, and campus experiences across all levels. Students don’t arbitrarily segment their experiences based on how we’re organized as a College. They have one lived ‘Babson Experience.’ So, my mission is to ensure that our organization structurally, philosophically, and behaviorally aligns with and reflects that lived reality.”
How is Babson helping students through this disruption to their community/student life?
“Students are the lifeblood of the College, and their connections to their faculty, our staff, and one another are essential to their growth, development, education, and sense of place in this world. Over the past five months, we’ve learned that the pandemic demonstrably has affected students’ emotional health and well-being. So, we know that the most important student success priorities for the short and longer term are providing support academically within and beyond the classroom, ensuring access to more mental and emotional health resources, building professional and career management skills, and providing continuous opportunities for social and human connection. Although campus life will look different this year, we will be thoughtful and creative about how we engage students and the community. It will mean that student clubs sometimes meet virtually, career fairs move online, and community gatherings are outdoors when possible, with room for distance. But providing authentic connections will be as valuable and meaningful as ever.”
How is Babson adapting its student support systems in remote and hybrid learning modes?
“When the learning environment went virtual last spring, many aspects of student and campus life followed suit. For example, our counseling and student well-being services shifted to telehealth, and we established virtual emotional support groups and other wellness-related programming. Our Centers for Career Development migrated career counseling services and professional development programs to a virtual format. Our student engagement staff and athletic coaches established virtual means and methods to keep students connected to the College and each other. Those quick transitions allowed us to continue to offer important support and learning opportunities while we operated in emergency mode. We learned a lot, and now, with the benefit of time, we’ve been able to refine those experiences, consider how best to support learners in the virtual environment, and create new opportunities and resources for virtual connection. This fall, we’ll continue to provide important student services both online and in-person so that our students have access to the full breadth of Babson resources and experiences no matter where they are.”
What have you learned about the Babson community this year?
“The past several months have only reinforced for me what I already know to be true about our community. We are a remarkably resilient and supportive community, especially during a crisis. Despite sometimes vast differences in perspective, this campus community believes deeply in Babson and will do whatever is needed to overcome difficulty, lean into a challenge, discover innovative solutions, and support our students (and each other). Leadership at times can feel quite lonely. But, I am enormously grateful to be a part of this community at this moment in history because of the support that I have felt from so many different constituencies including students and families, faculty, staff, governance members, and our alumni.”
What advice do you have for students returning this fall?
“These are challenging but not impossible times. Learning will continue. Building new experiences and friendships at Babson will continue. I cannot say with any certainty precisely how the future will unfold, but I do believe that you all are the key to a successful future. So, my best advice and guidance would be to develop a comfort level with being uncomfortable. And, know that we will be here to support you along the way.”
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