Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Laura Bayless
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Dr. Laura Bayless, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, began her duties at UW-Platteville in July 2013. Her first professional job as a resident director was from 1991-94 at UW-River Falls. She came to UW-Platteville after working as the interim vice president for Student Life at Caldwell College in Caldwell, N.J.
In addition to her work with Student Affairs, Bayless has also been leading the 80-day committee, which was established following the EF2 tornado that damaged portions of campus on June 16. The committee was tasked with helping make sure the university is ready when students, faculty and staff return for the fall semester.
How did you become interested in a career in student affairs at the collegiate level?
When I was an undergraduate student, I was very engaged both in and outside of the classroom. It was really my involvement out of class that helped shape who I am, helped me find my voice and clarify my values, and learn that I can make a difference. I discovered my senior year that working with college students was a profession, so I went directly from undergrad to my master's program, and then moved into a full-time position in residence life. Since that time, I've had a fairly traditional career path in student affairs.
What are your responsibilities as assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs?
Our work in Student Affairs focuses on students' out of classroom experience. I have the honor to work with excellent professionals in the Academic and Career Advising Center (which used to be the Career Center and Advising and Career Exploration Services), Counseling Services, the Dean of Students Office, Student Health Services, the Pioneer Involvement Center, Residence Life, and Student Activities. We challenge and support students to learn, grow and develop a sense of personal responsibility. We actively engage students, help with leadership development, hold students accountable, and teach them skills that supplement and augment what they learn in the classroom. And they have a chance to apply those skills in settings where they make a difference on campus, in each others' lives and in the world.
When others ask you about the students at UW-Platteville what do you tell them?
UW-Platteville students are smart, down-to-earth and genuine. Students who come here know they will get a strong education that is grounded in both theory and practice, and they are looking for that ability to apply what they are learning. They are passionate and hardworking, often balancing a lot of demands. Quite simply, that Pioneer spirit runs through students.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The balance between working directly with excellent students, staff and faculty and ensuring that we have systems in place to set students up for success is a great combination. I love to see and be part of the process – whether it is seeing the path students take or implementing a new office or procedure. It is incredibly rewarding to see that growth and development of both people and the institution.
You are leading the 80-day committee, which was formed following the tornado that hit campus June 16. What are the responsibilities of that committee?
This team is focusing on ensuring that the operation, or program, of the university is ready for when students come back. There are sub-committees focusing on academic, housing and dining, events, athletics and other things like volunteer opportunities, transportation and parking. We all work together with Facilities, Public Relations, Information Technology Services, Purchasing and the community to anticipate and solve the challenges we face. The team has done an incredible job – we will definitely be ready for students to return.
What can the students expect to see on campus when they return for the fall semester?
There will be some changes evident in the buildings and Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium, and some work will continue even after the students return. Grassy areas and landscaping around Bridgeway Commons, Southwest Hall, Engineering Hall and Rountree Commons will be blocked off and unavailable for use because of the large amount of glass fragments. Memorial Park will continue to be restricted indefinitely because it is unsafe. But I think that people will be amazed at how good the campus looks and how functional it is, especially if they have looked at the pictures taken immediately following the tornado.
If you weren’t working in student affairs, what would be your other dream job?
I would love to be a theater professional, working on Broadway in both musical theater and straight plays. I guess part of that is also because of my love of the process – it is such fun, seeing the path from the first read through until the production runs.
Interview conducted by: Dan Wackershauser, University Information and Communications.
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