By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer
Despite the growing student population and further development of campus and Waco, many students still feel like Baylor is a small community where everyone can find their place. The department of student activities, located on the first floor of the Bill Daniels Student Center, strives to keep that sense of a close-knit community through student organizations.
Their most recent effort toward maintaining that community has been the creation of the Ministry Associate for Student Organizations role. A position that will help further the spiritual development within student leaders of various organizations so that they will have the tools to pour into the hearts and minds of their fellow members.
Ross Tarpley, Baylor alum and longtime worker within Baylor Spiritual Life, is the first to hold this title. Tarpley said he is learning as he goes when it comes to what his position will do, but he’s aiming to better stimulate current student organizations environments.
“My best understanding of my role and my goals in this position, at least thus far, are to help stimulate better environments within student organizations to foster spiritual growth and development, and that can look like a myriad of different things,” Tarpley said.
Director of Student Activities Matt Burchett said he knows that every organization doesn’t have a chaplain, but he hopes Tarpley can be a pathway for students to care for others.
“The ultimate goal is that Ross or whoever the ministry associate might be, really builds relationships with our student organization leaders, particularly our chaplains,” Burchett said. “Not every organization has a chaplain, but a lot of them do, and we were searching for pathways that we can directly connect to those student organization chaplains to invest in them, prepare them and care for them in a way that allows them to go and care for others in a significant.”
Associate Director of Student Activities Craig Willie is Tarpley’s new boss and was influential in the partnership between spiritual life and student activities for this position. He said he is looking forward to this position providing another supportive resource for student leaders.
“This initiative to create a ministry association position really falls in line with our history of providing support and resources to our student organization leaders,” Willie said. “We’re attempting to provide great student support within student leader development. I think we want to be a resource to student organizations as well.”
Every Baylor student doesn’t come from a Baptist background or even identify with a faith, but Tarpley said he won’t turn away from any student because his view on church is ecumenical.
“My background is baptist, but my personal view on church is very ecumenical and I think spiritual life does a great job of trying to encourage interdenominational work and what that looks like and even being sensitive to students on campus who might not be of faith at all or of different faiths,” Tarpley said. “If we encourage practices toward mindfulness and intentionality in service and in our everyday lives I think that’s something.”
Interested students can reach out to Tarpley via email, filling out a ministry request form or attend his makeshift office hours on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-5 p.m. in Bobo Spiritual Life Center.