Episode 22 - Bobby Berry

Episode 22 March 13, 2024 00:27:42
Episode 22 - Bobby Berry
Forward Together
Episode 22 - Bobby Berry

Mar 13 2024 | 00:27:42

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Show Notes

Join President Rick Muma when he talks to Dr. Bobby Berry, assistant dean and assistant professor for the College of Applied Studies, about serving students and his research and work with first-generation students. The “Forward Together” podcast celebrates the vision and mission of Wichita State University. In each episode, President Rick Muma will talk with guests from throughout Shocker Nation to highlight the people and priorities that guide WSU on its road to becoming an essential educational, cultural, and economic driver for Kansas and the greater good.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:12] Speaker A: Hello and welcome to the Forward Together podcast. My guest today is Dr. Bobby Berry, assistant dean for diversity and outreach for rich of applied studies. Bobby is a shocker through and through, having earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Wichita State, he's also served the university as both a faculty member and a staff member since 2015. [00:00:33] Speaker B: Hi, Bobby. How are you doing? It's good to see you. [00:00:35] Speaker C: Well, I'm happy to be here. [00:00:37] Speaker B: To the podcast. Thank you. When I saw that we finally snagged you, I was really excited, wanted to talk to you. So this is just going to be a relaxing kind of conversation because I know, you know, both personally, but also as a professional here at Wichita State and some of the things that you do. And that's why we kind of got the idea to ask you to join the podcast, to elaborate a little bit more on that. So, first question I want to ask you. I know you've lived in Wichita much of your life and came up through Wichita School District. What made you choose Wichita State for not just one degree, but two and three? [00:01:20] Speaker C: So, you know, growing up in Wichita, it was a great opportunity. My dad had decided to come work for Boeing. And so when we moved here, I was in fourth grade, and like you said, public school. I graduated from West High, and they had a health academy at west. And so in that opportunity, I got exposed to the health world and thought about physical therapy. And so Wichita State felt like a natural fit with exercise science, specifically being able to pursue that track. And so when I had that opportunity, I was really grateful for it and decided to go to grad school, got a graduate teaching assistantship, which never expected, and which then snowballed into a full time position here. Once I was able to graduate grad school, teach for the excise science department, and then here I am many years later, and then came back for a third degree in educational leadership. So I'm a shocker through and through. And it's really great to be on this side of the table with the experiences of being a student, a faculty member, administrator. Right. So having all of those lens that. [00:02:22] Speaker B: I bring to the work, listen to you talk, kind of reminds me a little bit of, kind of the experience that I had. You never really aspired to be in one particular role. You just kind of went through the door and got the opportunity. And I think that's so important. I think actually, when you rise through the ranks of higher education or probably any area, when you have that openness to continue to learn and do something different and more meaningful to help people. I think that actually makes for a more enriching experience as a professional. [00:03:00] Speaker C: I think it's also a testament to the support that I had here at Wichita State. [00:03:04] Speaker B: Right. [00:03:05] Speaker C: I never thought I would be a graduate teaching assistant, and then I had a professor who invested in me and said, you know, I see something in you. And then being able to then be on the faculty side of things and hearing that, once again, I think this role you could really excel in, and I think that has been a huge contributing factor. Not only that, but my family support education was always valued highly in my household, and being able to have parents to support me in this journey has always been a blessing for me as well. [00:03:33] Speaker B: And I know that the College of Applied Studies, your home college, is so proud of you and reaps the benefits of your leadership every day. [00:03:44] Speaker A: So next question your various roles at. [00:03:47] Speaker B: The university throughout the years, and particularly your current role. And you might want to elaborate a little bit about that for the listeners. You focus a great deal of time and effort in helping first generation students and underserved students succeed in higher education. Just for the listeners, about one in four of our freshmen identify as an underrepresented minority. Nearly half of our undergraduates are first generation students. We have a lot of students who have financial need, and so one in five students who are pell eligible and enrolled in the state's six schools are enrolled here at Wichita State. So we have a very diverse student body. We have a student body that has a lot of financial needs, but we also have a very successful student body. And I think your work and others across campuses really contributed to that. And you yourself as a first generation student, too. So tell me more about your journey as a first generation student and how that informs your work with your students that you work with today and any other kind of things around your research and teaching. [00:04:52] Speaker C: Absolutely. So, odly enough, I never knew I was a first generation college student until I was a working professional on this campus when I was at Wichita State. Early on, a lot of the stigmas and or stereotypes surrounded in society by who were first gen, right. I didn't necessarily felt like I complimented. [00:05:12] Speaker B: Right. [00:05:12] Speaker C: So I never struggled academically. I came from a household know, middle class upbringing. So a lot of the things that you heard about first generation, I felt didn't apply to me. So being on the working professional side and seeing how Wichita State truly embraced first gen in a different way. Right. The first gen profile on this know, predominantly female returning adult. Right. And so hearing that profile and then being immersed in the work when we started the first generation coordinating council about five or six years ago, and being able to be one of the individuals who was on that team really opened my eyes and really showed me all the systems and levels of support on this campus. And so when I thought about some of the challenges that I had, I never connected. Some of those challenges was because I was first. I thought, you know, FAFSA and things of that nature. I was like, well, I'm just not familiar with the term, but didn't realize some of the things that contributed to me and the identity of me being first Gen. So I told myself, being on this campus, what I wanted to make sure that I did was advocate for all of my students. I identify closely with first Gen, and so now I have the opportunity to chair that council and really proud of the work that we've been able to accomplish on that group. And not only that, but as you know, we've been having a lot of conversations about the equity gaps, and this being one of the things that we have talked about heavily. And what does that look like? And so with my work, that has allowed me in the proximity of it has really allowed me to advocate. And we've worked on a student success and persistence plan within the college where we specifically identify some of those pieces about how can we remove some of those barriers for our first gen students. So I've loved it. I've loved to see the students walk around campus with their first gen chakra shirt. We just had ad Astra recently, and so being able to see how the first gen community is so diverse and it's embraced so widely across this campus, it's been great to see. [00:07:10] Speaker B: So, at Astra, tell the listeners what that is. [00:07:14] Speaker C: So at Astra is a first generation conference, right. Specifically for our first generation students. And so we have a first generation student organization on campus. So we were able to host a conference for the first time, I think, in five or six years on this campus because of COVID And so typically, I try to rotate to other state institutions. And so this was our time, and we were able to do it and was well received. And we had such a great time. We had about 14 different schools across the state and Missouri represented at the conference. And I now serve as the assistant dean for the College of Applied Studies. And so two years into that role, and so really trying to find ways to make sure the work that I do at the college and at the university are connected together. [00:08:00] Speaker B: Yeah, that conference started a number of years ago by Kim Sandlin and I believe her office is still coordinating that over. [00:08:08] Speaker C: Yeah, they still have a role in it. [00:08:11] Speaker B: And it's so important have obviously you coordinate the first generation coordinating council and have activities for our students. But I think it's also important for students to be able to make those connections beyond Wichita State. And as their profession moves forward, they'll have an opportunity to meet these people, maybe again professionally, or make other connections that I think is important. Okay, so let's go back to your role as assistant dean. Tell listeners again the full title. You got lots of titles. Tell them all those titles. And exactly what is your role in the college? You've talked a little bit about some of the university initiatives. [00:08:51] Speaker C: So assistant dean of diversity and outreach within the college also have an assistant professor appointment in sport management. And so now it's renamed sport and leadership studies. So that will be yes, and so that role pretty much. So anything Deib related. So diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging related. So our diversity strategic plan that we have or diversity plan we have within the college and then thinking about the outreach component of that, so also the student success and persistence pieces. I work closely with our academic advisors within the college as well, so I provide leadership in that regard. I also oversee the professional development for all the faculty and staff within the college, so I help coordinate those opportunities as well. So it's very wide array of things that I help with, but I'm really excited to have the role. [00:09:40] Speaker B: Yeah, well, I'm glad you're in that role. You and I have talked a number of times about just trajectory of moving up the ranks at a university. And I'm glad that you're testing out the waters of administration because I see that maybe that might be something that you might want to do even at a higher level going forward, hopefully. And I also want to just say, too, listening to you talk, we're an urban public research university. And basically what that means is two things, that we're here to provide affordable access to anybody who wants to come to the university, and then we're also here to help solve problems through research, through service, through other creative activities. But in terms of affordability and access, that's so key for us as an urban public research university. We have, as we've said before, a very diverse student body, a student body that has special kinds of needs that other students don't like, first generation students. And I can't think of a better place to want to work myself as an organization that's helping lift people up into higher education so they can continue to fulfill their dreams and add to their own prosperity. So I'm glad that you're focused in this. I'm glad that we as an institution have this ability to really meet the needs of our community. And to me also, it's about a workforce. Absolutely. And helping educate the future of our workforce in this community. If we don't have that, if we don't educate individuals in this community, then we're not going to have people taking jobs and we're not going to grow. [00:11:33] Speaker C: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that I've appreciated is the intentionality about clearly articulating the value of higher education. I've had the opportunity to work with office adversity, inclusion with the passage to success program, Office of Financial Aid, and their chakra Promise Academy. And I've been doing some preseasons for them the last couple of years. So getting to see all of these incoming freshmen from all types of backgrounds and seeing them and all their potential right before school starts and just having those opportunities to connect with them. And I created a class for them called ready, set, lead. And that's one of the things that we really try to talk about is the importance of education, the value that they bring to this campus and the community that we live in. So that's also been a really great, rewarding opportunity and really excited. I get to do things like that. It keeps me fired up. [00:12:27] Speaker B: Yeah. And what's also important about that is they see you in that role and what you do in those different sessions that you have, but then you get to see them as they continue to progress and graduate, which is such an awesome experience. Okay, you said something just a few minutes ago, something called preseason. Tell people what that is. [00:12:51] Speaker C: Absolutely. So a lot of the terminology of these summer experiences, that's kind of where we are. So preseasons are those experiences, one a week or so leading into this semester. An intentional way for us to connect with our students, not only from recruitment standpoint, but a retention standpoint, providing them the opportunities to get immersed in campus, the campus community experiences, courses. Right. That will help to hopefully propel and excel them during their academic time here at Wichita State. [00:13:24] Speaker B: Yeah. Now, in terms of these preseason offerings, we're reaching hundreds of students every summer, and that just gets them kicked off into a good start and gets them connected and making sure that their first several weeks of school are going well, and that's the most critical time. So glad that's going on as well. Okay, Dei. So that's got a lot of press lately, and it's a lot of discussion about that. Should we do that or should we not? Should we dial that back? And one of the things that we continue to be committed to at the university is making sure that we reach all of our students. We have a diverse student body. We know that some students don't always have the same opportunities, and so we want to make sure that we plus them up however we can. But all of our students as well. But one of the things that you talk about and others talk about and more people are talking about as well, and it's becoming more important, and particularly for an institution like us, is belonging. So you actually add a B to Deib. And I hear lots of other university presidents talking about that, talk about belonging and how that enhances our students experiences in the university culture. [00:14:44] Speaker C: I think this whole notion of being able to show up authentically as you are, I think that key, that piece is so important. Being able to feel like you can walk into a classroom, a work setting, in a locker room, however, wherever, right? And feel that you authentically are who you are and you are valued and appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the table. And so for me, that piece is key, right? Because diversity, inclusion is not all in the same. And I think sometimes people feel like it's mutually exclusive. You can have a diverse environment that's not inclusive. You got an inclusive environment that's not diverse. One thing that we can all at least identify with is we all want to feel like we are a part of something. We all want to feel like we belong in a space and place. And I feel like that piece is at least a thread that connects us all. So I try to really hone in on that piece. And what do my students and our students need to feel like they are valued in these spaces? One of the things I try really do on the first day of class, when we go over syllabus, I ask each and every one of my students, what is their expectation of me as a professor, and what do they hope to get out of their time in my class? I want them to feel like they have a piece in their learning experience. And I feel like sometimes even that slight question allows them to feel a part of that classroom environment. I try to make sure that as I create assignments throughout the semester, I allow my students to bring in content, so they're bringing in case studies or bringing in different things that feel relevant to them. So once again, they feel a part of their learning. And to me, that creates a culture that promotes belonging. [00:16:18] Speaker B: It's also about welcoming people and making sure they feel welcome to our campus and to our programs and to the student center, the Radigan Student center. Wherever they're hanging out, they want to be able to feel good about being there. And I don't know about you, this was a long time ago because I'm. [00:16:41] Speaker C: A lot old that long ago. [00:16:43] Speaker B: I just didn't feel like that I ever kind of experienced that kind of thing. It was much more of a passive approach to education. I just showed up and did my thing. Nowadays things are much more complex. There's a lot more things that distract students or prevents them from staying on track and social media, whatever it is, students really need that sense of belonging and feeling like that they're welcome at. [00:17:13] Speaker C: Their institutions where so many things competing for their attention these days, right between additional barriers, not only on campus but off campus working family life. And it's challenging, right? It's challenging to find ways to engage them and to retain them not only physically but even mentally. [00:17:33] Speaker B: Right. [00:17:33] Speaker C: In the classroom sometimes. [00:17:34] Speaker B: Yeah. So also want to talk a little bit more about your current positions. You've told me what your role is and some of the things you're doing, but what are some of the things that you're going to be seeing from you and the college on different programs and initiatives coming out of the college of Applied Studies? [00:17:53] Speaker C: Really excited. We just launched a pilot program called Trailblazers. And Trailblazers specifically is centered around some of the things that we've been talking about by way of persistence. So we were able to receive NIST funding to accelerate this program. So starting with first year, full time freshmen in the college and a lot of our programs by way of teacher prep. So K through twelve, sport management, exercise science, a lot of those programs, even from a professional standpoint, students of color and or first generation students tend to be one of few in those spaces right from in the classroom as teachers, sport managers, exercise physiologists. And so we wanted to find a way to intentionally connect with those first year freshmen early because sometimes we don't see them by way of curriculum till sophomore, junior year. We don't want to lose them. So we want to find a way to engage them early. So we launched this pilot program. There's a scholarship that's attached to it, but also creating opportunities for them to network. We thought about the family engagement piece because we know first generation students and others, the family engagement piece is really important. Also looking at grants and funding so this is sustainable. So we have a committee that's working on that piece. We have a wellness pillar. So we're bringing in people that can focus on occupational wellness, mental health, physical wellness, all of those components. So that's a program we kicked off in January, 10 to 15 students. And so that's one of the things that you probably will be hearing more of over the coming months. [00:19:24] Speaker B: So. January 20, 324 24. [00:19:27] Speaker C: We just kicked it off a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. So I had a luncheon with the kids, and it was great. [00:19:32] Speaker B: How many students? [00:19:33] Speaker C: Right now we have ten, and now we have ten. Our goal is somewhere between ten and 15 before the spring is over. [00:19:40] Speaker B: And then build on it after that. [00:19:42] Speaker C: Build on it. And it's an adaptable program. So we're meeting with them regularly to see what do you need? What do you want? We want them to feel, once again, a part of this program. So really excited about that. Another thing that the college will be announcing soon is we have an equity and ethics minor that was approved. And so this is a way for all of our programs to be at the table to elevate our curriculum, things that we're teaching in the curriculum that are easily accessible and or connecting to our Dei plan at the university. And so that's another thing that you'll be seeing coming out of the college soon. So really excited about those two things that I'm working on. [00:20:22] Speaker B: Yeah. And I think sometimes back to Dei and just a little bit more on that. People sometimes just think that that's just one singular focus. It's so much more. Not just students of color, but students who have different identities, people who come from different cultures or international students or veteran students. We want to make sure that we support all of our students. Unfortunately, we're at a point where we're not able to clearly communicate that. So I'm hoping over this next year at least, that we'll be able to have an opportunity to talk about why that's so important, not just Wichita State, but all universities. [00:21:05] Speaker C: I'm happy that you elevated that piece specifically because it's the intersectionality part that in some of the work that I've been doing lately, and I had a conversation with some of my colleagues about how do we really elevate the intersectionality piece? And no one is one thing. Right. We all wear multiple hats, multiple identities that contribute to how we show up in spaces and how we view the world. Right. And I think it's really important to be able to acknowledge all of those things and all of those pieces of everyone. And so I'm happy that you mentioned that and that was one of the things specifically with the first generation coordinating council is we have a real large focus on the intersectionality piece of who is first gen and what is first gen. And it's not just this box or this box. [00:21:50] Speaker B: It's this box. [00:21:51] Speaker C: We have a lot of administration that identifies as first gen, and so we see that all throughout the campus. And so. Yes, thank you. [00:21:58] Speaker B: Yeah, we're not excluding anyone from that. Life is complicated. Here's my last thing. I didn't tell you I was going to ask you this, but I always kind of like to ask people, what kind of advice do you have for me as university president? So here's your opportunity, Bob, about what you'd like to see different at the university, things that you'd like us to further amplify. And it doesn't have to be anything that we're talking about now. It can be other things, too. [00:22:35] Speaker C: Let me first start with what I say I've appreciated in my time here. I'll say that, and then we'll transition to that other half. I will say in the time here. So I've been at Wichita State for eight, nine years, seven years in a full time capacity. And what I have appreciated is the opportunities that I've been afforded by way of the connections and those who truly in this system have rooted for me and have wanted me to succeed, you being one of them, and have always been very supportive of my career. And so I've been really appreciative of that. And I have always felt like I belonged here. And so for me, that has allowed me to do my job wholeheartedly because I don't feel like I'm in a place where I don't belong. Right. So I do want to say you can be authentic. Absolutely. So I do want to say thank you, even for your leadership and the example that you have shown and the strides that you've made as our president. So thank you for that. [00:23:28] Speaker B: Appreciate that. I wasn't asking. [00:23:30] Speaker C: No, I just wanted to be honest about that. I think the other thing I would love to see is I would love to see others like me, right. That meet some of my identity characteristics, and not just being a black male, but other, my other identity characteristics. I'm younger than some in this role and thinking about some of those pieces. How do we also afford opportunities by way of maybe mentorship on this campus from those who aspire to be in upper level administrative roles on this campus? What does that look like? How do we continue to create a culture of accountability and responsibility, oftentimes I find in some of the work it tends to be heavy on one side of the fence than the others. And I'm sure many different people on this campus would say that. But how do we distribute the work evenly in a way that faculty, staff and others see the role that they play in this work? I think sometimes, and as you know this, and you've always given me this advice, is not to get burnt out. You make sure you're taking care of yourself, but sometimes it's hard because you feel like if you're not carrying that baton, who else will? Right? And I don't know what that looks like, but conversations about how can we dismantle those silos a little bit more, I think it's gotten better, but how can we continue to do that? [00:24:55] Speaker B: Well, to your point about being promoting individuals to think about what they can do at a higher level, that's really important for me because we mentioned earlier that I think that's what makes some of the best administrators. I'm not talking about myself because I'm sure I have lots of faults and people can probably point those out on a regular basis. But just understanding the culture of institutions and then rising to the ranks of higher level administrative roles and understanding where you came from and how you can, I think, more easily navigate some of the issues I think is really important. You're a good example of that. I've always said, Bobby, make sure that you take this track that you're on and take every opportunity you can. I've seen that you've done that. The last thing I'll just say about it is that in terms of workload and kind of evening things out, my advice really to you, to anyone who's listening, is that get really good at something, whatever that is in your area, that just immediately gives people the credibility that I think they need when they're moving up the ladder and leading broader groups of people, because you can always use that as a fallback to say, look, I have a really deep understanding in X or whatever it is, and it's usually something related to what you would do as an administrator. I think sometimes people sometimes develop a little bit more of a superficial understanding of various different issues, and I think that is not good for their long term leadership capabilities, abilities to grow as an individual at a. So I just gave you a little bit of advice. You just gave me a little bit of advice. I think we're well, Bobby, it was good to talk to you today. Thanks for stopping by the podcast and we'll be looking forward to seeing what you do next, which I'm sure is going to be awesome. [00:27:05] Speaker C: Thank you so much. [00:27:06] Speaker B: Take care. [00:27:08] Speaker A: Make sure to check out our next episode when I talk with Iris O'Keri, student body president of Wichita State University. And thank you all for listening. Please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to the Forward Together podcast. Go shockers. [00:27:30] Speaker C: Sponsorship for the Forward Together podcast is provided by Scott Rice, office works and the Shocker store.

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