There is no such thing as innate talent, said Dr. Rishi Sriram, associate professor in the School of Education and director of the master’s program in Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) in the Department of Educational Leadership. Instead, talent is cultivated, developed and earned, he said — and nurturing that talent in students is the mission of effective universities.
Sriram laid out a bold vision for student development as the keynote speaker at the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience of the National Resource Center. The convention provides a forum for higher education professionals to collaborate and share innovative ideas.
The 2017 conference, held in Atlanta Feb. 11-14, drew more than 1,800 attendees from 47 states and 23 countries.
Sriram told the group that it’s possible to develop talent in college students by organizing around talent development as a goal.
“Talent comes from five sources,” he said. “I call them the five Ms — mindset, myelin, mastery, motivation and mentorship. The question is, ‘How can colleges arrange their people, programs and policies to promote these five Ms in college students?’”
Sriram has published and researched about the role of mindset in success for academically high-risk college students. But he believes promoting a growth mindset can help all students, so he devoted his keynote speech to the notion that universities can help their students begin their college career with the best mindset for learning.
College is a time when key development of myelin in the brain takes place, he said, so it is not too late by any means to promote the right mindset in college students. From there, he said, they can grow in mastery through motivation and mentorship.
“Colleges and universities focus a lot of effort on finding talent, while they should be focusing more attention on developing talent in students,” he said.
In addition to his faculty role, Sriram is faculty steward of Brooks Residential College, a living-learning community of approximately 400 students, at Baylor University, where he lives on site with his family.
He spent eight years as a higher education and student affairs administrator before beginning his current role as a faculty member. His administrative work won him a NASPA Excellence Award (Gold Honoree) and a Promising Practices Award from the NASPA Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Knowledge Community.
His research interests include student affairs practice, collaboration between academic and student affairs, and college student retention, engagement, achievement and learning. Sriram’s work has been published in respected journals such as the Journal of College Student Development, the Review of Higher Education, the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, and the Journal of College Student Retention.
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Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.
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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.