When Dr. Karon LeCompte and her husband, Randy, moved into a new home this summer, it was a nice, quiet spot. That all changed on Aug. 19.
An assistant professor in the Baylor School of Education, LeCompte is serving as faculty-in-residence (FIR) at Baylor’s Leadership Living-Learning Center. She and Randy occupy a 2000-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment in Allen-Dawson Hall, living alongside more than 300 Baylor students, with more than two-thirds of them freshmen. Most of the students in Allen-Dawson are pursuing an academic minor in leadership through the School of Education.
“It was quiet when we first came,” Randy said. “But once the students arrived, there’s just an electricity in the air.”
Now that the semester’s in full swing, students know they can drop by the faculty-in-residence apartment any time to see the couple — or to visit with Ozzy, their 15-year-old beagle who is now the LLC mascot.
“We want to provide a place where students can come and talk about the challenges of being in college, of making decisions as an adult,” LeCompte said. “When you’re in high school, every hour of your day is scheduled for you. In college, you have to be the manager of your own agenda. Sometimes they need help, or they might need somebody to tell them they’re doing a great job. I approach life in a very positive way.”
Baylor’s dean for student learning and engagement, Dr. Jeff Doyle, said LeCompte’ enthusiasm for life and learning are contagious. “Her face lights up when she is able to teach and engage with others in exploring ideas,” he said.
Alex Reachi, a senior who has lived in the LEAD LLC for four years and is the executive student director of the program, said LeCompte has been great for the program. “Dr. LeCompte is a high-energy person, and you can’t ever get her down. You can try to make her sad, but she just won’t do it. That’s particularly good for the freshmen, because they need encouragement.”
Reachi has been working with LeCompte on a number of LLC projects, including assembling an advisory board and writing a mission statement, and appreciates her positive approach.
“She’s like a soccer mom,” he said. “She wants to be part of everything, and she’s also truly invested in us.”
Each Baylor LLC has a Faculty-in-Residence (FIR), a faculty member who lives within the community to provide leadership and a focus on academics. Four School of Education faculty members live in residence halls. In addition to LeCompte, Dr. Mona Choucair is FIR at the Education LLC in South Russell, Dr. Rishi Sriram is Faculty Master of Brooks Residential College, and Dr. Jeffrey Petersen is FIR in Kokernot.
LeCompte and her husband have been married 18 years and have three grown children. Randy joked that she was motivated to take on the faculty-in-residence role by a lack of grandchildren, and LeCompte admits that among her top reasons was the fact that she didn’t have a daughter close by to shop with. “Now I have 150,” she said. Randy, an avid golfer and Baylor sports fan, is thrilled to give up yard work for good. “And I was instructed to purchase tickets to absolutely every Baylor sporting event,” LeCompte said.
A magazine food critic, Randy plays an important role in the LLC. “Randy is the cook of the family,” LeCompte said. “And we will always have delicious treats on hand for students.”
LeCompte joined the Baylor faculty in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction in 2010, following teaching positions at Vanderbilt University and Southwestern University. Her teaching specialties are civics education and leadership. She co-founded the School of Education’s iEngage summer civics camp with fellow faculty member Dr. Brooke Blevins, and the two pursue a research focus in this area. The summer program provides research opportunities and is connected with iCivics, the civics-learning video game developed under the leadership of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In the summer of 2012, LeCompte served as Baylor iCivics Fellow, spending six weeks in Washington, D.C., with the national iCivics team. She has taught a class in the leadership program for several years and is currently teaching the peer mentoring class.
LeCompte’s focus on social studies education, including citizenship and service, is a good fit for a living community devoted to leadership and service. Each incoming student must enroll in the introductory leadership course and complete at least 15 hours of community service.
“All of the students here are developing leaders,” she said. “They are excellent academically, but they are learning to turn their strengths into mechanisms for leadership. They have all chosen to live here to do that, but you cannot learn true leadership from a book. You learn leadership by doing it.”
Challenges are inherent, she said. “Along with leadership comes very strong personalities,” she said. “Learning to lead and learning to work with one another over long periods of time are part of learning to thrive.”
LeCompte sees the new role as part of thriving at her own stage of life. “It’s a chance to interact with college students,” she said, “to really understand and appreciate students on a new level. When you live with them, you really get to know them.”
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