Dr. Terry Lindsay’s office is peaceful and welcoming. The colors are warm and the walls decorated with painted masks, mementos from travel, and inspiring quotes – several of them from Dr. Martin Luther King. If the door is open, and Dr. Lindsay is inside, and you poke your head in and ask for a few minutes, chances are high that he will push his chair away from the desk, beckon you in, and turn to listen with a calm attentiveness that he is already known and appreciated for around campus.
Dr. Lindsay, born in Jamaica and raised since the age of 10 in Brooklyn, NY, stepped in to fill the position of Vice President of Student Affairs this summer. In this role, he provides a unifying vision, support, and leadership for all departments and activities within Residential Life and Housing, Athletics (including intramural and Recreation), Student Activities, Campus Safety, Health Services, Dining Services, Student Conduct, the Counseling Center, and SOAR and Welcome Week. So, essentially, all aspects of the Paul Smith’s experience outside academics.
Previously, the VP of Student Affairs position either didn’t exist or was mostly vacant, and when Dr. Lindsay joined the school this summer there was widespread relief and excitement. Those I spoke with – my colleagues in Student Affairs – saw his appointment as key for some positive and needed changes in the PSC student experience.
Dr. Lindsay has been in Student Affairs for more than two decades. Growing up he was very active in his church, and drawn to the concept of servant leadership – that is, leadership with the goal of serving others and the community. One of the defining moments that led him to his vocation in Student Affairs happened when he was himself in college – indeed, in the very first weeks of his first year. Dr. Lindsay was the first of his family to attend college, and he arrived at the vast University of Buffalo alone and unprepared, with nothing but his bag and the $200 that his mother – single mother of six – had been able to provide him. The money was of course very quickly gone to food, fees, and the many incidentals required to settle into campus. Dr. Lindsay – then just Terry – got a job but had weeks ahead of him before a paycheck would arrive. On the first day of classes, a professor passed out a reading list of 20 required books. Terry’s heart sank; he had no money to buy these books. “That professor must have seen something in my face,” Dr. Lindsay said, telling me the story one recent afternoon, as we sat in his pleasant office. “He asked me to stay after class. Oh no – am I in trouble already? I thought.” As it turned out it was quite the opposite. The professor, upon hearing student Terry’s financial situation, not only gave him 19 of the books, but also $20 to buy the last one.
That gesture, Dr. Lindsay said, transformed his life. When he looks back now, that experience inspired his interest in Student Affairs. He wanted to be able to do for others what that professor had done for him: help students to participate fully in, and gain the most from, their college experiences.
This impetus also defines the sorts of campuses where Dr. Lindsay is interested in working. He is drawn to campus communities where there are many first generation college students: students for whom Student Affairs services, and the college experience, can have profound, even life-changing impact.
I asked Dr. Lindsay what advice he’d give to students, in order to get the most out of college. “Let college change you,” he said. We each come to our campus community with values and knowledge shaped by our background and experiences of the world thus far, and these inform our perspectives, assumptions, and expectations. He urges students to be open to being challenged, and to experiences that stretch or even test their values and viewpoints. “We can’t be afraid of conflict and chaos. Conflict tell us that something is happening.” Challenge and conflict are opportunities to grow, he explained. “How you manage conflict, in a community and as an individual, that’s where the growth, learning, and development will happen. Let’s not be afraid.”
To that end, Dr. Lindsay’s long term goals is that Student Affairs at Paul Smith’s will foster the development of student growth in these four areas: intra-personal (self-knowledge and personal growth), inter-personal (emotional intelligence, skills for success in social arenas) inter-cultural (not to be confused with multi-cultural, which is simply a condition of having many cultures. Inter-cultural implies interconnectedness and productive communication between cultures), and life management skills. To develop a campus rich in opportunities for growth in those areas, Dr. Lindsay is focusing his efforts right now on developing and enhancing the residential experience, increasing student engagement on campus, promoting the development of student leaders, and the training and developing of the staff that are tasked with creating or supporting these initiatives.
Dr. Lindsay gave me some of the details. For example, in Fall 2017 PSC will debut the Emerging Leaders Program, which will provide a group of about 22 students – who will live together and start by taking FYS together – the academic guidance and co-curricular opportunities for leadership training. He is also eager to see rich variety in our own campus activities and many opportunities for indirect learning – that is, the sort of learning that comes from conversation, experience, and encounters, both on campus and in our surrounding community. Those occasions of indirect learning, Dr. Lindsay believes, are among of the most valuable aspects of the college experience.
One thing Dr. Lindsay has thought deeply about, and has a great deal of professional experience with, is the concept of diversity. He stresses that diversity comes in many forms: culture, religion, vocation, race, age , and so forth – basically all elements that define individual identity. Comfort with diversity – and the ability to have authentic intercultural communication and interaction – is the best preparation for the world as it’s becoming, Dr. Lindsay said.
Talking with Dr. Lindsay left me with the strong impression that he has a clear vision for the future of Paul Smith’s Student Affairs. He envisions the Paul Smiths’ experience will create graduates that are comfortable, and successful, in a multicultural, globally interconnected world.