LU Moment: President Taylor Joins the Cardinal Family | S3 Ep. 28


Shelbe Rodriguez:
Welcome to the LU Moment where we showcase all the great events, activities, programs, and people here at Lamar University. I’m Shelbe Rodriguez, social media and digital marketing manager here at LU and this week, I am back to host a special edition of the LU Moment with a very special guest. Joining me today is Dr. Jaime Taylor, the sixteenth president of Lamar University. Dr. Taylor, it’s such an honor. Thank you for joining me today.


Jaime Taylor: (0:26)
Thank you for having me.


Shelbe Rodriguez:
Dr. Taylor, you previously served as the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Marshall University, right?


Jaime Taylor: (0:35)
Yes ma’am.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (0:36)
And that’s in Huntington, West Virginia?

Jaime Taylor: (0:38)
Yes.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (0:38)
I think the burning question for everyone at this moment is why Lamar University?

Jaime Taylor: (0:43)
I was looking at both the institutions I’ve been at and they’re both student- focused. That’s something that I’m very passionate about and also a university that serves a large region, a regional university or even a national university. Lamar really fits that perfectly. I looked at the strategic plan, everything about the strategic plan was student-centered. The more I learned about Lamar from some of the colleagues that I called up, that was essentially what was coming out was that Lamar is a really student-focused institution. That’s exactly the kind of place I want to be.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (1:20)
I love that answer and were super diverse, so we’re glad to have you a part of the Cardinal family. I want to back up a little bit. Take us back to that moment when you were notified by chancellor McCall that you were the sole finalist for this position at Lamar University. What went through your mind?


Jaime Taylor: (1:32)
Well obviously, it was incredibly exciting. Again, the more I learned about Lamar and also the system office, it just seems like things are really happening here. Things are moving forward and there’s a lot of potential, a lot of excitement. I was feeling ridiculously fortunate to be a part of it.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (1:56)
Yes, and this is a great time for us to kind of build new traditions and what better way than to have you here with us. Tell me about a time when education really kind of came to life for you? What sparked your passion in education?


Jaime Taylor: (2:08)
In terms of education, what it did for me, I went through physics, mathematics, and a lot of people are like, oh, when is that stuff ever useful? When I was in graduate school, I was interested in doing weapons research. I looked on electromagnetic guns, rail guns. There was this upper limit of velocity, nobody could break that upper limit and trying to understand why that limit existed, what the struggle was and overcoming that. It took a lot of scientific modeling and that’s when education really came about, you could tie in this stuff in a classroom and apply it something specific and see a real result.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (2:54)
Now, tell us when did you realize you wanted to be president of a university.


Jaime Taylor: (2:59)
It was probably about five or six years ago. I had served as an interim provost at Austin (3:06). I did not apply for the job because I really didn’t want to be an administrator. I kept working my way up and I went, how is this happening, because this isn’t really what I want to do with my life? I think at that point, I did some soul searching and I recognized after serving under six different presidents and three of them as a provost that the president really sets the culture on campus. I truly believe about being a leader where you’re at. At the same time, a president can create a culture on campus to make it much easier for people to be leaders where they’re at and that’s what I want to do.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (3:40)
Now, you did a meet and greet with faculty and staff here earlier this summer and you kind of took a step back at the event and said, “I don’t want to take questions from the audience, I want to kind of keep my introduction very brief and I want to get to know each and every one of you guys. I want to talk to you all personally.” I think something like that really sets the tone for campus culture. Why that one on one interaction?


Jaime Taylor: (4:03)
When you talk to somebody one on one, you really get to asses who they are, what sparks their interest. That’s what I’m looking for, I want to get around to meet people on campus and find out what they’re enthusiastic about, what they’re passionate about? We already know that everybody on a college campus is passionate about helping students and so forth and so, beyond that, what do they want to see students do and work on and learning about that was very important to me.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (4:34)
Where do you think you see Lamar University within the next year or even the next few years?

Jaime Taylor: (4:39)
I’ll come back to the first year, long-term, what I’ve got to do is a really got to get out and meet the people in the community and I’ve already started doing that with individuals on campus, learning a little bit about the history and history’s important, but more importantly, just what are our people thinking about the future? As I hear about that, what I’m really adamant about that as well, knowing what they know, how would they get there? They see this idea for the future, how would they make it happen? And then trying to piece that together to try to create a vision for Lamar, once I’ve heard from everybody. But the first year, will be very much focused on improvement or increasing residential enrollment. That’s something I have a strong background in and also laying the groundwork for student success and when I say student success, I’m specifically talking about metrics. I always tell people, metrics are numbers, but every one of those metrics represents a student so every time we move that number forward, we’re helping students.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (5:36)
Right. Now, you guys just moved here to Texas. Welcome to Beaumont! Cardinal nation! Have you gotten a chance to explore the city yet?

Jaime Taylor: (5:48)
Yes, my wife and I have got out on the weekends and one of the first things we did was we went out to the gulf coast. That was really cool. We walked along the beach. I got to see the large fire hydrant.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (6:01)
Yes, that’s a staple here.

Jaime Taylor: (6:02)
We walked through Spindletop. Really looking forward to the museum district, getting to see more of that. Right now, everything I see is just an amazing city.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (6:14)
I know. We do have the Dishman Art Museum on campus. You guys should all check that out. It’s free and open to the public. Open on the weekends so be sure to check that out as well. What are some differences you see in Beaumont as opposed to Huntington, West Virginia?

Jaime Taylor: (6:29)
Well, the first one obviously is the mountains. The state song for west Virginia is “take me home country roads… mountain mama” and there’s mountains everywhere. You come here and it’s completely flat. I was kind of surprised about was how much greenery there is here. That’s the same and of course I keep telling people the campus is absolutely beautiful. The other part of course was the economy and that’s one of the things I’m looking at and what really drives the economy here. In West Virginia, we were working on that. Of course, the coal industry is not doing as well as it had been nor the steel industry, so what’s going to replace it? Here in Beaumont, it’s very focused on the oil industry which is great, the economy’s great here, but what can Lamar do to really help that?

Shelbe Rodriguez: (7:16)
And our Spindletop Museum is also a part of that rich history so I’m so glad you got to tour that when you first arrived. Dr. Taylor, we are currently in the Reaud building in the ping pong room and I’ve done my research, I hear you are an avid ping pong player, is that right?

Jaime Taylor: (7:32)
That’s right I love ping pong.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (7:34)
Other than ping pong, what does Dr. Taylor, now president Taylor, do for fun?


Jaime Taylor: (7:40)
I do like to get outdoors. Of course, in West Virginia, being in Tennessee, I used to hike the Cumberland plateau and hiked through the mountains, loved running water. Here, I’ve already started looking around, what activities exist and surprisingly, my wife’s not always the outdoor person, but she came to me one day and she goes, “you know they do a lot of kayaking here, we should take up kayaking.” I said, “that would be great!”

Shelbe Rodriguez: (8:03)
Yes! We have the big thicket. You guys can go and kayak on the big thicket. That’d be great!


Jaime Taylor: (8:08)
So, it sounds like I’ve got a new hobby possibly.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (8:10)
Yeah, new hobby. Ping pong and kayaking. That sounds like a match made in heaven to me. So are you planning on implementing any of those fun activities with students on campus. How do you plan on interacting with our campus body?

Jaime Taylor: (8:22)
I really want to. Obviously, that’s the most enjoyable part of the job is interacting with the students. This Saturday, I’ll be at the new student orientation. Of course, I’ll hopefully be in this room fairly often. I want to try and find a place on other parts of campus to play ping pong as well. I like to just walk around during the day and try to find some time each day to just walk into students and say hi. I got to meet the freshman football team and they seem pumped to be here and excited. I’m excited to watch them play this fall.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (8:45)
Yes, it’ll be your first homecoming here at Lamar University and our first homecoming here on campus within the past year since the pandemic, so that’s going to be very exciting. Are you ready for that?

Jaime Taylor: (9:10)
I am ready for that!

Shelbe Rodriguez: (9:12)
Now, coming up first in August, we have our first commencement, August commencement ceremony. It will be back in the Montagne Center. How excited are you for commencement?

Jaime Taylor: (9:20)
Very excited. What’s nice about commencement is the first time you get to meet a lot of the parents. Of course, the parents are very proud and they should be and you get to see that whole fun interaction between the student who’s now an adult and going off on their own and their parents are proud of them and they’re taking pictures. It’s just so exciting to be around the commencement ceremony.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (9:42)
Yes. What are you most looking forward to other than the football games of course and homecoming, what are you most excited for for fall semester?

Jaime Taylor: (9:50)
For fall semester, one just to get students on campus. There’s something about a college campus, I guess you could say, it keeps you young. You walk around, you talk to people. They’re so full of energy and they’re so hopeful. Their life is getting started and their turning into adults.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (10:08)
Mrs. Taylor will also be joining us on campus this fall semester, can you talk a little bit about what Mrs. Taylor will be doing on campus. We’re excited to get to know her.

Jaime Taylor: (10:18)
She has the same enthusiasm I have for students. Because I started in the physics department, and then the college of science and mathematics. We would always create events for students. She’d always be there. She just liked hanging out with the students, talking to them and again, kind of what I do, just ask. Sometimes those interactions are important because sometimes students have difficulties with certain things just being outside of the classroom and helping them with that can really help them be successful.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (10:48)
I have to ask you: how did you guys meet?

Jaime Taylor: (10:52)
Oh my gosh! That’s a great story. I was in graduate school. I was in an isolated graduate school. It was a UT space institute. There’s about 90 students there. It was started around the world’s largest wind tunnel facility right across the street, so we did all aerospace research. I went to a Halloween party, it was a bunch of you know, we’re all engineers, physicists. She was the only female there. We talked just about all night and that was the beginning and it just happened almost instantly.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (11:34)
It was that moment.

Jaime Taylor: (11:35)
That moment, exactly. That night, I think we knew.

Shelbe Rodriguez: (11:39)
You know, here at Lamar University, we love moments and so we can’t wait to make more moments and memories with you and the entire Taylor family this fall semester.


Jaime Taylor: (11:48)
Well, thank you.


Shelbe Rodriguez: (11:49)
Thank you, Dr. Taylor. Alright guys, so that is a wrap here with our sixteenth president of Lamar University, Dr. Jaime Taylor. For our radio listeners, be sure to tune into this special episode. There is a video edition on our social media, just search Lamar University on our Facebook page. You can also follow president Taylor on Instagram and Twitter. Just search Dr. Jaime Taylor. We have about two minutes left, so I want to share some upcoming events that we have on campus, a few things to get excited about here. Our August commencement is just around the corner on August 14th, and it will be back in the Montagne Center and we can’t wait to celebrate our class of 2021 graduates, and grads, be sure to tag us in all of your grad photos on social media or use the hashtag #lamarugrad2021. For our incoming Cardinals, whether you start in the summer, fall or spring.

New student orientation is ready to welcome you and prepare you for a successful transition to LU. But, if you’re LU bound this fall, there’s still time to register for your NSO session and this is just a great way to get familiar with campus life, meet you future classmates, and make new friends. Be sure to get registered for that, you can visit lamar.edu/orientation. We can’t wait to welcome you to campus this fall. Who knows, you might even catch a selfie with president Taylor at your NSO session. You can also catch Dr. Taylor at student convocation just before the start of the fall semester so that’s on Sunday, August 22nd, at the Montagne Center and this is just a great way to connect with other incoming Cardinals and get excited for the fall semester while Dr. Taylor shares his vision for your future as a student at LU. How exciting is that? Alright guys, for the fall semester, we are making a full return back in person. The official start date for the fall is August 13th.

We’ll have a full week of welcome event, the class of 2025 will be joining us for the first time on campus. They’ll be smiling faces and it’s just going to be a great time for campus to come alive again. I think everyone’s just excited to get back to what we consider here in Cardinal Nation as a little bit of normalcy here on campus. To learn a little more about our full return for the fall semester, you can visit lamar.edu/strongertogether. We’ll be coming back, back together, back in person and I think this has just made us stronger as a community, so lamar.edu/strongertogether. One last event we have coming up for the fall, homecoming 2021 is going to be a Cardinal-palooza, so save the date for that. That’s November 13th. We want the entire LU community to come out and celebrate with us. Start buying your red shirts and your LU gear now because it’s going to be epic, again, save that date, that’s November 13th, 2021. Be sure to tune into the next episode of the LU moment, again, this is Shelbe Rodriguez, social media and digital marketing manager here at Lamar University, the pride of southeast Texas.