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Interview With Garrison Conner
Charlotte Wang

Charlotte: Good Morning, Mr. Conner!

Mr. Conner: Good morning!

Charlotte: Do you mind doing an introduction of yourself?

Mr. Conner: Sure. I went to Baylor. I graduated in 2005, went to college, majored in English and finance. Then I started working in boarding schools. I tried a lot of different roles. I worked as an English teacher, worked in admissions offices, and I've been a dorm parent and a dorm head.There's been a lot of different things. This is my second year at Baylor.

Charlotte: So did you work in another school before?

Mr. Conner: Yes. When I was in college, I had an internship at a boarding school in Connecticut. Then I worked at an all-boy boarding school in North Carolina for eight years.

Charlotte: So as the Res Life head, what are your primary responsibilities?

Mr. Conner: My primary role is the health, well-being, and safety of the boarding students and the 36 faculty members who live on campus. So, sometimes I'm involved in things like when boarding students are sick, or students getting in trouble; sometimes it's about faculty and how to supervise faculty and make sure they're supporting students and caring for students.

Charlotte: Okay. This is your second year at Baylor, so how do you feel about the Baylor boarding community?

Mr. Conner: I think it is a really unique group of people; I think it is a group of kids who really like Baylor and are excited to be here; a group of kids who want to be better. I think when you talk about going to a boarding school, you primarily talk about being better, doing something you cannot do at home. In the U.S., less than one percent of students go to boarding school, so it is a very unique opportunity. And you can set up a very awesome international community, a very diverse group of students in the dorm you just can't recreate in other high school environments. So I feel very good about the kids we have, and my favorite part of my job is spending time with kids because you are all pretty awesome.

Charlotte: Because we know that the majority of Baylor students are day students, what do you think about the relationship between Baylor's small boarding community and the whole Baylor community?

Mr. Conner: This is actually something I really thought about when I was coming in. I came from a school that is predominately boarding with a small day student component. So we do not have that many things to worry about. We don't have snow days, for example, because everybody lives on campus. I think the day community makes good connections with boarding students and offers resources that they need.They (boarders) can have friends who live in town so you can go home with them over the weekends, maybe help with transportation, like parents help give students a ride, or give them food after a sporting event. I think it is a pretty powerful experience. I think the freshmen trip creates a bridge between freshmen day students and boarders. There aren't a lot of schools like Baylor who can do all the things we do.

Charlotte: So what do you think are the contributions of the boarding community to the whole community?

Mr. Conner: You know, the global perspective they bring. Our school mission is to prepare students to make a positive difference to the world. It starts with boarding students who can explore global perspectives in their dorm. And we talk about leadership in the dorm. Not just prefects but also some other students who are leaders. I think they can apply that in other areas. In Honor Council or students leadership boards, our boarding students bring a different perspective of leadership. 

Charlotte: What is your ideal boarding community? I mean... what kind of community do you want to make Baylor?

Mr. Conner: I think the thing I want the most is the positive relationship between kids and faculty. That means kids from different grades, kids from different backgrounds, academically further apart... plus you know faculty sometimes play a role as dorm parents, sometimes disciplinary. We have to make you clean the room; we have to make you do things like that.They are not designed to prevent the relationship; in fact, they help build relationship.

Charlotte: Last year you made a "no day student in the dorm" policy. You know, it was a little controversial among students. Do you want to talk about that?

Mr. Conner: During the academic day, the whole campus is supervised with the exception of the dorm. The dorms are only six buildings that have no adults present. All of our dorm parents have other things to do; they teach, they coach, they work in the admissions office. For boarding students it is not a big deal. They understand how to live in a dorm community, most of them leave their rooms unlocked, because they know that their sisters and brothers respect their space. Our day students don't understand that in the same way. They look at dorm as another part of Baylor, not someone's home. That's not my decision alone, we had a discussion with a group of people and really thought it through. It is not like day students can never be in the dorm. In the evening, on the weekend, when dorm parents are there we want them to be in the dorm.

Charlotte: What do you think about the changes you made in these two years?

Mr. Conner: People believe I am a person believing in structure, a rule-follower, but I am really not. I think one big good thing is that Baylor boarding students have independence, like juniors and seniors only need to check in at noon on weekends and check in at night at 11:30 p.m. or 12 a.m., and they can have leaves during days.I didn't change anything of that, curfew or check in time and all the stuff like that. All my changes are little boundaries within that independence. The independence is trust, within that there's a little expectation.

Charlotte: The rest are more personal questions so that we as students can better understand you as a person.

Mr. Conner: No problem.

Charlotte: Why did you choose to work at Baylor?

Mr. Conner: It is a little strange coming back. A lot of teachers I had are still here. When I was 14 I sat in the Trustee building, the place where they put the new building, and Mr. Padilla was my English teacher. So when I was 14, I decided to be an English teacher and work in a boarding school. And that's what I did. You know, when I thought about returning, a part of me was excited, and part of me was super aware that it is not the same place I went to school. It changed a lot. Some of the teachers are different. We are now an iPad school. We've grown. The classes are bigger. So I was not quite sure if I was ready. I came here, ate dinner with the kids, spent time with the kids, and did the interview. The kids are pretty awesome, so I decided to take the job.

Charlotte: How did you feel about when you were studying here?

Mr. Conner: Well, I was a day student. My family still lives on Signal Mountain. I stayed here all the time. I came at 7 a.m. in the morning and left at 8 p.m. at night. I was maybe not the best student, but I loved my Baylor experience. That is also why I wanted to be a teacher.

Charlotte: How do you think your experience at Baylor with boarders influenced your choice of working at a boarding school?

Mr. Conner: I was a friend of tons of boarders. Two of my best friends were boarding students at Baylor. In the 10-year reunion a lot of students I tried to catch up with were boarding students. Though I was not a boarding student, when I decided I would be a teacher at 14-years-old, I only wanted to work in a boarding school, living on the campus. It is somewhat because the teacher I had lived on campus, lived in dorm, also because of my buddies. They were boarding students and I can see their experience was transformative, so I wanted to be a part of it.

Charlotte: That is pretty cool. You mentioned that you worked in an all-boy's school. What differences did you feel between an all-boy's school and a mixed school like Baylor?

Mr. Conner: I like it. You know, I think it is not as different as people think. Same thing. It is just, with girls, in some way boys are easier to deal with, and in some way girls are easier to deal with. Different struggles, different problems, that's really just how it goes. But there was really not any hard transitions for me at all.

Charlotte: What do you think is the best part of working at Baylor?

Mr. Conner: Working with students. My primary job is spending time with kids. I also love the dorm parents I get to work with. I think sometimes the work of dorm parents gets unnoticed by students, but they give a lot of their time. That is a powerful group of people to work with -- other people who just care about kids.

Charlotte: The following question is the bad part of your working experience.

Mr. Conner: That is when situations come up that are disciplinary related. Sometimes since kids see me as rule-follower and liking structure that I talked about earlier, they think that discipline is something I really enjoy. I really hate it. Because I care about kids. My job is to make sure kids don't get into trouble. I want them to stay here. A lot of times the rules are not for catching kids, but for concerns for their health and safety. Vaping or drinking or smoking or skipping class --that's something we take really seriously. That's a part of job I don't like, but that is something I have to do.

Charlotte: Are there moments when you get a strong sense of achievement?

Mr. Conner: My job is unique, and I am not really looking at the things I am achieving. It is not like a bench mark.

Charlotte: Like satisfaction, fulfillment?

Mr. Conner: Yes you know, when kids are feeling satisfaction, feeling achievement, I am probably feeling a part of that. My job is primarily designed for supporting students. I appreciate that support. Like a student struggling academically and finally made good grade.  Things like that bring me satisfaction because they're satisfied. But the job is really about support. There are not many things about me. It's not like I feel good or I did a good job today; it is like, today I am very proud of Charlotte for singing in chapel or whatever it is.

Charlotte: Oh, I remember you wrote me a card after my international week chapel performance.

Mr. Conner: Yeah, like that. That moment has nothing to do with me. To encourage you, to push you... watching that I can see your development, right, you are different from the moment you got here. That was a different moment for you and for me, that's a moment that I can tangibly see a development of student. That's how I feel satisfaction...less about me, more about you guys.

Charlotte: That is impressive. Thank you. The last question is .do you have anything to say to all the students, imagining that I represent all of the students?

Mr. Conner: Study hard. Make good choices. That's about all I want to say.
 

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