Dr. Keldon Henley, Ouachita Baptist University’s vice president for student services, has earned national recognition as one of 10 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates for 2011.
Henley, who also serves as OBU’s dean of students, was honored by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience affiliated with the University of South Carolina. College and university presidents throughout the nation are invited to submit nominations each year. A national panel of educators reviews the nomination portfolios and selects 10 individuals as outstanding advocates.
Henley, nominated by Ouachita President Rex Horne, was one of two student advocates recognized in the category of four-year schools with fewer than 2,000 students.
“Keldon Henley is a true advocate for Ouachita and the students who attend our university,” said President Horne. “The scope of his service touches all of university life.
“Keldon’s forward look in developing a plan to aid our students in adapting to college life here is exemplary,” Dr. Horne added. “There is no doubt it will add to the satisfaction of Ouachita students and engage them earlier in our great university. Keldon is most deserving of this honor.”
According to the National Resource Center, the recipients of this year’s award “mirror the diversity of American colleges and universities. They share the common goal of improving the education experience of first-year students, yet their methods for doing so are uniquely responsive to the particular institutional settings of which they are a part.”
The National Resource Center’s online biography of Henley notes that his “leadership and wisdom has transformed the first-year experience at Ouachita Baptist University. He is a mentor for both faculty and the students. … The initiatives he is involved in have helped the university achieve its highest first-year retention rate in its history and exemplify his commitment to first-year student success.”
Among major initiatives Henley has spearheaded is “Thursday@10: The Ouachita Experience,” a comprehensive first-year student orientation program that debuted last fall. He also helps coordinate Early Registration orientation events for incoming students as well as WOW (Welcome to Ouachita’s World) events for new students.
Emphasizing that the recent honor “is a reflection of Ouachita in general,” Henley said, “Many of our faculty and staff work hard every day to do all we can to help our newest students adjust to university life and be successful here. Whether collaborating on ‘The Ouachita Experience’ or revising and renewing our new student orientation program, cooperation among our faculty and staff has been extraordinary.”
Reflecting his passion for first-year student advocacy, Henley added, “When a student arrives at Ouachita, both the student and parents have a set of hopes and expectations. The first six weeks of a student’s transition to campus are the most important to make sure they make the connections necessary to have a great experience here.”
Henley, a 1986 magna cum laude graduate of Ouachita, also holds a Master of Arts in marriage and family counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Serving at Ouachita since 1993, his previous positions included serving as university counselor and associate dean of students. He and his wife, Celeste, are the parents of three children: Annelise, Grayson and Parker.
Ouachita Baptist University, a private Christian university in Arkadelphia, Ark., currently enrolls 1,500 students from more than 30 states and 40 nations. Celebrating its 125th anniversary as a leading liberal arts university, Ouachita has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 Regional College in the South for four consecutive years.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications