The Neag School’s Department of Educational Leadership welcomes Kari B. Taylor as the new program director for Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA). She begins her new appointment as the HESA program director and as an assistant professor-in-residence on July 31.
Taylor joins the Neag School after most recently having earned her Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs at The Ohio State University (OSU), where she conducted research into the process of developmental growth among undergraduate and graduate students who participated in an international service-learning experience. Her dissertation focused on how a service-learning course helped students develop critical consciousness, which represents a complex way of making meaning of one’s self in relation to one’s social world. In her third year as a doctoral student, she received the Porterfield-Dickens Graduate Research Support Award in support of her dissertation research.
Rising Up the Ranks
Taylor’s interest in the learning and development of students in higher education was ignited during her second year as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, where she served as a peer advisor for the Freshman Interest Groups, an immersive living-learning experience that creates cohesive communities where students study, take classes, and live together. At the time, Taylor, who majored in journalism and biological sciences, was also working for a local newspaper. While she enjoyed her work as a reporter, she says she always found herself eager to return to her advisees at the end of the day, ultimately prompting her to pursue graduate study in the realm of higher education and student affairs.
“[Kari] deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here.”
— Milagros Castillo-Montoya, assistant professor and former interim HESA director
Going on to complete a master’s of science degree in college student personnel at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 2006, Taylor began serving as assistant director for academic and co-curricular support at Miami University’s Honors and Academic Scholars programs. In this position, Taylor provided holistic advising for a large group of high-ability students; developed academic, social, and community service student programming; worked with the university’s Office of Residence Life to oversee the Honors Living Learning Community; and assisted in recruiting, training, and supervising instructors for the introductory honors seminar.
By 2011, she had been promoted to senior associate director, developing and supervising academic support policies and procedures for the university’s Honors Plan for Liberal Education, which allows honors students to meet general education requirements through an outcomes-based framework. She also supervised assistant directors; facilitated ongoing refinement of the program’s electronic portfolio process; and implemented training modules for academic advisors as chair of the professional development subcommittee of Miami’s Undergraduate Academic Advising Council.
It was this commitment to student learning and development that led Taylor to her Ph.D. program at OSU. Describing her work as “bringing passion to practice,” Taylor says she looks forward to being a heavily involved leader and mentor for the HESA program.
“I was drawn to the program at UConn because of the sense of community and the opportunity to work specifically with master’s students,” says Taylor, a native of Topeka, Kan. “I was very interested in the system of graduate assistantships and practicums that HESA offers, and am excited to assist graduate students in their development as educational leaders.”
Practitioner and Scholar
“We are excited to welcome Kari Taylor to the HESA program and to the department. She brings a blend of practitioner and scholarly experience with her, as well as a focus on issues of equity that will be a great fit,” says Jennifer McGarry, professor and head of the Department of Educational Leadership.
Taylor succeeds Neag School assistant professor Milagros Castillo-Montoya, who served as HESA’s interim director this past year.
“Kari brings expertise and experience that will be a strong value to the program,” says Castillo-Montoya. “She also deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here and the strong reputation we have as a program for supporting the development of higher education and student affairs administrators.”