Six years ago Ben Taylor took a job as a Resident Director at Messiah College. Since then he has profoundly impacted the lives of many students and faculty. Recently Taylor has decided to step down from his current position as the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs to pursue another opportunity.
Although Taylor is not a Messiah alumni, he has been a familiar face on campus the past few years. He was the Resident Director of Witmer for two years and the Resident Director of Bittner for one year. In June of 2012 he stepped into a new role, the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs (SILP).
“I loved residence life. I was planning on doing it for a long time and then they asked me to step into this position,” Taylor says.
The job requires involvement in numerous tasks. The student involvement portion includes supervising the many clubs and organizations on campus. In particular, the Director of SILP advises the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Student Activities Board (SAB).
The opportunity to work closely with SGA and SAB appealed to Taylor. “Getting to work with SAB and SGA were the big draws for me. I love working with students,” he says.
The leadership role of the position includes managing first-year orientation and welcome week. SILP also provides leadership development for student leaders on campus. Through these tasks, Taylor was able to personally interact with students.
“My favorite part by far was getting to mentor and work with the students that I got to work with. I supervised them in the work they were doing, but more than anything I was able to be a mentor and a person that they would come to with different questions about life. For me, that work is incredibly fulfilling,” Taylor says.
Taylor credits Messiah, his colleagues, and his students for his tremendous growth over the past six years. Although Taylor University is his official alma mater, he also feels like a Messiah alumni. “I want to come back to homecoming!” he jokes.
Taylor accepted a position at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He will be the Assistant Director of Student Life at the School of Business. He also plans to start some PhD courses, a long-term goal of his.
Both he and his wife, Kerrie, have family in the Bloomington area. Taylor hopes that the move will benefit his 15-month old daughter, who will now be closer to her grandparents. Still, his decision to leave Messiah has not been an easy one.
“We knew when we came here, my wife and I, that we weren’t going to be here forever. But it’s been really hard to decide to leave this place. It means a lot to us,” he says.
As Taylor finishes his time at Messiah, Kevin Villegas will step in as the new Director of SILP. Villegas is currently the Director of International Student Programs. He handles international students’ regulations, orientation week, and he teaches an Adaptation to U.S. Culture and Education class.
According to Villegas, working closely with international students is his favorite part of the job. “I really have a heart for international students. I usually tell them and those parents that I do get a chance to meet, that I treat international students the way I would want my daughter treated if she were thousands of miles away in a foreign country,” he says.
Villegas will carry over his passion for students to his new role. He is particularly excited to work with student leaders in SGA and SAB. Although he does not have any changes in store for next year, he is looking forward to the future.
“I’m interested in reaching out to students that are not as involved, maybe because they’re not in a leadership role by title and don’t see themselves as leaders. I want to focus on developing some more programming that will help students understand that they’re all leaders,” he says.
Villegas has also enjoyed building both a working relationship and friendship with Ben Taylor. “Ben is probably one of the best critical thinkers I’ve ever met, he asks some really good questions and I’ve actually learned a great deal from Ben. I’m sad to see him go but I’m excited for his new opportunities and for him to be closer to family.”
Many students and faculty met on Thursday to say good-bye to Taylor and congratulate Villegas. Leave a memory or a comment for Taylor or Villegas here, on twitter @MessiahPulse, or on facebook at The Pulse: Messiah College Media Hub. To see more photos of Thursday’s party, check us out on Facebook.