After spending seven years as an integral part of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Shailen Singh is handing over the reins. At the end of October, he is leaving his post as Director of the Marilyn Kent Byrne Student Success Center.
Dr. Singh took over as director just one year after the Byrne Center was founded to provide students with the tools and resources they need to be academically and personally successful. His focus was on creating self-directed learners and to get students invested in their learning process.
“I firmly believe there is a difference between commitment and compliance. Compliance means you’re doing something because someone’s telling you to do it. Commitment means you’re doing something because you see value in it, it’s something that’s deeply personal and meaningful to you. My message to every student is to find what you can commit to because if you can commit to something then you’re going to hold yourself to a much higher standard than anyone else ever could.”
On a smaller scale, Dr. Singh always hoped to make the Byrne Center a place where students could feel at home. He and a co-worker talked years ago about making the Byrne Center the “living room” of CEHD.
“We always used to say how much we wanted students to just be hanging out around the building. The other day I came to work and there were students all over the place in our office. It was really cool to see the goal we very specifically laid out a few years ago was actualized,” said Dr. Singh.
Former dean, Dr. Douglas Palmer, watched Dr. Singh build the Byrne Center into what it is today. He has always been impressed with Dr. Singh’s commitment to the development of students.
“His commitment to exploring all sorts of avenues to help facilitate these students’ transition to Texas A&M University and ultimately to their success as students in our college. It’s that commitment and his innovative, high-energy that I think was absolutely instrumental to the success of that center and we all should be very appreciative of his work,” added Dr. Palmer.
“Shailen has been the heart and soul of the Byrne Center for many years. He has led the College of Education and Human Development’s efforts to support students through arranging tutoring, supporting service activities, or whatever the calling. His service to the college and the students has been immeasurable. We wish him the best,” added Dr. Joyce Alexander, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Dr. Singh has impacted the lives of hundreds of students during his time with the Byrne Center, including his graduate assistant Ashley Tobin. Tobin has spent the last four years working with Dr. Singh, serving on the student organizations within CEHD. She credits Dr. Singh with helping her develop into a strong leader.
“I’m not a confrontational person so he’s really helped me learn how to handle conflict and do it in a way that produces positive outcomes. Overall, he’s helped shape me as a leader and show me what it means to lead people well,” explained Tobin.
She will also cherish the relationship she’s developed with Dr. Singh, both professionally and personally. Tobin added that Dr. Singh has always been invested in her personal life and has served as a mentor on many levels. Many of his colleagues acknowledge similar relationships.
“One of the main things I’ll take away is the relationships that I’ve developed. Heaton Hall has been my family. I have celebrated the births of my children with these people. I’m taking away a deep sense of family both from this institution but more specifically from this college,” Dr. Singh said, holding back tears.
Dr. Singh’s professional career at Texas A&M began in 2005, but his roots run much deeper. He graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s in communications in 2002 and earned his Ph.D. in human resource development in 2010. For Dr. Singh, his time at Texas A&M has been about more than just an education and a career.
“This place has made me the person that I am both from a values-based perspective but even from a more simple perspective – I met my wife here, my three children were born in College Station. I grew up at Texas A&M on multiple levels,” Dr. Singh explained. “In your life, you have certain things that really define you and obviously your family is probably the number one thing. I would say, beyond my family and my faith, Texas A&M is right there. It’s been everything to me.”
Family is the reason Dr. Singh is leaving Texas A&M College Station and taking on a new role at Texas A&M University - Central Texas. Dr. Singh will serve as the Director of Access and Inclusion working with students with disabilities and working to create a campus-wide inclusion plan.
During the past summer, Dr. Singh and his wife realized they needed to make a change. Their middle child has cerebral palsy and, between traveling for doctor appointments, surgeries and therapy appointments, they decided to move closer to his wife’s family in Austin.
“It’s one of those strange things where everything kind of came together and I was taken out of my comfort zone. I had to put my money where my mouth is and decide if I really wanted to leave the Byrne Center and do this for my family. We took that leap of faith and knew it was time for us to leave College Station,” explained Dr. Singh.
Leaving the Byrne Center is bittersweet for Dr. Singh, but he will always cherish his time at Texas A&M and is hopeful about the future of the center.
“For a brief period of time I got to do my part. I got to do what I could do to serve the students of this institution and the students of this college,” said Dr. Singh. “I’m excited for someone to come in here and be able to do so much better than I did and really be able to figure out what the Byrne Center needs to be for the college.”