By Norm Miller, LC communications
Vincent Smith is a lot of things: husband, father, pastor, church planter, college grad, seminary student, counselor, and confidant.
Certain aspects of all those roles equip Smith for his service to Louisiana College; he is dean of students.
Smith defines this function as one who is an “integrator of relational activity that flows into student discipline, an administrator who helps connect students to success in the classroom.”
This is not bureaucratic psychobabble. It is who Smith is. He relates to and reaches students right where they are.
“Sometimes I function as a big brother, and others times I’m a father figure,” Smith said. “Discipline comes easier when I have such a relationship with students that they know I care, even if I have to be the ‘bad guy.’ I do care about our students, but I also have a backbone.”
Smith said he is “okay with being the bad guy. I realize that not everyone is going to like me. But I am called to more than just tough love. My role is about honesty.” That includes telling students about behaviors that will harm them.
Athletes expect you to talk about sports, and Christian Studies majors expect you to talk about theology, Smith said. “But I’m about getting to that personal level and asking sincerely, ‘How are you, really?’ Those are the most poignant words I can say. Students need to know that someone really cares about them. They need investment, and not just from me but from our faculty and administration, too.”
President Rick Brewer said, “Vince’s compassion for students perfectly fits our culture of caring that distinguishes LC from other schools. We strive to develop in our students a maturity of intellect and of character, and Vince undergirds these efforts by his concern for every aspect of our students’ college experience and their personal lives, too.”
Being a Baptist college built upon a Christian worldview means that “LC is not a normal college campus.
We have a different culture,” Smith said. “Some students need to understand that culture.
But sometimes they don’t.”
One of Smith’s frustrations is when a student is exposed to the culture of LC’s expectations, “and they
choose to leave before they realize or can understand how much they are loved. That hurts, man. That’s disappointing.”
But here’s the flipside for Smith: “It’s a joy having a really hard conversation with a student that includes a discipline level of severity, and to see that student understand why I did what I did, and to see them grow from that experience.”
Another joy is to hear the stories of students whose first college choice was not LC, but who, after being here a while begin to thrive and set their sights on their futures, Smith said.
“God is working on this campus, in the classroom and in our chapel services,” he added. “This gives us ministering moments because students will ask us questions they cannot ask anyone else.”
This is what differentiates LC from other schools. “LC has a lot more to offer,” Smith said. “Where else can you freely ask your professor, ‘Where do you go to church?’ or ‘What do you think about baptism?’”
This sort of environment helps Smith attain a ministry goal as dean of students: “I want to create a culture of students who know how to disciple each other and minister to each other, where they know how to take care of each other and look out for each other. This is all part of understanding the value of having a Christian education.”
Through replication, “I am always trying to give my job away,” Smith said.
The demands of the job are “humbling, exciting, scary and nerve-wracking all at the same time,” he said.
“It’s like trying to get a sip of water from a fire hydrant. It’s a taxing job. But it is also easy to work hard for those who make you want to work hard.”
Being a pastor at heart, however, Smith said, “I love Jesus, man. I love to be around people who love to talk
about the Lord, and we have that all across this campus. That also makes working at LC fun.”