Though students are preparing for an end to the semester and the beginning of summer vacation, Oklahoma Christian University administrators are looking ahead. Three new staff members were recently announced.
Nathan Mellor was named to the newly created Vice President for Community Engagement position as well as a chief of staff.
"One question that people have had is 'what does it mean to be chief of staff?'" Mellor said. "What it means is that I'll be working specifically with President O'Neal's office. I'm helping him put together, along with the other leaders here, the strategy for the future and how to communicate that most effectively."
The main function of Mellor's new position is to help the university find continuity between many of the community engagement programs.
"Part of it is just consolidating some of the other things that are happening around campus, like the Academy of Leadership and Liberty, and trying to help coordinate things like church relations and programs like that, that are the university's handshake with the community," Mellor said. "When we were looking at how the university interacts with the larger community, we felt like it was important to have a person who is thinking about how to make sure OC is being represented in the best way possible and thought this type of position would enhance how people see OC in the larger community."
Mellor is now the executive director for the university's Academy of Leadership and Liberty as well as an Assistant Professor of Leadership in the School of Business Administration both on an undergraduate and graduate level. He said his new position won't conflict with his other duties on campus.
"The academy exists to promote what OC is and does, so it's more of a continuation of those types of things," Mellor said. "If anything, it helps integrate the Academy into OC in a more natural way."
The idea of having one central figure overseeing the communication of all of Oklahoma Christian's community engagement projects came from several conversations between Mellor and university president, Mike O'Neal, Mellor said.
"President O'Neal and I had been talking a lot about what could we do to let more people know what's happening at OC and part of that has been through the Academy of Leadership and Liberty and those types of programs," Mellor said. "As we talked more, there seemed to be opportunities that we could take advantage of if we had people focusing more on those areas."
According to Mellor, the title of Vice President came unexpectedly with his new job duties.
"I was surprised when he brought up the idea of becoming a vice president," Mellor said. "I was very thankful for the opportunity. It's part of his vision for telling more people about what's happening at OC. I'm obviously very happy to help do that."
Officially, his new position began when the university announced his title, but he suspects he will need time to adjust.
"In reality, it will take a few weeks to begin the transition of moving different pieces into the right spot," Mellor said. "Fortunately this is a good time of year where we're kind of wrapping up the semester. It's not a real urgent thing, but we're beginning the process of moving things and shaping the organizational chart."
In his new role, Mellor hopes to raise awareness about many of the activities going on around campus.
"One of the fortunate things about being at OC is that we're doing a lot of significant things already," Mellor said.
"We have students and faculty who are involved in numerous projects that people just don't know about. Part of what I'm trying to do is tell that story in a more consistent way. I want to make sure that story gets told both to the students, faculty and staff and also to the larger community, where they know that partnering with OC means you're partnering for a better world."
Two new advancement officers were also named to assist the university in fundraising efforts. Jo Griffin will be responsible for fundraising in the College of Arts and Sciences and Kent Allen will begin fundraising for the general university endowment with special consideration for the College of Biblical Studies and athletics.
Griffin was the associate director of corporate and foundation relations at the University of Georgia.
"I moved back from Georgia to get closer to an aging parent," Griffin said. "I have a 97-year-old mother in Abilene, Texas, so I moved back to Texas and was in communication with John DeSteiguer for the last few years. This opportunity came about and it worked out for me to take this position so I moved here in the middle of October."
Since she began work at Oklahoma Christian, Griffin has been involved in several fundraising projects already.
"I'm working very closely with the College of Arts and Sciences," Griffin said. "We're very much involved with the science initiative right now, which is a $5.8 million project. To date we have raised $3.7 million and we're working with the Mabee Foundation."
The foundation has given the university a challenge grant. If Griffin and other advancement officials of Oklahoma Christian are able to raise $1.4 million by the end of the year, the Mabee Foundation will present $723,000 to the university to complete the addition to Herold Science Hall.
"That's a big project for us right now," Griffin said. "We're working with alums and donors on that initiative."
Griffin is also part of the efforts to memorialize Tony Alley on campus.
"We're working closely with the Art and Design Department on a couple of projects in memory of him," Griffin said. "One is the Tony Alley memorial garden, which we're going to call Tony's Alley. That's going to be a very nicely landscaped area outside of the Art and Design Department, basically just right out by where Tony Alley's office was."
The second project will be a memorial scholarship set up by Alley's family. The university is attempting to raise $50,000 for the Tony Alley Endowed Scholarship, and it will be presented to students studying New Media Design.
Griffin is also working to fund scholarship endowments in other departments on campus, including the History and Political Science Department.
"We recently established the Wilson Steen III Endowment," Griffin said. "There again is a $50,000 goal in memory of Wilson Steen who was a very special student here back in 1969-1975. He was a special young man, everybody on campus knew him."
Other responsibilities include raising money for the McBride Center for Faith and Literature.
"We're working closely with the National Endowment for Humanities to get them to issue us a challenge grant where they will give us $1 for every $3 that we raise," Griffin said. "We're trying to raise the endowment for the McBride Center to $1 million. We're currently at $190,000 and that has just been raised in the last three years."
The final major undertaking Griffin is part of is creating an online catalogue for each department on campus. The catalogues will provide alumni with a listing of equipment needed and offer them the opportunity to purchase a piece of equipment or contribute to the ultimate purchase of that equipment.
"We have the Biology department up and running," Griffin said. "I am working closely with the Communication Department so that we can do it for Radio-TV, I'm working closely with the Music Department for instruments that they might need. This is something that where alums can go and check to see what specific equipment we're in need of at any particular time."
Griffin said she has enjoyed her new position at Oklahoma Christian.
"I like the Christian atmosphere," Griffin said. "Certainly, this has a dear place in my heart, being a graduate of a Christian school. I wanted to honor that. The people here are just great. I couldn't ask for a better working environment. It is a much smaller scale, but the needs are basically the same and the process of the work is basically the same."