Former Lipscomb senior vice president for student life Scott McDowell has taken over as the new vice president of student life, succeeding Dr. Chris Riley, assistant provost for institutional research and SACSCOC liaison.
McDowell served at Lipscomb for 20 years after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Bible from Freed-Hardeman University, a master’s in religion from Lipscomb and a doctorate in higher education leadership from Azusa Pacific University.
Kevin Campbell, senior vice president of operations, said the university formed a search committee including Bart Herridge, Jill Fortson, Liz Brown, Joel Swedlund, Dina Counts, Rachel Slaymaker and himself. The search committee posted a job opening and advertised to attract people to the position. There were a few applicants alongside recommendations from faculty and staff at the university.
Campbell said McDowell stood out from other applicants because of his passion, deep commitment to spiritual formation and his background at Lipscomb, which is culturally similar to ACU and also is affiliated with Churches of Christ.
“He knows the world of student life inside and out,” Campbell said. “We knew it would not be a big adjustment for him from a cultural perspective. They’ve done a really good job balancing the needs of students with the desires for the institution.”
McDowell said his relationship with President Phil Schubert started when Schubert was the CFO of the university and asked questions pertaining to block tuition.
“I’ve been heavily influenced by some key mentors, and I would say its all about the relationships,” McDowell said. “Having genuine, deep relationships with students and being able to speak into their lives in formative years, its really magnificent. Being in the student life area, you get to be around the best students in the whole university because the student leaders bubble to the top.”
McDowell said he wants to focus on spiritual formation, and how he can move the needle, like a compass, in students’ lives. Alhough Chapel is an important part of what makes ACU “religious,” McDowell said the most important part of Christianity at the university is the relationships.
“I’m not trying to do anything rash, I’m trying to be thoughtful and deliberate, and trying to do the things that matter the most,” McDowell said. “We are going to treat people differently, recognize the image of God over every single person. That’s what gives the community its flavor. I want students to discover who God made them to be.”
The primary responsibilities include leading the Office of Student Life, residence life, spiritual formation, Title IX, student health and wellness, the Cabinet and Student Government Association.
Because the residence halls are about to go into a time of renovation, Campbell said they are the most significant capital need right now.
In additional to physical renovations, McDowell said updating and revisiting the LGBTQ policy related to residence halls is one of his goals throughout the next year. McDowell is active in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and said this type of policy is always dominant in conversation.
“I think we can do better,” McDowell said. “The spiritual well-being and the formation of the students is much more critical than the facility. The LGBTQ concern is large in the landscape of all higher education. I want to treat people well and love people well, and support all of our students.”
McDowell officially started on Aug. 1 and continued the search for a university chaplain.