Janelle Cammenga—Chief Editor
If asked, most people on campus could tell you Robert Taylor is the head honcho of Student Services. But far fewer people could tell you exactly what that looks like.
To answer that: As the Dean of Students, he facilitates all non-academic interactions between Dordt students and the college. But that’s just an academic way to say he’s in charge of making sure the Dordt community gets along.
His number one rule? Honest communication.
If you want to find him, just walk into Student Services and head down the left-hand hallway, then immediately turn to your right. He might not be in his office, as his days are filled with meetings of all kinds, but if you let him know ahead of time, he’ll make sure to stick around for you.
Dark-bearded (at least in the winter), bespectacled and soft-spoken, Taylor is an attentive listener and a calming presence.
He’s the one students turn to in the event of a crisis at college, whether academic, financial, or otherwise. He knows college students are going through a phase of life that can be difficult, and he’s happy to help where he can.
“At the end, for a student to continue when they thought they were going to have to quit,” he said, “or found their way out of whatever tight spot they were in… Yeah, that’s the most rewarding [part of the job].”
But he doesn’t do it by himself.
“It takes everyone,” he said, “not just here in this [department]. It takes partnerships with faculty and other staff in order to care for a student that’s in a tight spot.”
Taylor has been full-time on Dordt’s staff for 20 years, starting as a Resident Director, then the Director of Residence Life, and now Dean of Students. But he’s really been in Residence Life ever since he served as an RA during his time as a student—incidentally, a position where he met his wife Teresa, also an RA at the time.
If you happen to chat with him, don’t let his calm demeanor fool you. The man is full of surprises, as you’ll start to find if you glance around his office.
The walls are decked out in art pieces: Three artist’s proofs from Sam Guiterrez—a good friend from his Dordt days—claim the back wall, and “Judas”—a giant canvas covered in vibrant colors by his best friend Andy Stravers—covers a good portion of the right-hand wall.
If you look to the left of “Judas,” you’ll see a blue poster for “Wister Dean.” One of the guys with glasses might look familiar—after all, this was a band Taylor used to play the drums for. In actuality, it’s one of many bands. He’s done rock, punk, and a variety of other gigs in the past. Band names included Endorphin, Today’s Tomato, the Washups and—of course—Wister Dean, of poster fame.
If you want to see him in his element today, you’ll have to come to chapel on a week when the faculty worship team leads the music.
If you continue your exploration of decorations, you’ll see a piece depicting the silhouette of a bike in motion. This one isn’t so much about the artist as it is what’s on the piece.
Because if it’s not work hours, there’s a good chance you’ll find Robert Taylor cycling. In fact, the first purchase he made after being hired full-time at Dordt was a brand new mountain bike. He says mountain biking is the easiest cardio in the world because you get a great adrenaline boost and can occupy your mind with the twists and turns on the track.
He also started gravel racing since being hired at Dordt. To train for races, Taylor gets up at 4 or 5 in the morning to go on an hour-long ride.
“When I’m out there and it’s dark and stars are out, the sun’s starting to come up… I spend a lot of time just kind of meditating and asking questions of God and trying to be patient and listen,” he said. “We all need some time where everything just kind of slows down and we’re in a place where we can listen. And I’ve found that through cycling.”
Eventually, Taylor aims to complete the 740-mile Trans-South Dakota event.
But biking is not the only avenue where Taylor has goals—he wants to hear more from students at Dordt.
He’s been working with Student Government to set up “fireside chats,” where he would sit somewhere like 55th so students could come and bring their concerns to him. No dates have been officially decided, but they hope to make it happen before the end of February.
“I love what I do here, and I just want to see students do well. And the beautiful thing is: That’s the same thing everybody here is committed to,” he said. “Our leaders here have fostered a culture that says we’ll cease to be Dordt if we don’t work well together, and everybody’s bought in.”