Anyone who meets Dr. Walter May recognizes his commitment to serving Reinhardt University and seeing students reach their potential.
“It’s really the ability to come in and spend the time to make this place the best it can be, and to develop programs that we know students need,” said May, on serving as dean of students
Originally, May set out to become a high school history teacher. After taking an admissions job while becoming certified to teach, his career path shifted, and higher education became his passion.
May views himself as an advocate for students and hopes to foster a sense of belonging in them.
“At times I’d love to be able to say that I can solve all their problems—I can’t, and so [my job is] helping them see what they’ve done or haven’t done and figuring out how to get them to the point where they need to be,” said May. “One of the ways students stay at an institution like Reinhardt or anywhere else is if they have that sense of belonging.”
May isn’t just dean of students—he is the professor for Reinhardt’s camping course and a First Year Seminar (FYS) instructor. His FYS course continues his efforts with New Student Orientation by acclimating students to college by reducing their stumbling blocks.
“College is such a unique beast. From high school to college, especially considering that more than 40 percent of our students are first generation, and over 40 percent are at the greatest financial need, going into a college environment is like going to Mars.
“Helping students make the transition to college life while learning independence and confidence – everything from test taking to health and wellness – is critical for today’s student.”
May ‘lights up’ when mentioning the camping class and the “Reinhardt Outdoors” program that is one offered by the Office of Student Affairs.
“I love teaching camping and leading Reinhardt Outdoors. It’s our chance to teach and instill in our students that sustainability piece, that conservation of the environment around us and encouraging the next generation to go outside and put down the phone.
“We’ve lost the ability just to chat sometimes, so teaching that camping class is one of my ways of getting the next generation back into the woods.”
When May started, Reinhardt was a 350-student residential campus. He hopes one day for the University to reach 1,000 residents on campus to create a vibrant community. In order to achieve this, May believes Reinhardt should stick to its original mission.
“One thing I enjoy about Reinhardt, as someone who loves history, is the original mission to serve this population of North Georgia. We are still doing that. It’s grown and changed a little bit, but we’re still serving that population. I think we need to be mindful our roots, our mission and purpose, and everything needs to attach back to those.”
May has served Reinhardt for 17 years, with the support of his wife Eloise and their daughter Ella.