Best, Brightest and Most Beautiful 2009: Theodore Caldwell

Theodore Caldwell
Director/Assistant for the Dean for Diversity for the Diversity Programs Office (DPO), College of Engineering, MSU

Theodore (Theo) is a native of Detroit, MI and a 1996 graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Advertising.  He is married to Jamillah Gross-Caldwell and they have three children: Rodney, Noah and Jonah.  Theo is the Director/Assistant for the Dean for Diversity for the Diversity Programs Office (DPO) in the College of Engineering at Michigan State University.  He is also an Instructor at MSU, teaching Engineering 160: Diversity in Engineering and Professional Preparation.  His efforts and undying passion for his work has helped students from various backgrounds succeed academically at MSU.  Theo has summed up the mission of the DPO in this way: “Ultimately, our efforts will be judged by how effective we are retaining a diverse population of Engineering students and increasing graduation rates for those underrepresented”.

Prior to returning to MSU in 2006, Theo served in a number of roles including Program Manager for the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and Assistant General Manager for AmeriSuites, a Hyatt Hotel chain.  “I have learned skill sets throughout my varied experiences that I bring to bear everyday with my students.  Relationship building, communication and customer service and retention are all focuses and techniques we use to support our young people.”  The DPO offers programs, resources and opportunities designed to support students, including:
o   Guided Learning Center: provides free academic assistance in a supportive environment across science, engineering, technology and math subject areas.
o   LEAD mentoring program: Leaders Encouraging Academic Development; mentoring program designed to pair admitted College of Engineering students with first and second year students.
o   EGR 160: Diversity in Engineering and Professional Preparation; freshmen orientation course designed to prepare students for academic success and explores the importance of a diverse community as it relates to Engineering.
o  Summer Residential Programs: Academic Intensive Summer Residential Program for 9th-11th grade students, DAPCEP ITEST for 7th-8th grade students, Engineering and Science Summer Academy for incoming MSU freshmen, Summer Undergraduate Research Academy for current college students and the Summer Experience in Math Residential Research Program for current college students.

During his time in the DPO there have been a number of successes, including work to create an endowment to financially support the many services and initiatives offered by the DPO.  Additionally, the Guided Learning Center has undergone a technology upgrade and will increase in size and scope once it relocates to the new Residential College for Engineering in Wilson Hall.  In December 2008, the Motorola Foundation partnered with the DPO by contributing $50,000 to its’ operating fund; this funding will allow the DPO to provide more services that support students.

Personally, Theo is aware that where he is today would not be possible if it weren’t for a number of role models and mentors in his life.  “My mother was my first mentor; successfully raising me as a single parent; Dr. Aurles Wiggins, former Director for the DPO, trained and prepared me from Day 1 to become the Director; Dr. Percy Pierre, MSU, Dr. Julius Jackson, MSU and Dr. Gerald Thompkins, Wayne State University, have been great mentors for me and have provided me with historical perspective and critical information and guidance with regards to moving forward.  I am thankful and grateful to them for providing strong and wise shoulders upon which I stand.”  As a parent, mentor and administrator, Theo enjoys being able to encourage and sow optimism into the lives of students.  “At the end of the day, our students are both our product and our client.  We have to work to ensure our clients produce the best product we know: a Spartan Engineer.”  These words serve as the foundation and backbone of every vision and effort Theo has for the DPO.  His desire for students to appreciate and value their experience at MSU has motivated him to give to a place that has given  much to him.