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New student engagement coordinator sees the potential of every scholar

Postsecondary Success Engagement Coordinator Le Bailey

Le Bailey joins the Postsecondary Success team in Eugene as its first student engagement coordinator.

He comes to The Ford Family Foundation from La Grande, where he spent 15 years at Eastern Oregon University as the director of student involvement. We had a chat with Le about his journey here and his hopes for the future.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to land in Oregon?

I moved to Oregon from Illinois, where I graduated from Western Illinois University with a master’s degree in recreation, park and tourism administration. Originally, I wanted to be an actor on Broadway, but that didn’t pan out and, you know, you always have to have a backup plan! After college, I took a retail job while trying to find a career. A year later, I moved to La Grande, where I found myself working with students at Eastern Oregon University. That started my career in education. Fifteen years later, I accepted the job at the Foundation.

After so much time building relationships at EOU, why does this transition to The Ford Family Foundation make sense for your path now?

I want to be a key player in helping students have access to educational opportunities beyond high school. We all know that higher education is very complex, and being in a student engagement and success role at the Foundation allows me to help remove barriers and open doors for current Ford Family scholarship recipients with clear pathways to be successful.

Are there certain student communities you have a heart for?

As the first in my family to attend college, I have a special interest in first-generation students. I’ve seen so many who are unaware of the resources and the opportunities that are available to them. I reach out a little more to provide them with support. Working in higher education for the last 15 years, I know what a first-gen student is feeling in their first year. Many of them, especially male students, do not have the family expectation of coming to college. I really want to support them in their decision, to keep them in their college career so they can get to graduation and then move on to a solid career.

How do you think the field of student supports will evolve in the next decade or so?

That’s a hard question to answer because we are constantly changing. We can learn and try to adapt to today’s needs, but in a year, we’re going to change it all up again. But I believe that the more we invest in our students now, the more they will succeed in all aspects of the future. Over the years, we are learning about new focuses and pathways that are essential to helping them succeed, including from careers, preparation, mental health, academic support, flexible learning, and inclusion. And so, as we dive in further to learn more about these priorities, it’ll help us be better stewards and invest in our students.

What do you like about living in rural places?

I think rural places are the backbone of our society. I lived on a farm when I was in high school, and then in the rural community of La Grande. I think working hand in hand with both rural and urban communities, we can all see ourselves being more successful as citizens. It’s nearly every day that you get to see your neighbor at the grocery store, or I get to see that student that I’ve been working with at the coffee shop, and they are passing me paperwork through the car window that they need to turn in. It’s a great feeling to know those individuals in a rural community and interact with them on a regular basis.

What do you and your family enjoy doing together?

Oh, lots of things! My husband and I and our teen-age son love traveling, and outdoor recreation is a big thing for us. Our family is huge into anything related to Disney, and we’ve continued my childhood tradition of Sunday Disney movie night. We can usually be found taking a trip to one of the Disney parks every year. The goal is to actually make it to every Disney park in the world. I also love acting when I get the chance and taking on new roles and adventures. It’s just a way for me to explore different ways of thinking and allows me to like get out of my head from time to time.


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