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Dick Nault Named Miami's Effective Educator
OXFORD, Ohio -- It is seemingly impossible for Dean of Students Dick
Nault to go anywhere on Miami University's campus without repeatedly stopping
to chat with students, each of whom receives the Nault trademark hug.
Whether it be a protest rally or an award ceremony, Nault can be observed
working his way through the crowd of students--talking, listening and hugging.
"The hugging is spontaneous," explains Nault. "I've learned that people's
self-presentations are usually very assured, but when you talk to students,
they're often frightened or troubled. Putting your arm around them provides a
quiet way of support, and that's what they respond to."
Nault's rapport with students has earned him the Miami University Alumni
Association's 1998 Effective Educator award. The award and a check for $1,000
were presented during halftime at the Oct. 10 Homecoming game.
The award is given annually to a faculty or staff member whose influence
continues to benefit students after they leave Miami. Nault, the first
non-faculty member to be named an Effective Educator since the prize was
created in 1983, sees the honor as symbolic recognition of the contributions
made by administrators and staff throughout the university.
"We're all educators here," he says. The importance of interactions with
students outside the classroom, whether it be a conversation in the corridor
with a housekeeper or an office appointment with a faculty member, should never
be overlooked, according to Nault.
He believes in giving students time to get to the issue they really want to
discuss, which often isn't their stated reason for stopping by. It's at these
times that professors and staff can "help students understand themselves or see
a situation in a different way."
An abiding sense of the importance of building community and of preparing
students for leadership has characterized his tenure at Miami. His commitment
to students is reflected in the quality and quantity of his relationships with
them while they're on campus and after they graduate.
Nault writes about 200 letters of recommendation annually and has attended
more than 50 weddings of students or former students since coming to the
university in 1984 as associate director of the university honors program.
He's even hosted a pre-wedding rehearsal luncheon for 40 at his home for two
former students returning to campus to be married at Kumler Chapel.
Kathy Prescott, administrative secretary in the dean's office, says that
lunches with students or former students are a daily event for Nault. "If
there's not a committee meeting scheduled, he's booked with students," she
says, adding that his schedule also includes several overnights in the
residence halls within the next month, not to mention weekend dinners with
student leaders and after-hour meetings with the fraternity he advises.
"He even spends his Sundays with students--he likes to have that connection
with them," she says.