Development Continues for McCree Center for Life Success, August Launch Planned

Thy Nguyen has only been on the job for three months, but the new executive director of Mary Baldwin’s McCree Center for Life Success is already making major progress toward the center’s launch, now scheduled for August.

The emerging center will centralize life design and professional development at MBU, offering students comprehensive services and holistic resources both online and in person. It will be staffed by a team of professional advisors and success coaches that will support students throughout their academic journey.

Nguyen looked inside the MBU community for his initial pair of strategic hires. Christina Harris ’14, an outreach and instruction librarian and interim career services director, was tapped as director of the new center, and Kristen Sill, business development and operations associate for the Palmer College of Professional Studies, as director of employer relations and workforce development. Nguyen hopes to have four additional full-time staff on board by August. 

While Harris readies the McCree Center for the return of residential students this fall, Sill and Nguyen are hitting the ground running to establish partnerships with local businesses and organizations that will translate into internships, co-ops, networking, and other professional development opportunities for students. Sill is also examining what those external partners might need from MBU, and how MBU students can fill a need in the regional labor market. 

“Both Christina and Kristen are familiar with the MBU community as well as the surrounding local area. Their expertise will provide a solid foundation for the ongoing work of the McCree Center,” Nguyen said. “As we build our programming and our approach to student support, we are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a model of wraparound support and service for all learners.”

The McCree Center team currently includes (l-r) Thy Nguyen, executive director; Christina Harris ’14, director; and Kristen Sill, director of employer relations and workforce development.

Meanwhile, the McCree team has been building its online presence, which will include career skillbuilding, networking resources, a calendar of upcoming events, relevant articles, key campus connections, and more. By leveraging technology, both in-person and online learners will experience the full benefits the new center will offer. Nguyen said the goal is to envelop students with support throughout their academic journey and provide a clear pathway to career and life success. 

“We’ll be working closely with the entire university community to deliver a rich experience both in and out of the classroom,” Ngyuen said. “We’re all here to help give every student the opportunities to explore their interests, leverage their strengths, and develop the skills needed in today’s world.”

The development and launch of the McCree Center is central to MBU’s work to reimagine the undergraduate residential experience. Last fall, the MBU Board of Trustees engaged leading higher education consultant EY-Parthenon to conduct a data-driven, independent analysis of Mary Baldwin’s market position and develop a strategy that enables the university to deliver on its mission to empower inclusive leaders to create lives of purpose and professional success in a changing world.

In April, the firm presented its recommendation for a new strategic direction for undergraduate, residential education at MBU, and earlier this month the Board appointed two creative teams to begin the work of rebuilding the academic curriculum and student experience based on this direction. The goal is to transform the college experience to meet the needs of today’s students who are on the road to adulthood and independence by combining an innovative liberal arts core with experiential workforce preparation at an affordable price. 

Current students are not the only learners to benefit from the new center. McCree staff will soon begin working with alumni to develop career development support through regular online programming, career tools, mentorship opportunities, and networking events. 

The new center was established through the generosity of longtime university benefactors Donald and Gabby McCree ’83.

“We’re all here to help give every student the opportunities to explore their interests, leverage their strengths, and develop the skills needed in today’s world.”

Thy Nguyen, Executive Director, McCree Center