Handling late-night calls, lending an ear about relationship woes, hosting a holiday gathering for students who would otherwise be alone. All routine stuff for Professor Joe Brown, dean of freshman success. Maybe not what you’d expect from a typical professor, but Pro Joe – as he’s known to students – isn’t your typical professor.
He’s one of the most recognized people across campus. From his “freshman friendly” colorful attire to his love of all things Texas Wesleyan, Brown has been part of the campus for 35 years. It’s not unusual to see him in the company of his four-legged friend, Mocha (short for Mocha Latte Brown). And as the resident rescuer of stray animals, it’s no surprise if he’s making the rounds on campus, trying to find a home for a stray he has encountered.
Brown spent many years in the theatre department. He’d be on campus all hours – painting backdrops, creating the right look for a specific performance, and bringing in new props. He always did whatever was needed to help the students’ production be a success.
In his role with freshmen, he has the same level of commitment. So much so that he teaches and oversees a program specifically designed for freshman success. It’s a one-credit-hour course that gives the skills they need to be on their own and manage the tasks of being in college for the first time.
“It’s geared toward being a really enjoyable learning experience that you want to come to,” Brown said. “There are no formal tests in this class even though you learn a lot about yourself, your personality, your job interests, your career interests.”
What makes Texas Wesleyan unique for students is not just the connections that are made in the classrooms, but the friendships that continue after the semester is over, Brown said.
“Any professor you have who you really get to know, when that class is over, that professor is still there if you want to walk into their office or stay connected with them.”
“Every freshmen has my cell phone number and they can call me 24/7,” Brown said. “They say I’m the ‘dean on call.’ “
That means he’s there for whatever arises. “I might be helping a student find a tow truck at 2 in the morning or helping someone find doctor or dentist, or an honest mechanic,” he said.
No one can question his dedication to the university or the pride he feels about the institution and its students. A former administrator once said, “If they opened your veins, you’d bleed blue and gold.”