By Kathryn Flippin
Jason Castles, director of Student Leadership Development, does not take the job of serving students lightly. From the bright, inviting atmosphere of his office to the Wellness Center, Castles’s ability to be intentional with every person or job he comes in contact with truly shines.
After his start in the small town of Adamsville, Tenn., Castles’s first leadership position came while getting his undergraduate degree at Union. His areas of leadership stretched from many different student organizations to various on-campus jobs, including one at the Wellness Center and one with Union Station. He later administered leadership roles at places, such as the University of South Florida, where he received his master’s degree in education, and St. Louis, where he worked at Washington University. Afterward, Castles returned to his alma mater to work in Student Services.
Along with serving students, Castles said he enjoys ministering on Monday nights through West Jackson Baptist Church’s Hartland outreach program.
Currently, he is completing a doctorate degree in education at Union.
Question: If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be?
Answer: I enjoy traveling and experiencing new cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the Dominican Republic, but I would really like to go to Latin America.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
A: I enjoy exercising, such as lifting weights and running, as well as outdoor activities like hiking and water skiing. I hiked in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and also in Zion National Park with some friends last summer. I went snow skiing over J-term, but let’s just say I haven’t mastered that yet. I even tried surfing while I was in the Dominican Republic, but I am not sure if that counts.
Q: What is your favorite place on campus?
A: Well, besides my office, I really love going to the Wellness Center because it is a stress-reliever and I get to interact with a lot of students. I plan on going for 30 minutes and usually end up staying an hour because of the people.
Q: Speaking of your office, what exactly is your job here at Union?
A: When it comes to who and what I work with, it really boils down to four things — leadership, orientation, Greek Life and Student Government Association. Subcategories then fall under those — student leadership, Focus and at least 60 student organizations. I work to keep them functioning and serve as a liaison between them and the university.
Q: What do you encounter when dealing with events and organizations?
A: The students take most of the leadership on events. I help with behind-the-scenes things, making sure the logistics are correct. One of my favorite events, Focus, takes a lot of time and energy to make it run smoothly. We want every student’s first experience to be worry-free, but it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to pull that off.
Q: What is your favorite part about your job?
A: To see students grow and develop in their leadership and in all areas of life. I get to interact with them on a day-to-day basis and get to build deeper, meaningful relationships. Students know they can come talk to me about personal issues or conflicts. It may not always be my responsibility, but students know my door is always open.
Q: How do you think you are able to integrate “faith in learning” into your job?
A: I learned in graduate school to develop the student as a whole. I like being able to add the spiritual element when dealing with students because it reinforces values that have already been taught. Also, I think being able to teach what servant leadership means demonstrates faith in learning. At any school you can help with the overall balance of a student, but at Union I like the student to know why we serve.
Q: How do you feel about being named the students’ favorite staff member in 2010?
A: There are so many deserving staff members that work so hard, that just being recognized was an honor.