Joe Brown, dean of freshmen success at Texas Wesleyan, is going on his 35th year at Wesleyan and is continuing to guide freshmen into being successful in all aspects, not just academics.
Before being the dean of freshmen, Brown ran the theatre department at Wesleyan for 25 years. Brown said his students used to call him “Papa Joe” because the relationship within the arts was different.
Students around Wesleyan know Brown as “Pro Joe.” He also teaches some of the freshman success courses for all full -time freshmen and sometimes works with transfer students who haven’t decided a major.
“I took my philosophy from running the theater program and transferred it over to freshman success,” Brown said. “But Papa Joe would not work with freshmen because you need that barrier.”
Brown said he wants his students to feel comfortable around him.
“It’s about wanting to have that kind of comfort factor with the freshmen and being the best of all worlds,” Brown said. “A teacher, a parent, a non-judging semi-friend all rolled into one.”
Brown said there are freshmen who become upper-class students who don’t have parents around, and he will help some either financially or emotionally as someone to talk to.
Brown also said he and the faculty call the freshman success course “homeroom for freshmen.”
“We want the feeling of a safe place to go, to learn, but also to talk about their thoughts, good things and bad things,” Brown said. “They can share anything so I want it to be more of a homeroom for freshmen than an academic class.”
Brown said students do have assignments in the class such as the campus signature game where they go around and have to find 25 to 35 locations on campus of places that would help them.
“It helps them adjust to Wesleyan the first semester and what’s available to help them succeed,” Brown said. “We also spend time in time management because they suck at it.”
Lindsay Cline, junior history major, said she took the freshman success class and was glad she did.
“It taught me to be organized and helped me feel more comfortable around campus,” Cline said. “It showed us the resources available to us!”
Brown said the class also offers psychological profiling, helps students figure out their personal interests, career interests, study skills and helps freshmen understand the advising process.
“When they come in the summer, they are led around like cattle, and we don’t expect them to really understand,” Brown said. “It’s basically getting them familiar with how to succeed on campus.”
Brown said a lot of what he does is to remind freshmen of choices.
“This year we had a dating violence workshop,” Brown said. “We did sex, drugs and rock and roll about smart choices regarding sex because a lot of them don’t get sex education in high school anymore.”
With the new larger enrollment this year, Brown said everyone has been busy, budgets were increased and faculty were added.
“We are expecting another large group of international students at Christmas,” Brown said. “We normally have one section of freshman success in the spring for new freshmen, but I’ve been told to plan on eight.”
Brown said he always knew he wanted to teach and wanted to be at a small school, and that’s what he likes about Wesleyan.
“I knew I always wanted to be at a very small place where you got to work closely with students and got to do a lot of different things,” Brown said.
Michael A. Greer, learning specialist and director to the academic success center, said she has known Brown since she was a freshman at Wesleyan in 1998 when she had him for speech class.
“I think Brown is the single greatest resource for freshmen,” Greer said. “He goes over and beyond and sets the standard.”
Brown said outside of Wesleyan, he does a lot of theatre in town throughout the Fort Worth area.
“I used to be president of the Live Theatre League of Tarrant County, which is a group of people that advocate and promote all the theatre in Tarrant County,” Brown said.
Brown said he is involved in animal rescue and rehabilitation. He has 10 dogs, a cat, and six exotic parrots of his own. He said he is known as the go-to person on campus when strays are found.
“I like to rescue animals and rehabilitate them and find them homes,” Brown said.
Brown also talks to young people about sexually transmitted diseases throughout high schools and junior colleges.
“I’m not preaching, not saying don’t have sex, but make good choices and be careful with who you’re with,” Brown said. “Get tested if you are having risky sex because I have been HIV positive for 29 years.”
Brown said he has probably talked to more than 3,000 junior-college-level and high-school-level students about having safe sex.
Brown does not just teach and advise freshmen, he is very involved at Wesleyan in other events as well.
“I go to the sporting games and go to the social things they do and be seen so students can see I am there for them,” Brown said. “Visibility is very important to me outside of the classroom.”
Greer said Brown has been here for so long, he is like a fixture at Wesleyan.
“If you want some help for something, he’s the person to go to,” Greer said.