Since her arrival in July, the entire Prescott campus has welcomed its new Dean of Students, Dr. Rhondie Voorhees, with open arms. Coming from the University of Montana where she served as Dean of Students since 2012, Dr. Voorhees brings over thirty years of experience in higher education to Embry-Riddle, including a Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs. As Dr. Voorhees has gotten to know the campus and her new colleagues, she has hit the ground running, preparing to welcome the largest incoming class of freshmen in Prescott campus’ history this fall semester.
We caught up with Dean Voorhees to learn more about her background, what brought her to Embry-Riddle, and what motivates her to do what she does.
Q: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
DR. RHONDIE VOORHEES (RV): I am originally from Missoula, Montana. I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in French from the University of Montana. Wonderful opportunities as an undergraduate student leader in college prompted me to pursue graduate work in student affairs, to prepare for a career working with college students. After growing up and attending college in Montana and the western United States, I was ready to do something I considered especially adventurous so I decided to travel across the country to graduate school at the University of Maryland, College Park, which is located between Washington, DC and Baltimore. My time in Maryland provided an incredibly rich learning experience that taught me so much about student affairs and cultural and geographical diversity.
Q: What was your next step after graduating? Where were you before you came to Embry-Riddle?
RV: After I completed my master’s degree in student affairs, full-time jobs took me to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I worked as a resident director in housing; American University in Washington, DC, where I was an area coordinator in housing and directed summer housing and conferences; and then back to the University of Maryland, where I completed my Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs. During my doctoral program I also had an extraordinary opportunity to work in the U.S. House of Representatives for Congresswoman Patsy Mink, who was the first woman of color elected to Congress and one of the authors of Title IX in 1972. At Maryland I coordinated an innovative multicultural dialogue program called Common Ground, in which we trained undergraduate students to facilitate peer-led multicultural dialogues on controversial societal issues. In 2012 I left Maryland to return to the University of Montana, where I served as Dean of Students for the last several years before to coming to Embry-Riddle.
Q: What piqued your interest in the Dean of Students position here at Embry-Riddle?
RV: In my last position as Dean of Students, I worked as a member of a wonderful student affairs team. This opportunity at Embry-Riddle offered me the chance to lead a division of student affairs, to continue to work with wonderful colleagues dedicated to student development and learning. After many years on the East Coast I was also eager to stay in the West. Prescott is a beautiful western college town that combined perfectly both personal and professional opportunities. So much to love!
Q: Are you ready for the largest incoming class in ERAU Prescott history?
RV: Everything we’re experiencing in terms of growth is already the norm for me as a person coming in new. So yes, of course, we are ready! In my short time here though, I have been so impressed with the obvious care and planning that has occurred across the campus to welcome our newest class. We are all excited to meet our newest students!
Q: Prescott and Northern Arizona are a little different than Montana, particularly weather-wise. What do you think so far?
RV: Beautiful! It’s a dry heat, right? Seriously, the weather so far has been just beautiful… even on days most people may think of as hot, I’ve found Prescott to be so comfortable! It’s so nice to step out of air-conditioned buildings into the warm sunshine! And one of the things that attracted me to this area was the four seasons – I love snow too. So one of the things I’ve learned to anticipate about the winters here is that the snow will be beautiful, when it comes, but there probably won’t be too much of a need to haul out the snow shovel. I’ll be very happy to keep that particular tool hanging (mostly) in the garage!
Q: What are some of your favorite spots or things to do around the area?
RV: Who doesn’t fall in love with Sedona? I’m looking forward to spending so much more time there. And although I consider myself to be well-traveled, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that one of the places I have never visited is the Grand Canyon. So I am really looking forward to family visiting this fall so I can experience the majestic Grand Canyon for the first time in our beautiful Grand Canyon State!
Q: How has your past work experience prepared you for this role?
RV: I have over thirty years’ experience working in student affairs in several different colleges and universities, in (now) four regions of the United States, both public and private. I also come with six years’ experience as a Dean of Students, providing support and assistance to students in many areas including student conduct, Title IX, and counseling assistance and referrals. While there is always a learning curve in making a transition to a new position and campus, I have been so pleased to learn that so many strong services and resources are already in place at Embry-Riddle! While we will always look for opportunities to continue to improve and adapt as students’ needs change, I also look forward to continuing the good work that is already occurring here.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your first year here?
RV: Students are always our top priority. My job is to learn about the campus and resources so all of us can serve students well. Another priority will be working to help create a strong student affairs team. I am so impressed by the wonderful group of professionals I get to work with every day, and I am looking forward to working collaboratively with them to continue to strengthen the Division of Student Affairs as a whole.
Q: What do you feel is the most important role or service a Dean of Students can provide?
RV: One of the reasons I love being Dean of Students is because I get to be involved in so many aspects of helping and supporting students. No day is the same, and the needs, cases, and circumstances that arise are always unique and call for creative and innovative solutions and responses. We are here to help students succeed, both personally and academically. That is our role and service.
Q: What do you want students to know about you?
RV: Of course I would always want for students to think of me and the members of the student affairs team as responsive and caring. However, in serving students and the campus community, we also have to balance many competing factors and often need to make decisions that are difficult. When those kinds of circumstances arise, I always hope that students will walk away with a sense that they’ve been treated fairly and with respect, even if they might disagree with an outcome or particular decision.
Q: What do you want parents to know about you?
RV: I love hearing from parents because it helps me to continually learn about how to best help students. I am always open to phone calls. Please let us know how we can help!
Q: What would you say motivates you?
RV: I think people have many different influences in their lives that motivate, both personally and professionally. In terms of my work with college students, that’s easy: I am motivated by helping students in a positive way, and there is no greater reward than watching students succeed and persevere, especially through challenges. I view our work with college students as a privilege, and that motivates me to come to work every day.
Q: Have there been any particular experiences that you remember as a college student that stand out or make you more passionate about your new role?
RV: Yes! One of my most important undergraduate leadership experiences was as a peer academic advisor for undecided students. I loved helping other students in that way, and was so gratified to witness the difference I was able to make in their academic lives. That experience is what prompted me to pursue graduate study in student affairs, which eventually led to all the wonderful opportunities as a student affairs professional I’ve been fortunate to have, including now as Dean of Students at Embry-Riddle!
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies or interests?
RV: This kind of work on a college campus takes a lot of time, which is one of the aspects I accept and embrace. When I’m not working though, I love to hang out with my two dogs, Harry and Penelope. I’m also very handy and love to do things like home improvement projects and work in the yard, so I’m looking forward to beautiful fall weekends and being outside. I’m also looking forward to hosting family and friends in beautiful Prescott and visiting the incredible locations nearby.
Q: What’s your advice to students?
RV: Engage! Take full advantage of all the wonderful opportunities here! From what I can already tell though, I feel like Embry-Riddle students are already pretty great at engaging.
Posted In: Institutional News