Albany State’s interim Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Rhonda Bryant
Dr. Rhonda Bryant is new in the role of interim Vice President of Student Affairs at Albany State; but all of the positions she has held to this point prepared her for success. The self-professed “nerd” who loves to read adolescent literature has a Percy Jackson series “Heroes of Olympus” on the nightstand. What she enjoys most is spending time with her husband and 26 year old daughter, a Spanish teacher; also her 21 year old daughter, a Budding German teacher. Both are studying Hebrew. “We have lots of lively conversation at home,” laughs Bryant, “but not always in English!”
What are your responsibilities?
Primarily, it is to assist with Complete College Georgia. Our division must assist not only in retaining ASU students, but helping them graduate in four years.
How will you help ASU students persist to graduation?
The division has five departments. Within the departments, we work very hard to develop programs that are preventive and intervene. For instance, CAAM is under my purview. Antonio Leroy is the director. CAAM has a series of campus and community wide events, not only in Dougherty County but our service region. The group works with young men and women to ensure they make healthy life decisions so that in college, students study. There was a forum about underage drinking. It was targeted to reach high school students but CAAM enrollees attended to learn how to make good decisions with the ultimate goal of graduating from college.
The ASU Police Department is under the auspices of Student Affairs. There’s much more that goes on in campus law enforcement than dealing with parking violations. There’s a great emphasis on community policing. Policemen and women are on the campus getting to know our students. They help males and females in the prevention of sexual assault. The emphasis is on prevention.
How do you groom students to become leaders?
Under the umbrella of Student Life and Activities are over 50 campus clubs and organizations. If the club a student wants to join hasn’t formed, students have the option to develop it. There are many opportunities for students to develop into leaders; not situational leaders, but leaders who consistently make good decisions not only for themselves, but for the community at large.
Data shows that students engaged in club activities are more successful and likely to graduate. Do you agree?
We know that when students get involved, they will stay on campus. They won’t go home on the weekends. They will begin to feel a part of the ASU family and the ASU community, so they’re not as likely to leave. If they need help, they will have built in resources to say, “I need help.”
What other issues dealing with progression and graduation will you tackle at ASU?
Student Health Services falls under Student Affairs. We tend to think it’s the place to go to make sure there are no immunization holds on a student’s record. It’s so much more. The agency makes sure students eat healthy, sleep well and receive medical advice. Counseling and Student Disability services also help our students maintain healthy lifestyles and learn how to make quality decisions that support their success at ASU.
Counseling and Student Disability Services also helps our students maintain healthy lifestyles and learn how to make quality decisions that support their success at ASU. Staff members work with students on stress and time management. We provide accommodations for students with disabilities in accordance with federal law.
We provide accommodations for students with disabilities in accordance with federal law; and those with ongoing health concerns depend on Student Health Services. They receive assistance in connecting with community agencies or medical personnel.
Do you feel a sense of fulfillment in your work?
I do. It feels that all of what I’ve done to this point has prepared me to assume this new role. I’ve been a professional counselor and worked with disabled students. I have worked in parole and probation. I was a mental health therapist. I do feel that this is very fulfilling work. There’s much work that has to be done because our programs must touch EVERY student.
We must reach out to adult students and others enrolled online; also active and retired military personnel and their spouses. Our umbrella must be large enough to encompass all students.
Are you having fun?
I can’t believe they pay me to do this. The students have taught me how to dance…the latest dances (she smiles). I’ve learned how to do the “ram buck.” I’ve learned how to communicate with students and learned new terminology. My job is so much fun. There are challenges, but even so I get to learn…and that is fun to me. I’m amazed by the gifts of our students.
Vickie Oldham, the interviewer and ASU Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement has spent over 20 years as a broadcast journalist.