Taylor welcomes Dean of Social Sciences, Education and Business
By Annabelle Blair | Echo
Rhoda Sommers assumed her new role as dean of the social sciences, education and business department (SSEB) on July 1, 2016, after Connie Lightfoot’s retirement last spring.
Sommers had been employed as dean of the school of education and human development and a tenured professor of education at Malone University in Canton, Ohio since 2008. She thrives on continued growth and challenge, which she felt her previous career trajectory didn’t provide, and believes Taylor has opportunity for both.
The move from Ohio also allows her to remain within a few hours’ drive from her parents. Being close to family greatly influenced her job relocation choices.
The transition to Taylor, Sommers said, is an unexpected oddity, yet she sensed God’s hand on it. “(Taylor) . . . it had all the things I really care about,” Sommers said. “It’s Christian education; it has a strong reputation . . . it’s more of a holistic approach than you would have at some other Christian colleges.”
According to Sommers, her job requires ensuring faculty are able to be successful. “Faculty are the ones who interface most with students,” she said. “They’re doing the teaching; they’re doing the advising; they’re doing the research; they’re doing the mentoring . . . . If I help faculty be successful, they’re the ones who help students.”
Sommers said a word that signifies her work is “cultivation”: “I don’t often think of myself as an administrator; I think of (my role) as a leader.”
With a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University, Sommers said she often approaches her job through a teacher’s eyes. Collaboration is vital: “My goal is always to see what we can learn together—to see how we can work together, kind of like (teachers) do in the classroom,” she said.
Sommers said she is proud of winning the 2005 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Another accomplishment was earning a license in teaching English as a second language in March.
At least six times throughout the academic year, Sommers will drive to a retreat area near Killbuck, Ohio, to attend LifeSpring, a school of spiritual formation. The school nurtures spiritual growth by including speakers, small groups, times of solitude, reading, journaling and spiritual disciplines.
Sommers loves to read, knit, garden and relax at home with her two cats. She is currently reading a book on the history of Christian spirituality.
Sommers’ travels have taken her to India and China and have impacted her deeply. According to Sommers, she and a friend were invited to teach at an underground Chinese seminary, where they discussed the teaching methods and attitude of Jesus with Chinese believers.
“That whole idea of looking at Jesus as a master teacher is something I’ve done in my classes here,” said Sommers. “But to do it cross-culturally and out of their culture and their perspective. . . it was such a wonderful experience of learning.”