Rodney Parker, Ph.D., ’11, ’17, assistant dean of undergraduate and graduate studies, aims to incorporate his passion for helping others into new role
Rodney Parker, Ph.D., ’11, ’17, has been named assistant dean of undergraduate and graduate studies at Loyola, a role that will provide strategic direction and support that allows first- and second-year students to achieve academic success. In his first year, Parker will focus primarily on first-year students; next year, he will expand his work to students in their second year.
Parker, who says his favorite aspect of working at Loyola is the sense of community and the genuine care for people, joined Loyola in 2002 as the assistant director for staff development and next became director of ALANA Services, a position he has held since 2005. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University, a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Duke University, and a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling and Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Loyola.
Parker sat down with Loyola magazine and shared his hopes and plans for this new role, designed to provide mentorship and support for student success at Loyola.
Can you describe your career before you arrived at Loyola—and the many roles you’ve had as a member of our community?
Before coming to Loyola, I attended Duke Divinity School, and I worked as a residence hall director for sophomores on Duke’s central campus. Since my time at Loyola, I have served in several roles, but my most rewarding role has been my work with diversity and inclusion initiatives. I have also participated in many community opportunities, such as Project Mexico, Ignatian Pilgrimage 2010, Spring Break Outreach, and the Ignatian Colleagues Program.
What has changed at Loyola in your time here? What remains the same?
In my time here, I have watched the student body’s diversity increase from less than 10% to more than 20% students of color. It has been amazing to watch this growth from my vantage point. I have also seen Loyola remain constant to its values and poised for growth over these years.
It has been exciting to see increasing numbers of students of color from many different backgrounds engage in the life of the campus in areas such as research, study abroad experiences, internship and career opportunities, campus involvement, and leadership opportunities.
Can you describe what the assistant dean for undergraduate and graduate studies will provide for our students?
I will work with first- and second-year students on their academic and overall adjustment to Loyola. I also have the unique opportunity to partner with many of our professionals from student development, the division I served for many years. In this way, I will be able to assist students in finding their niche in both curricular and co-curricular ways. I have found that when students feel that they belong to a community as rich as Loyola, they are eager to contribute to that community.
What are you most excited about for your new role as assistant dean of undergraduate and graduate studies?
I am most excited about helping students to shape their experience at Loyola. I have done so for a few years, but this position provides an opportunity to do so on a larger scale. I also look forward to engaging student sub-populations, such as first-generation college students, students of color, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Where would I have been without the connections I made with faculty, administrators, and peers as a first-generation college student? I needed guidance and someone to help me clarify my goals and hold me accountable in my progress toward those goals.
What are some ways in which you hope or plan to provide mentorship that supports our students?
I love mentoring, and I am a product of good mentoring. I see myself as a connector, getting students connected to different parts of campus, and I want them to feel at home at Loyola. As a mentor, I am also looking to help students determine their goals and identify who else should be on their team. The resources available here—including various departments across campus and, of course, people—are invaluable for student success.
What is something students might be surprised to learn about you?
My undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering, and it was a difficult major for me. I lost my academic confidence at one point. I had been a good high school student, but my college grades did not always reflect that. I found it hard to believe in myself academically and it began to infiltrate other areas of my life. I promised myself when I regained it, I would help as many people as I could to maintain or even regain their academic confidence if necessary. I think those tough experiences will make me a good assistant dean.
As Loyola’s assistant dean of students, what is one thing you would tell parents of incoming students about what they can expect during their first year here?
Every first-year student’s path may be different; however, there are some common themes—themes such as making friends, making new friends, and maybe even finding friends in the second semester of their first year. If students are finding it hard to connect with others, there are valuable resources in the offices of student activities and student engagement, the Counseling Center, and many other offices. Another theme is getting acclimated to college-level work. It’s an adjustment. Parents, please encourage your students to talk with their professors and advisors and to make use of our campus’ academic resources.
How will your prior experience as director of ALANA Services and minister in the Church of God In Christ and your scholarship in divinity, theology, and pastoral counseling lend themselves to your position as assistant dean?
I think my experience and scholarship helps me to relate to many people from many different backgrounds. I have been afforded an opportunity to study and live out my lifelong mission of helping others. As an affiliate faculty member of the theology department, I also hope to inspire students to learn about theology and the world in which we live. I can only see how the integration of these experiences, times of study, and formation as a leader will contribute to my way of being with students and families as they spend their four years at Loyola.
What do you believe makes the Loyola experience distinctive for our students? Can you describe the support, resources, and relationships that our students benefit from as members of our community?
Students who want to be known on Loyola’s campus will be known by faculty, administrators, staff, and their peers—not as a number or a statistic, but as a person. Loyola has done a great job teaching about the embodiment of cura personalis, care for the whole person. It is a lived experience here. When students share their aspirations, there is a caring community that will help them to achieve those aspirations or at least put them well on their way to achieving them.
As I have seen, mentoring relationships can last a lifetime.