On April 8, prospective New College president Dr. Rhonda Phillips began her visit to the school’s campus. Phillips currently serves as a professor and the Dean at the Honors College of Purdue University. In her meetings with faculty and staff, Phillips emphasized the value of a liberal arts education, how New College excels in providing its students with opportunity and how the school could be doing a better job.
“The majority of job skills that will be necessary in the future fall under the domain of a liberal arts education,” Phillips explained. “It’s okay to connect the value of liberal arts to an economic model, because we know there’s value there.”
One of the key issues that Phillips brought up in her in-person mini class in Sudakoff on Friday, April 9 was the status of the ever-evolving job market, and how New College should consider these changes in structuring the school’s curriculum.
“Societal and economic transformation are shaping the skills necessary for most jobs in the future,” Phillips stated. “Social skills are increasingly becoming more important, and digital transformation is redefining skill sets as needed.”
The majority of Phillips’ mini class presentation was focused on how to adapt New College’s educational model to the way that the world is changing. The question and answer portion of the meeting was more focused on other aspects of campus life, such as issues of over-policing and systemic racism.
One of the biggest topics tackled in this part of the meeting was the issue of coming back to campus in the fall of 2021 and how New College would handle COVID-19 concerns especially with classes. New College had never offered online courses before the pandemic, so if a full return to normal is planned, most courses would be offered in person.
“We have been using online courses at my school to connect classes and professors from across the world,” Phillips said. “I think online courses can help develop intercultural skills, as well as having the ability to supplement an education, but not replace it.”
For most of the question and answer portion, New College Student Alliance President (NCSA) second-year Sofia Lombardi asked the candidate questions that students wrote on notecards. However, at certain points during the event, Phillips eschewed the format of the event and encouraged the students to ask questions directly or make a comment on how they feel about New College at the moment.
At one moment,Phillips posed a question to the audience, asking what students are looking forward to the most in the fall. Phillips received a wide variety of answers and emphasized that listening to the students would be a big priority of hers if she were to receive the offer to become New College’s president.
“I’d like to listen to big areas of concerns the students have,” Phillips remarked. “I’ve worked hard previously to create an inclusive, welcoming environment that everyone feels like they can be a part of, and I would continue to do the same at New College.”
The Board of Trustees is meeting to pick the president on Tuesday, April 20 from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.