by Elise Mansour
A light flickers on as she walks out of the rain and into the confines of her office. Tucking her short brown hair behind her ear and wiping the lenses of her glasses, she anxiously scurries around to find her phone as it appears to be misplaced. For Dr. Catherine Parker, the new associate dean of the School of Humanities, her busy day is underway.
Becoming Associate Dean
Parker replaces Dr. David Keller upon his retirement at the end of 2015, and says the transition has gone well. “I have been getting copied on emails and going to meetings…Right now it is about learning about the different departments in humanities; Dr. Keller is mentoring me while he is still here,” she said.
Keller is pleased that Parker is taking over as dean. “Dr. Parker has chaired the theatre department for several years and, under her leadership, the program has seen amazing growth in quality and size…I was pleased to make a recommendation of her to the provost. I don’t believe there’s any question but that the entire faculty, especially the humanities faculty, is pleased and supportive as I am,” Keller said.
While it all may seem to be overwhelming, Parker is thrilled to have been chosen for the position and everything that it entitles. However, as exciting as her new job is, she says she still has much to learn.
In addition to her new role, Parker stills serves as an associate professor of theatre. She has a passion for theatre and mentoring students. “I’ve always been interested in theatre; I’ve always liked theatre, along with education. I never really thought about putting them together until I graduated with a psychology degree.”
Unsure of whether to teach high school or college students, one event ultimately pointed her in the right direction. “It was a year after I graduated from Rochester College and I came back to direct a play here when I decided, at that point, I wanted to work with college students,” she said.
Parker also directs “Pied Pipers”, a group of students who put on biblical performances for young children at local churches.
She directs and organizes a collaboration of mini-song and dance skits that the group will soon perform. Parker seems to enjoy working with the group tremendously as she smiles and applauds during rehearsal. She is able to bring an element of fun to every rehearsal through her enthusiastic and kind personality.
“…She is a very open and honest person and in theatre that is always great when there is a sense of open communication above or below you,” said Halley Anspach, a senior theatre major.
When Parker is not working as dean of the School of Humanities or directing a singing group, she is a wife and mother. She has been married to her husband, Nathan, for 15 years, and the couple has two boys, Owen and Curtis.
Parker says her husband and children are encouraging toward everything she does. “My family is very supportive of me and the things that I like to do…Once a year, I direct a play and my husband carries a lot of the load at home,” she said.
Without a doubt, when Parker is involved with a play, she puts much time and effort into making sure the performance runs smoothly.
“Working with Catherine is a lot of fun, especially in rehearsals. She makes it a nice open atmosphere for everyone…it is always a wonderful experience working with her because she has so much experience to bring with her,” Anspach said.
Parker has played an active role in the Rochester College community since 1997 when she was a student and began teaching in 2007. “Right after I graduated, a job opened up here and it feels like home to me,” she said.
Parker truly enjoys working with college students. “I like the idea of mentoring the next generation and influencing and helping them discover who they are and how they view the world,” she said.
Parker has a sense of compassion and well-being of others that can be seen in all that she does. “I spend a lot of time talking with students and helping them. Sometimes their personal lives overlap with their academic career… I like to encourage students and help mentor them outside of the classroom. That is a big part of what I do,” she said.
During Parker’s down time, she enjoys spending time with her sons and doing a variety of activities.
“I make crafts such as scrapbooking and crocheting. I also enjoy being outside; I like to ride my bike and go running. I like baseball, which most people don’t know about me,” she said.
Parker is the type of person who has goals and ambitions for the future just like everyone else, not just in her personal life, but professional life as well. Her new job title will allow her to do just that and it will be interesting to see what she will be able to accomplish over the next few years.
“…I want to keep seeing my department grow and continue to add majors to the program and thrive. If I got to that point in five years, that would be success for me,” she said.