Wednesday, November 15, 2017


The President,

No Cell Phones

The dress code was definitely student-casual, but the attitude was all business. During the hour on Wednesday, November 8 when Reynolds Community College President Dr. Gary Rhodes shared his wisdom and insights about leadership with the current group of Reynolds Honors students there were serious faces, close listening, evidence of processing of deep thoughts, and pizza. What there wasn’t, was cell phones.

Reynolds Honors students are serious. They have goals. They have ambitions. They are looking for opportunities to succeed. And, they are mature enough to forego social media to listen and learn.

Dr. Rhodes began his talk by pointing out his “uniform”. For the day he was wearing the custodial staff uniform: khaki pants and burgundy shirt with the Reynolds logo. His title, he told the students, is bigger than he is. As a leader, he leads from the front, but he acknowledges all those following his guidance.

Dr. Rhodes is not new to talking about leadership. He has presented his list of leadership values and tips statewide in a number of venues. Of utmost importance is, he told the students, is knowing your values. Sometimes that involves asking yourself questions like the one he always asks himself: “Is today’s decision in the best interest of our students?” He asks that question so often he had it embossed on coffee cups and added to a print hanging on the walls of many Reynolds conference rooms.

Other values Dr. Rhodes shared with the students were the importance of caring and of doing your very best at whatever you do, of holding yourself accountable, of leading with respect, of making a good first impression, of maintaining a life balance – but, perhaps most important: Dr. Rhodes emphasized finding their passion, and following it. “When you pursue your passion,” he said, “then you’ll get up every day and life will be an exciting adventure.” Great leadership is sure to follow.

Before ending with a Q&A session, Dr. Rhodes shared a final story to illustrate the difference between reality and the perception of reality, and how the perception of reality is often more powerful than reality itself. The story was a mix of dilemma, ethics, philosophy, and the how the intention to do right doesn’t always come out as planned. Should the opportunity arise, ask Dr. Rhodes about his baby goose story.

“We teach the Honors students to be engaged, to be leaders,” said Ashley Bourne-Richardson, Honors Program Faculty Coordinator and Professor of English at Reynolds. “Today was great! The students were engaged. They took notes and they listened intently. It was so exciting for them that the president of the college took the time to talk to them and share his knowledge and experience. Some of these students intend to go on to leadership roles, as I looked around the room I could see they were really interested in getting the perspective of someone with years of experience.”

The four pillars of the Reynolds Honors program are critical thinking, independent research, interdisciplinary learning, and engagement. From the questions they asked Dr. Rhodes, the students demonstrated these qualities and more. Clearly they are looking for ways to navigate their future, to be great at the lives they are about to begin, and to make a difference in a world that needs their energy and passion.

When the session was over the room erupted in twenty different intense conversations, the noise and energy was high and contagious. Fueled by pizza and Dr. Rhodes’ advice, eventually they moved on to face their next classes, their jobs, and whatever other challenges were to come their way that day.