After working at Ithaca College for 34 years, Rory Rothman, associate provost for student life, is retiring, effective April 13. Starting his career at the college in 1984 as the coordinator of Housing Services for Residential Life, the first position of its kind, Rothman has worked in several administrative positions associated with Residential Life and Student Affairs. His previous positions include the coordinator of housing services for Residential Life, assistant director of Housing Services and Judicial Affairs and director of Residential Life and Student Affairs.
Staff Writer Meredith Burke spoke to Rothman about his career at the college, how his positions impacted him and his future plans.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Meredith Burke: Out of all your positions, which do you think has probably most impacted you?
Rory Rothman: The truth is they’ve, like most things, they’ve all impacted me in different ways, you know? So the coordinator of Housing Services was impactful because it was my first position here, and it hadn’t existed as a position before. So it was an opportunity to build a program from the ground up. … One of my favorite positions I would say was directing Judicial Affairs … I just loved working directly with students that way. … It was an opportunity to really sort of dig into both what happened in that situation and, you know, what’s going on for them big-picture and how to be a support in terms of them moving forward successfully. … Directing Residential Life and Judicial Affairs was a nice challenge because it was an opportunity to lead a really very large, complex organization. … In many ways I think the last 18 years have been best of all because in having higher-level leadership opportunity, it’s just an opportunity to make an impact on policies and programs at a higher level, [an] opportunity to supervise incredibly talented and dedicated directors of departments and the [an] opportunity to provide, you know, guidance and support and consultation and collaboration and advocacy for those individuals and for those programs.
MB: What have been your goals working as the associate provost for Student Life, or any other position you’ve held?
RR: In many ways I think my goals for all the positions have been similar. To be focused on being student-centered — when I say that, I mean to be focused on student development and student learning. … I would say also part of it is to maximize the strengths of the staff that I’m leading, and leadership’s a really important issue for me — to lead with heart, to lead with integrity, to show empathy and compassion and honesty and genuineness — these are things that are really important to me, and I hope that that’s come through in my work.
MB: Do you think you’ve overall achieved these goals?
RR: I do. I feel in many ways, a the end of 34 years, much more focused on who I was as a leader and contributor to this campus, and the ways in which I conducted myself and worked with others feel as important to me or more important to me. The specific things that were accomplished — there’s a lot that’s been accomplished — but I really feel like it’s about the way we did our work that I feel most proud of.
MB: What do you think you’ve gained from your time at Ithaca College?
RR: I feel incredibly blessed for having worked with a team of such extremely talented and committed professionals. That’s — I feel like I’ve gotten so much from the people I’ve had a chance to work with, it’s been incredible. IC’s been my professional home for 34 years, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some folks almost that long, some not quite as long, but the people that I’ve worked closely with, they’re very much like family. So it’s hard to leave those relationships because they’ve been so powerful. I’m just really proud of the work that we’ve done as Student Affairs and Campus Life. I’m proud of the growth of our services and programs, and I’m proud of the way that we’ve collaborated with campus constituents to achieve our goals. So those are the things that really come to mind for me.
MB: So why did you decide to retire from IC?
RR: I’m just feeling like it’s time, I’m sort of ready to do some other things. I don’t know necessarily, I’m ready to not work at this pace, because the work is very intense and I think if you start to get — how do I say this — I just think I’ll leave it at that. I just don’t necessarily want to work at this pace. So, yeah, I’m excited about sort of the next chapter, and I feel really good about the work that I’ve done here.
MB: You mentioned … how you were ready to not work at this pace anymore. Did the pace ever increase as a result of the new Department of Student Affairs?
RR: No, not at all. I think one of the things that’s important to clarify is that Student Affairs has existed through these — has never gone away. Because Student Affairs has existed as an entity through the period of time that’s led to the reaffirmation of it as a division. So from 2012 to 2017, Student Affairs existed under the broader umbrella of Educational Affairs, so it was a concept to bring Student Affairs and Academic Affairs under one sort of Educational Affairs umbrella. But the work of Student Affairs existed, the team existed, just as it does now. But I think the new administration coming in determined that the best structure moving forward was not to have that sort of one umbrella, but rather two distinct divisions for Academic Affairs and for Student Affairs.
MB: So what are your future, or retirement, plans?
RR: Still in development. But I do want more time to relax. I want more time with friends and family. I want to travel more. I have some things I’d really like to explore — I’d like to identify ways to get more involved in the community. Exploring, pursuing life coaching as a next sort of area of interest. Staying physically active is really important to me. I play basketball with students, faculty and staff at IC here, and I want to continue doing that. I want to continue my personal training, take up tennis, go back to yoga, get out to see more live music, do more reading for pleasure. There’s just lots of things I’m looking forward to doing with a little more time.