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Meet the 2018 - 2019 NASPA Board Chair, an Interview with Penny Rue

May 2, 2018


What’s one thing you miss from your childhood?

I grew up in a small town outside of New York City. I could go everywhere I needed to on my trusty Schwinn bicycle—to school, to work, to visit friends, to the beach and the town. I miss the freedom of navigating the world so easily. 

What was the last time you were truly surprised?

At our most recent All Staff Meeting, my team played a trick on me and the end of the meeting turned into a celebration of my accepting the Board Chair role for NASPA. There was a lot of deception involved, I was entirely gullible, and it was incredibly touching.

What is your proudest accomplishment to date?

At my previous institution, I helped our campus react and respond to a very disturbing racial bias incident and its aftermath. A lot of work went into caring for affected students and responding to the demands, and I believe that the leadership role I played made a real positive difference.

We know the value of a truly inclusive learning environment. Diverse learning environments lead to a broader collection of thoughts, ideas and opinions held by students and are more likely to expose them to a wider array of perspectives. Research shows that when students encounter novel ideas and new social situations, they are pressed to abandon automated scripts and think in more active ways. Researchers particularly note the power of interracial friendships in enhancing self-confidence, motivation, educational aspirations, cultural awareness and commitment to racial equity. We play an essential role in creating the spaces where students can take the risk of being in community together.­­­ And NASPA plays a critical role in giving us the tools we need to navigate these challenges today. 

- NASPA Business Meeting Address, March 2018

What is your favorite book or movie of all time and why did it speak to you so much? 

This one is a toss-up. My two favorite movies are Ordinary People and Good Will Hunting. Both of them are coming-of-age stories in which the central character has adversity to overcome, and has a trusted therapist who helps guide the way. They are both great metaphors for our work with students.

What is the most daring thing you have ever done and would you ever do it again?

In September of 2015 I testified before Congress about sexual assault prevention as one of a panel of four experts. It was as scary as defending my dissertation, only with a large audience and a permanent recording of the experience. I’m glad I did it, because I was doing it for all of us who work so hard to prevent and respond to sexual assaults. I felt it was important to go on the record against a larger cultural narrative that says we try to sweep these issues under the rug, or we shouldn’t be handling them at all. And, having done it once and survived, I would do it again.

It is our work to create those niches and holding environments.  But it is also our work to build those bridges, where our students can see that our commonalities can outweigh our differences. How do we advance this challenge within NASPA?  How do we make sure that our holding environments are also bridges to different forms of collaboration and shared learning? 

- NASPA Business Meeting Address, March 2018

What makes you laugh the most?

My nickname at home is Mom-cat, so whenever I need a laugh I go to YouTube or Twitter to check out cat videos. Saturday is #Caturday on Twitter, so there’s always fresh content. Talking Cats Playing Pattycake is a classic! 

What is your favorite animal and why? 

I’m a swimmer and an ocean lover, and I grew up with the TV show Flipper. I love almost all aquatic life, and dolphins are my favorite. After the NASPA Western Regional conference in Hawaii in 2012, I stayed an extra day and went out into the ocean and swam with dolphins. It was a peak experience! 

What items would go into your survival bag for a deserted island?

Swimming goggles, reading glasses, a feather pillow, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.