Inside NKU: Why NKU? What inspired you to come here?
Roland Sintos Coloma: NKU is a vibrant and innovative university whose commitment to student success, inclusive excellence, and lasting impact resonates with my own values, goals, and life experiences. When I visited the campus for my interview, I met brilliant and dedicated faculty and staff, engaging students, supportive educational partners, and a visionary and collaborative leadership team in the college, which gave me solid insights into NKU’s mission and practice. At the end of the visit, I felt that I found a good fit, a university where I can grow and contribute both professionally and personally. I want to capitalize on the strengths of NKU to help make a meaningful difference in the lives and futures of students, families, and communities.
Tell us about your first days at NKU.
My first week has been an intense yet enjoyable orientation into the university. On my first day, the department staff welcomed me with a gift basket of NKU materials and supplies, and faculty members dropped by to greet me and offer assistance during my transition. I attended a leadership retreat and an administrators’ orientation, which enabled me to get to know other department chairs and academic leaders in the college and university. I also met with various individuals to address pressing issues, and received training on university software and protocols for various submissions and approvals. In addition, I unpacked my boxes and organized my books and files in my office, and moved into a new apartment in downtown Cincinnati.
Why did you get into education?
I became a teacher to support underserved students who, like me, come from marginalized backgrounds. Coming from a working-class, immigrant family where English was not our primary language, I am deeply concerned about students who are put at risk to fall through the cracks and not succeed academically and in life. Prior to becoming an academic, I was a high school English teacher in the inner-city Los Angeles area, and a university student affairs staff focused on the recruitment, retention, and cultural programming for racialized minority students. I also come from a line of educators: my paternal grandmother was the first trained teacher in her hometown, and my mother was a teacher, as well. I became a teacher educator to pay forward the gift of learning, care, and wisdom provided by those special teachers who believed in me and influenced my personal development and career trajectory.
What do you believe to be the role of teachers and the education community in our world overall and community more specifically?
Teachers and the education community are fundamental in a democratic society. We broaden and deepen students’ perspectives, bring awareness to and challenge inequities and disparities in school and society, and facilitate student understanding, analysis, and actions. In order to do so, we as teacher educators need to prepare future and current teachers to be self-reflective professionals, to be public intellectuals, and to be agents for social justice and change.
What have been your first impressions of your department and the COEHS in general?
The department and COEHS are well poised to become leaders in high quality and inclusive education with a focus on asset based, culturally competent, and equity oriented practices. Already in place are faculty and programs that address critical educational challenges, such as achievement gaps and social disparities, and are making positive impact locally and regionally. NKU’s geographical location also makes the university a strategic center and partner to address urban, suburban, and rural issues and concerns.
What is your greatest hope for the department in the near future?
My greatest hope for the department is to continuously foster and sustain a culture of care, inclusion, and collaboration that centers access, equity, and excellence at its core. Within such a workplace culture, we individually and collectively can turn challenges into opportunities for growth, relevance, and impact.
Do you have any initial goals you’d like to reach quickly in your new role?
I am committed to meeting, getting to know, listening and learning from the department’s faculty, staff, students, and partners across the university and in the schools. I would like to learn more about existing and potential opportunities and to gain a deeper understanding of the university in order to leverage them to support and enhance the operations and development of the department. I am also interested in working with colleagues to address four major initiatives – the university’s new budget model, accreditation of teacher education programs, student enrollment, and equity and diversity.