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Through service learning Whitworth introduces
students to the continuum of problem solving

Rhosetta Rhodes

Rhosetta Rhodes

Rhosetta Rhodes brings to her new role, as chief of staff for Whitworth University President Beck Taylor, a commitment to community and understanding of the “continuum of problem solving” she has instilled in students as director of service learning and community engagement from 2007 through this August.

She succeeds Greg Orwig, who has become acting vice president for admissions and financial aid.  Keith Kelley is her successor.

Service learning, she said, involves students, staff and faculty in opportunities “to act on their commitment to Christian service and community involvement.”

It’s part of comprehensive education, preparing students for more than jobs.  All students do it.

“We prepare students to live productive lives, recognizing we are interdependent and need to be responsible for each other.  If something is going wrong with a neighbor, we need to connect,” Rhosetta said.  “We help students find their niches in society.

“The relevance of education is how we connect with critical issues and help students be problem solvers,” she said.

She described what she calls the continuum of problem solving:

“If we give someone a fish, we feed the person for a day.  If we teach someone to fish, we feed the person for a lifetime.  We also need to be sure the person has access to the pond, and we need to talk about ownership of the pond.”

Rhosetta said the goal is to engage on all levels—addressing hunger by feeding people, teaching them job skills, and advocating so people have access and justice.

“We help students understand how they can move along on the continuum from direct services—soup kitchens and shelters—to training, advocacy and justice.  In service learning, we have given students experience in each part of the continuum so they understand the connection of all and the need for everyone to work together,” Rhosetta said.  “Each needs to find his or her niche.  Otherwise, world problems seem overwhelming to the point of paralysis that inhibits action and makes us feel we can’t make a difference.

“Service learning has a transformative effect that tends to produce lifelong civic engagement—if not immediately after graduation then later,” Rhosetta said.

The daughter of a Marine, growing up in the Southeast, California, the Philippines and Hawaii, she married Floyd Rhodes in 1983 and followed him in his Air Force career to Spokane 20 years ago.  In her early years in Spokane, she worked with Fairchild’s Family Support Center, as the day care training technician, relocation manager, information referral assessment counselor and volunteer program manager.  After her husband retired, she was the Postal Service’s regional Equal Employment Opportunity mediation specialist for three years.

Then she served as director of continuing education, service learning and community engagement at Spokane Falls Community College.

Rhosetta, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, did not attend church until she was a teen.  In 1985, she said she “understood what it meant to be Christian and making a conscious choice to be Christian, to follow Christ’s example and live as he taught.”

For her, it has meant trusting as God has led her into various positions along the way.  Looking back, she sees how her work in EEO mediation led her to a position where she trains students in mediation.

Similarly, her work at the community college began her commitment to help students understand how learning math and other subjects are relevant to addressing societal ills.

“I didn’t always realize why I was led to certain work, but I look back and see the connections,” she said.  “I realize it’s best to trust God, doing the best I can in whatever I do and being ready to move on when God is ready for me to move.”

In the president’s office, she will continue to help the community connect education with social needs. 

For information, call 777-3200 or email rrhodes@whitworth.edu.