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Rhonda Spurlock
Executive Assistant to the President
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Office of the President

President Larry RiceQ & A with the President

Why were you interested in becoming President of Rogers State University?

During the last decade, I have been very impressed with the transformation of RSU from a two-year college to a four-year university. The growth of the university has been phenomenal – new academic programs, new facilities, major expansions of all three campuses, and large increases in enrollment. This growth is truly a testament to the university’s academic excellence, Dr. Wiley’s strong leadership, and the continuing demand for higher education in the region.

I believe RSU is at a pivotal point in its history and has the potential to become the state’s best regional university. I am honored to have been selected to provide leadership as RSU takes this next step toward excellence. I would like to express appreciation to our Board of Regents for placing their confidence in me. Leading this great institution has always been my dream and I am looking forward to reaching more major milestones in the next few years.

You began your academic career at RSU. Is returning like “coming home?”

I was Director of the Applied Science Division, Director of the Criminal Justice Program, and Criminal Justice Instructor at Rogers State College in Claremore from 1979 to 1986. In 1985, I was assigned the task of establishing a new campus in Pryor. In that role, I was responsible for all aspects of the establishing a new branch campus, including securing funding, hiring faculty, recruiting students, planning construction and developing class schedules. I served as Associate Director of Academics for the Pryor Campus from 1986 to 1991. RSU has always been close to my heart and returning is like “coming home.” My wife Peggy and I are thrilled to be back.

What were some of your responsibilities at TU?

As Executive Assistant to the President at TU, I served as Chief Advisor to the President on a variety of issues, primary Legislative and Government Relations Liaison, and key contact with the University’s Board of Trustees. I also assisted the President with special projects. I served as Coordinator of the elite Presidential Scholars Program and was liaison with the advisory board for the nationally recognized Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. I also represented the university as a member of the Joint Facilities Board for the Tall Grass Prairie Ecological Research Center, a joint research station operated by TU and the Nature Conservancy. I represented the President at legislative and community functions. I also was integrally involved in the University’s fundraising efforts, serving as Interim Vice President of Institutional Advancement. I think these activities were ideal preparation to provide leadership for RSU.

Will RSU begin offering master’s degrees?

I would like to see RSU begin offering a limited number of master’s degree programs, perhaps beginning with a master of business administration (MBA). Other master’s degrees will be developed in accordance with our Strategic Planning process, regional market demands, the educational needs of area residents, and existing university resources. I would like us to draw on our traditional academic strengths and synergies as we move forward with new degrees.

Do you envision RSU adding more athletic programs in the next few years?

The athletic programs we’ve added in the last few years have been very successful. I’d like to continue that momentum and increase our participation in intercollegiate athletics. I would envision some high-interest, relatively low-cost sports. I’ll be working closely with our Athletics Department to help establish new programs.

What are some of RSU’s greatest challenges?

Of course, one of our greatest challenges continues to be obtaining greater financial resources for the university, from both public and private sources. I am going to do everything I can to help persuade members of the Oklahoma Legislature that higher education should be among our state’s highest priorities. Supporting higher education is the right thing to do no matter how you look at it. Higher achievement in education leads to better jobs, a higher income, and a better quality of life. As a former member of the Legislature myself, I believe I’m in a position to effectively make these arguments.

In addition, it is important that we elevate the level of alumni involvement in the life of the institution, by involving them in campus initiatives and obtaining their support.

It is critical that we increase the level of private giving to the university from foundations, corporations, and individuals. This is an important part of enhancing the academic quality of the institution and increasing resources available for scholarships. I think my background in community relations and fundraising will significantly help in this endeavor.

Another challenge will be keeping up with our growth, which some may view as a “good” problem. Although we’re making strides with the new Centennial Center and expansion projects at our branch campuses, we will need more and better facilities if we wish to continue growing at our recent pace.

We also must ensure that all our students get the support they need to succeed in college. Increasing student retention and graduate rates are challenges shared by most colleges and universities.

Will it be necessary to increase tuition?

Our goal at RSU will always be to keep tuition low, affordable, and competitive. But unfortunately, declining state funding is shifting the burden of paying for a college education from the states to students and their families across the nation. I think moderate, reasonable increases in tuition may be necessar in the future if state support does not increase significantly. At the same time, we will work hard to ensure that more scholarship funds are available for students.