By Juan Ibarra editor-in-chief
After 47 years of working with TCC, NW vice president of student development services Joe Rode will retire.
Since joining the college in 1972, Rode has dedicated his life to connecting with students. Rode prefers to speak to students directly and be involved with them in a more face-to-face manner.
“I walk around and talk to them. I ask them what they’re doing and how they’re doing or if they need anything,” Rode said. “I am very hands-on and out of my office a lot, walking the campus and talking to students. You gotta get out there. I believe that.”
Just in one morning, Rode had gone out to six different areas where students convene and offered them support while thanking them.
“People are not superior, and people are not inferior either. We’re all just passing through.”
– Joe Rode
Before joining TCC, Rode spent his time teaching at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, where he taught English.
“When I was teaching high school, the students didn’t really respond very well to sentence diagramming and reading novels,” Rode said. “But, when I told them, ‘If you do your work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we could suspend English on Fridays and just talk about our lives,’ that was a big hit.”
This success was a breakthrough for Rode and his students but was short-lived after his principal found out.
“[The principal] said, ‘Are you a counselor?’ and I said, ‘No sir, I’m an English teacher,’ to which he replied ‘Yeah, that’s what I thought, so quit having these classroom meetings. And go get your counseling degree because I would hire you as a counselor, but you don’t really have the credentials to do what you’re doing,’” Rode said. “That really made an impact on me, and the next semester I did enroll in my first counseling class.”
This interaction showed Rode what he enjoyed about working with students, and shortly after was hired at TCC as a counselor and psychology instructor.
“The whole career field of being a counselor just fit with who I am and that relational approach to people,” Rode said.
The more hands-on approach has continued in recent years with his work with student organizations like Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Government Association. Rode said he believes this is the best way he has gotten a feel for how to best help students.
“I ask them [student leaders] to represent all the students, not just themselves,” Rode said. “It’s easy to say ‘We need to do this,’ but have you surveyed other students or have you held visioning sessions?”
Rode’s friendly approach doesn’t just revolve around academics. In an attempt to be more approachable, he wears colorful socks with pictures or characters on them to try and show students that not everything has to be so stiff and serious all the time.
“I have maybe 20 pairs of ‘happy socks,’” Rode said. “It helps to be more relational, and people say ‘Dr. Rode, show me your socks today.’”
Even in more serious situations, such as a student disciplinary report, Rode’s No. 1 goal is to never let students lose their motivation.
“Regardless of the sanction, whether it is probation or ‘take a semester off,’ whatever it is, I always say ‘Please, please don’t quit trying. This is just a little hiccup in the road. This is not the end. I can see that you have a lot of inner strength, and I hope even the conduct process will be a learning experience,’” Rode said. “There is nobody who hasn’t screwed up.”
The philosophy behind Rode’s actions and choices comes from the work of psychologist Alfred Adler who believed everyone is on the same level.
“People are not superior, and people are not inferior either,” Rode said. “We’re all just passing through, so don’t take everything too seriously.”
NW president Zarina Blankenbaker said Rode has helped her be the best she can be by learning from him and the way he does things.
“A perfect employee is the one who inspires his supervisor as much as his supervisor inspires him,” Blankenbaker said.
Ruth Gonzalez, who was Rode’s administrative assistant for almost 20 years, looked back on her time with Rode and said what she believed was his key to success.
“He is the student,” Gonzalez said. “He is a psychologist. He has patience like you wouldn’t believe, and he will always reply even if it might not be what you want to hear.”
Rode takes pride in his job, and it shows as he reminisced about his years of service.
“Being the vice president of student development services was my dream job,” Rode said. ”I got to live the dream for 23 years.”