Many individuals seem to find themselves at Berea somewhat serendipitously, knowing little about the institution before they arrive. Ron Rosen, Professor of Biology and Chair of Academic Division I, is not one of them. Before joining the Berea College family, Rosen taught at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky.
On trips to Lexington he stopped in Berea and began to learn about the College and its mission. Through his work, Rosen met Berea faculty members like Ralph Thompson who told him more. He found the College’s mission and dedication to service well aligned with his own. “When a position came open,” he says, “I jumped at the chance. I was very anxious to become a part of this thing we call Berea.”
That was 1989. Although the College’s mission originally attracted him, Rosen readily admits that he has found many more reasons to stay at Berea over the years. “I don’t think anyone really understands what it is like to teach here until they have done it.” The difference, in his opinion, is the student body. “Our students don’t start at the top. They are not the children of doctors and lawyers,” he says.“They’re good kids though, and they have tremendous work ethic.” For this professor, the joy and the pleasure are in helping those students reach the top.
Rosen, an educated man with a Ph.D. in Parasitology from The University of Manitoba, is not one to tout his achievements. When he talks about the successes of his students, he prefers to credit his fellow faculty and staff, as well as the drive that the students themselves bring to their work. Mr. Rosen’s own work, whether he likes to admit it or not, is remarkable in both its breadth and depth.
One of Rosen’s greatest focuses during his tenure has been the encouragement of undergraduate research. “It is probably the highest form of teaching one can engage in,” he says. Sometimes his involvement is hands on, performing animal necropsies with his students or counseling them regarding independent projects. Sometimes it is sending them off to research partnerships like the one Berea has established with Vanderbilt University. In every case Rosen says “Research is not something extra. It’s not something we do in addition to school.” For Rosen, this kind of study is central to the process. Students are co-authors on 11 different peer-reviewed publications with Dr. Rosen, and have received 11 first, second or third place awards for their research presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science since 1998.
He also prefers not to dwell on his numerous honors, which include the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching, received in 2008, and the office of President of the Kentucky Academy of Science, which he held from 2001 to 2002. Instead, Rosen is looking toward the future of his ever-changing institution. “Students are a moving target,” he says, adding that the duty of the college is to keep up with them while maintain the highest of standards.
With characteristic modesty and affection, he explains that it is all about the students. “Seeing them complete their degrees and find success means more than any recognition.” For him, everything else is just a nice pat on the back.
Fittingly, the nicest pat on Ron Rosen’s back comes from those students. Years after the classes in Biology and Parasitology, after the necropsies and research projects, he tends to get a phone call. The student on the other end of the line says, “I saw road kill today and thought of you.” Rosen laughs to himself and thinks, “How gratifying. What better way could I be remembered?”