R. Anthony Rolle ready to reengage with staff as new College of Education dean

As R. Anthony Rolle transitions into his role as the new dean of the College of Education, replacing Interim Dean Judith Ponticell, he said he hopes to work with faculty, staff and the college to build coalitions to support university goals. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ R. Anthony Rolle

Despite uncertainty surrounding the future of the College of Education (COE) last year, a new dean, R. Anthony Rolle, is hoping to use his passion for education and two decades of experience to elevate the college by enhancing community engagement and building coalitions. 

“I am the grandson of hard-working Alabamians and the proud grandson of immigrant Bahamians,” Rolle said. “I have a wealth of cultural, regional and geographic experiences for this position to create better understanding with our multicultural, multiethnic and multigeographic communities in the Tampa Bay area.”

Rolle was announced as the new dean of the COE on June 8 in the Board of Trustee meeting, and he will begin his term in August. He will serve in the new role for a minimum of five years. 

For the past four years, prior to receiving his new role at USF, Rolle served as the dean of the COE and Professional Studies at the University of Rhode Island. He also has already held a position at USF as a faculty member and chair of the former department of educational leadership and policy studies from 2010 to 2014. He said he is excited to return to the community and university.

“I always have enjoyed the Tampa Bay area, and I’m fortunate to have friends and relatives in the area to support a move back to Florida, [and to be] a part of the success of the University of South Florida and the College of Education, in a time when the faculty, staff and students there are strategizing the multiple dimensions that it will take to keep improving and reaching the organizational goals of both the university and the college,” Rolle said.

He said his past roles at different universities have also shaped him to become who he is today. Rolle has worked at Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, the University of Rhode Island and USF. He said moving through the ranks as an assistant professor to associate professor then full professor gave him perspective on how organizations are structured and ultimately helped build his leadership skills.

“As a program lead, department head and ultimately a dean, some of those same experiences help provide you with a leadership framework, and ultimately enhance your leadership style,” Rolle said. 

“So in essence, I tried to take the best that I could learn from individuals who were supporting me, individuals who were challenging notions and directions to continue to make a positive and upbeat strategic plan for future organizations.”

Instructor for educational and psychological studies Maureen Chiodini-Rinaldo said she is optimistic about the new COE dean but expects he will face some obstacles as he’s following a year during which undergraduate COE programs were almost removed entirely due to universitywide budget cuts.

“I am excited to have a new dean because that means the university is committed to the College of Education,” she said. “Obviously he has some decisions to make regarding growth and sustainability of the programs in the college and a significant challenge with innovation and collaboration both within the university and also out in the community.”

Rolle’s former position at the University of Rhode Island as the inaugural dean of the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies allowed him to further develop skills such as understanding organizational structure based on culture, university politics, funding mechanisms and community relations that will help him in his new position, according to Rolle. 

“As the inaugural dean, we have taken fragments of former organizations around the university and built new organizations as well. It both enhances the skills you already have as a leader and also helps you to create skills that further develop,” he said.

“So as far as understanding all those things that you believe a dean to possess some facility around, I will be able to utilize it with support of the faculty, staff and students to continue to improve both education and the University of South Florida.”

Former Interim Dean of the COE Judith Ponticell said Rolle brings a wealth of leadership experiences to the dean’s position and believes he will be an excellent fit. He will take over her position once she retires after 17 years of working at USF. 

“I know that he has led strategic planning efforts, academic curriculum planning, research and development initiatives and community relations and outreach,” Ponticell said. “I believe the College of Education is very fortunate to have attracted and secured a seasoned educational leader for the new dean.”

Rolle said he doesn’t like setting expectations for himself before beginning a new position. Instead, he hopes to achieve many new goals he’ll establish on his first day within the college and the community.

“What I hope to accomplish in these next few weeks and months as I arrive in Tampa is becoming more engaged with the faculty, staff, college and the leadership,” he said.

Among his goals, Rolle said he hopes to build coalitions, secure performance-based funding and help USF qualify for Association of American Universities status. Within the college, he wants to focus on quality programs, quality instruction, innovative research and community outreach with the school and partners.

Bill Campbell, professor of exercise science, said he and the rest of the faculty of the COE are excited about bringing in the new dean, because he’s more than capable of leading the college and executing USF’s strategic 10-year plan “A Blueprint for a Bold Future.”

“Dr. Rolle’s academic leadership experience, entrepreneurial skill set and approach to working with faculty will positively impact the College of Education, the University of South Florida and our alumni and community partners into the future,” he said. 

With all his years of experience, Rolle said he feels enthusiastic about his position and the connections that come along with it.

“I feel very positive about this role and the opportunity to reengage with a faculty that I was once part of,” he said. “I want to see if we can continue progressing in a manner that will continue to bring us improvements, local engagement, national respect for research and granting and eventually become more globally involved.”