Students and Teachers Honor Rosenberg

by Steve Charles

May 16, 2014

At this spring’s Midnight Munch meal in Sparks Center for students prepping for final exams, Dean of Students Mike Raters’ tried to introduce and honor Director of Academic Support Services Julia Rosenberg, who is retiring this year after serving the College for 31 years. But before he could finish his introduction, the students in the dining hall leapt to their feet with a standing ovation.

Recalling that moment Wednesday in Caleb Mills House during the “official” retirement reception for Rosenberg, Raters said, “What was most special for me from my view above the crowd was that the first to their feet were students— students I recognized as those with whom you had worked personally and diligently to improve their work here, as well as those tutors you had tutored to do the same work in your image and as you had coached them to do it.

“I know you were moved by that, as was I," Raters told Rosenberg. "So were your admiring colleagues who stopped their work that night to come out to the Great Hall to celebrate your Great Work.”

That celebration continued Wednesday, as students and faculty stepped forward to praise and to thank the woman who, as Raters’ said, has been “passionate, outspoken, perceptive, and relentless in her efforts to make certain Wabash College educates ALL of her students.”

“When I was a freshman I struggled my first semester and ended up with a 2.8 GPA,” said senior Ben Cook, who will graduate on Sunday. After working with Rosenberg, his next semester was a 4.0. “And as of last semester it was a 3.66, so I just want you to know you really help students.”

Assistant Professor of English Crystal Benedicks, who worked with Rosenberg on the College writing program, called her “my most influential mentor.

“I have learned so much about working with students from her. I also appreciate her speaking for the underrepresented—I think of her as a moral guide here. She’s been one of the College’s most powerful citizens because she’s never afraid to critique it, never afraid to call it out.“

“I told Julia how genuinely bereft I was going to feel without her in the Writing Center," said Professor of Classics David Kubiak, “Whatever small success I might have had over the years in improving student writing has been due equally to her—her superb competence and her unfailing sense of cooperation on behalf of students.”

“As chair of the English Department for several years I deeply admire the care she has given to composition studies and her leadership at the Writing Center, and the way that she teaches and nurtures student tutors,” Professor of English Marc Hudson added. “They are well-equipped for future teaching through her mentoring, and that’s a tremendous gift to them and to the College, and one that will be sorely missed.”

“I think that it’s important to remember that Julia started the writing center,” Assistant Professor of English Jill Lamberton said. ”I admire both what she did for students and for the work of teaching composition and writing, which is undervalued.”

“I think of Julia as almost an adjunct of the counseling center,” Counseling Center Director Kevin Swaim said. “Everybody we referred to her came back with this belief that they’d found one of the jewels that was going to make them successful and decrease their anxiety. She probably relieved more symptoms than we ever did. These are big shoes to fill, and she’s established a tradition that’s going to be hard to replace.”

Professor of Mathematics Bob Foote thanked her for running the quantitative skills center after Lucy Brooks’ retirement, and Rosenberg’s husband, Professor of English Warren Rosenberg, recalled how his wife knew many more students on campus than he ever did. 

“Every graduation there is a group of kids who come up to her and hug her, and, you know, they probably wouldn’t have graduated without her,” Professor Rosenberg said.

“I’m overwhelmingly grateful for your comments,” Rosenberg told her faculty, staff, and student colleagues. "Whatever good work I’ve done has been in collaboration with so many people. Everyone who referred people to me, everyone with whom I was able to discuss students, all the student life meetings, all the faculty who asked me to work with them for the benefit of the students—I thank you very much.”

Rosenberg singled out Professor Emeritus of Political Science David Hadley, who, when he was dean of students, was the first to include The Writing Center and Quantitative Skills staff in his staff meetings.

“So we became a staff, and [Dean of Students] Tom [Bambrey] kept that up, and thanks to Michael [Raters] who has been a wonderful boss and advocate for the role that staff plays.”

She thanked Professor Benedicks for collaborating with her on the writing program, and Lucy Brooks, her “co-director, and the one who really pushed the study skills work to a new level. She taught me a lot about going the extra mile to help students.”

Rosenberg said she’d often felt like an outsider, and thanked her husband for “being the person who would say, ‘It’s good to be an outsider, because you have something different to contribute to a place. He reminded me that you don’t have to be of a place to contribute to a place.”

Saving her greatest gratitude for last, Rosenberg said she was “thrilled to see some students here.

"My biggest collaborators have been students; I’m good at disabilities work now because of all the students I’ve talked to over the years who have been willing to tell me what their reality is, who have been willing to work with me. The students taught me. I changed them, and they have changed me.

She offered a special thanks to her student tutors: “I don’t think they get the appreciation they deserve. Those of you who grade papers: Imagine getting a paper and having to figure out what kind of person that student is, assess his writing ability, decipher the prompt, and get him to work on his own, all in the space of one hour. That’s amazing work that they do and they do it all the time and they do it voluntarily. It’s a wonderful service that they render to the school and they deserve a round of applause.”

"I thank you, the College, the students, for 30 years of learning,” Rosenberg concluded. “It’s been a great ride.


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