By Laura Ramsey
On July 1st Dr. Looney will be taking over as the 6th president of RACC. The FSJ decided to do a sit-down interview to learn more. Here is your chance to get know our passionate, dedicated, former harness racing soon-to-be president.
What made you want to become president?
I have loved the mission of the community college since I was student and I am a returning student. I was actually a high school dropout and had a full career at a very young age. When that career ended due to an accident, I ended up at my local community college thinking I would just get a certificate or an associate degree and then get a job. The warm welcome I received from faculty and staff at my community college made me realize that I wanted to give back to the community college mission. Ultimately, being a president would be the culminating event and the most effective way for me to give back. But I have been a faculty member, I have been an administrator for many, many years, and I have played all types of roles within the community college. I have a very strong understanding of it, but most importantly it is my passion for the mission.
Do you currently have any ideas/changes that are sharable that you want to bring to campus?
Right now, I am still, of course, a few months away from taking office. I don’t take office until July 1st. Dr. Weitz is still very much president and still very active. Right now, I am trying to do more of a listening tour, which is going out and talking to our friends in the community, our internal folks, different faculty, staff, and I’ll get a chance to try to meet with students as a whole. I am really trying to get a feel for what people want moving forward. Even though I am an internal candidate and have been here for almost four years I don’t want to take anything for granted, so I really want to make sure to take this next few months to listen. I want to hear what our community, internal colleagues and student sfeel that they’d like to see moving forward. That’s my first step.
Did you expect four years ago you would become the president of RACC?
no. I came in as the dean of instruction and within about eight or nine months moved into the provost position and I loved both positions. I have been very satisfied with each and I have such an amazing team of individuals. Great faculty, great staff. I am not running away from anything, but this opportunity arose, and it had been a long-term goal so the timing was perfect.
What is your favorite part about working at RACC?
The students absolutely. Any day I can get out and see students, and I don’t walk past anyone in the hallway or campus without smiling and saying hi even if they don’t know me. They just know I’m dressed different. I just want to make sure people feel welcomed and to know that we’re here to help. We’re here to change lives if people want it. We’re here to be a support system for those who have that at home and those who don’t. My favorite part at RACC is definitely the student interaction and watching people change their lives for the better.
What are some of your hobbies outside of RACC?
I am a dedicated 5 a.m. workout person. I actually have a network of individuals who have bonded over it. We call ourselves the 5 a.m. rock stars because we show up every day of the week and support each other. We flip tires, box, life weights, HIT, sprint, and push sleds. It’s the first thing I do after my cup of coffee in the morning. So, one of my hobbies is taking good care of myself, making sure I am healthy and active because even in my current role — and I know it will continue as president — is you need to make sure you have a balance of work and time for yourself, so one of my favorite things is going to EdgeFit every morning. Other personal hobbies are just spending time with friends and family. I’ve got family in Delaware and I’ll be heading there today after all my meetings to spend the Easter holiday with them. Being in Reading I am close enough to visit. It’s only a few hours away and that means a lot to me. My family is extremely important to me.
Did you do any sports in high school or college?
My sport was harness racing. I started driving at the age of twelve, which is the youngest you are allowed to drive in manatee races, which is not betting. The horse business was my life for a long time. That was my hobby and it was all-consuming. It’s the reason I quit school at sixteen because I had a career ready to go and I was extremely successful. I was the youngest driver to ever win a race at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. First female to win a race at Garden State Park in New Jersey. I represented the United States in numerous world racing competitions. I got rookie of the year from Pocono Downs. It was a great career. It was truly the only hobby I had because it was morning till night, seven days a week.
What kind of music do you like, or do you have a favorite album?
I like Adele. I listen to coffeeshop, like a lot of acoustic music, but I really can span. I can go anywhere from Dean Martin to the latest hip-hop out there today because that’s what we listen to at the gym. I like all music. It’s really bizarre, if you went through my channels that I have it’s anywhere from the coffee house, to pop rock, to Frank Sinatra. It just depends on my mood that day and if I am looking to either get jazzed up or to calm down.
Are there any movies or TV shows you are currently into?
I am a big fan of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. It plays 24/7 on some channel somewhere. I am not sure why. I just like the story lines; they are always so good. As for anything modern, I am not sure. Again, it just depends on my mood. I am very much into the news. I don’t miss the news in the morning and I don’t miss it in the late afternoon, so I am big fan of staying up to date on current events going on in the state, nationwide, and worldwide. Really, if I had to pick a favorite it would be the evening news. It’s important for me personally, but professionally to be attuned and up with what’s going on in the national agenda.
Do you have any advice for students?
I would say my number one advice—and I say this at orientation—is that if you have any concern throughout your semester, such as times getting tough, stress, it’s the end of the year and you have numerous papers due, financial aid help, or academic support, ask for help. We are here to help. At orientation I actually hold up a huge poster board with my phone number on it and I tell students I’ve been there, I’ve done this. Do not leave RACC without reaching out to me and asking for help. If I can’t fix it, I can usually find someone who can help. I have been doing this for almost thirty years and I have never come across an issue where we couldn’t help an individual student be successful along the way. I think the big advice is don’t give up. Don’t give up on yourself because you can do this. The fact that you’re here means you’re going to be successful. But sometimes you just need to ask for a little assistance whether, again, it could be tutoring, financial aid, or something else. We have a vast amount of student services here. It could be from soups to nuts. Don’t give up and know that we are proud of you. Know that we are all here because of you. I used to have a sign in my office that said the student is not one of the reasons we’re here, they are the only reason we’re here, and I truly believe that.
Categories: Campus Life