Dean of Applied Technology and Allied Health Ron May is a soft-spoken and genial man. His eyes light up and his voice quickens though when he talks about a subject that fascinates him. Like skunks.
May didn’t plan on becoming an educator. As far as he was concerned, earning his master’s degree in zoology at the University of Idaho was the first step in his career as a research scientist.
His first research subject was the reproductive cycle of the Western Spotted Skunk. May studied why this creature fertilizes its eggs in winter, but unlike other skunks, doesn’t give birth until spring. Little did he know at the time that his background in reproductive biology would be put to use teaching college students about human anatomy.
“I had always envisioned myself being a scientist,” May said, “but when I was doing research for my master’s degree, I saw my professor spend all of his time in his office writing grants.”
He realized it was difficult to break into the research realm.
“It was somewhat of a rude awakening for me,” said May, who began teaching part-time at Walla Walla Community College.
“I discovered I really enjoy teaching,” May said.
May enjoyed being able to learn, study and share his passion for science with his students.
His part-time position at Walla Walla turned into a tenure-track position for eight years. He began teaching biology and anatomy classes at Pierce in 1992 to students entering the health field.
As a dean, May has an opportunity to serve students in a new capacity. May served on the main steering committee and the instructional subgroup for the creation of the new administrative structure.
“What we wanted to do was be as efficient as possible from an administrative standpoint,” May said. “…what happened was that as the campus grew…it was a matter of adding divisions along the way. There’s a point in our growth that we need to strategically look at the best way to serve the faculty and the students.”
While the deans are happy to listen to student concerns and ideas, and are willing to help in any way they can, May sees his role as a behind-the-scenes coordinator. If teachers are actors, then deans are directors. He wants to create the best environment possible for the core job of the college: teaching students.
“The goal of the dean is to do everything he or she can do to make the faculty members have the resources they need to serve the students,” May said.
The situation where a dean is most likely to directly support a student is when an issue arises between a student and a faculty member. May encourages any student with an issue or a concern to get in touch with him.
“I’m approachable and I will listen,” he said. “While I can’t guarantee that an issue or problem will always be resolved in the way that a student might think it will, I will always strive to gather information `from all parties and attempt to come to a solution that is fair and squares with the facts.”
May is already at work building a new program in his division to offer students a modern education with applications in the future of the economy. The Health Information Integrated Technology program brings together faculty from the Business Information Technology, Computer Information Systems and Allied Health departments. They are coordinating with May to educate students on the use and management of digital health record formats that are currently being deployed in health care facilities.
May’s commitment to finding efficiencies and new processes is all about improving the educational experience for Pierce College students. He encourages students to point out issues that need attention or make suggestions that could contribute to student success.
“We are here because of the students and for the students,” he said.
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