The inaugural dean of a new college makes a change from a sustainable garden to a sustainable university.
The two-time Fulbright recipient graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in geography and a master’s degree in economic development. She then went on to receive a master’s degree in economics and a doctorate degree in city and regional planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Rhonda Phillips, the dean of Purdue’s Honors College, had previously been the associate dean for Barrett, the Honors College, at Arizona State University. Now she is adjusting to the 30 degree temperatures and corn fields of the Midwest. Much like many freshmen, she is finding her way around campus and adjusting to life at Purdue.
“I really like the style of the campus,” Phillips said. “It feels like a traditional college campus — all the historic brick buildings, the magnificent trees and the pathways. It’s just a really lovely campus. The people are really friendly here.”
Emily Allen, the associate dean for academic affairs, appreciates Phillips’ energy she brings to Purdue’s campus.
“Dean Phillips is adjusting beautifully to Purdue’s culture, and she is also helping us remake it by bringing with her fresh vision and years of experience at one of the nation’s top honors colleges,” said Allen. “She is exceptionally creative, passionate about students and her energy is inspiring!”
Phillips is hoping to transfer her knowledge of sustainability to Purdue’s campus and surrounding communities. But for now, she’s adjusting to Indiana weather and turning her own backyard into a sustainable food source.
“Mostly I’m unpacking, trying to learn about the community,” Phillips said. “I started a fall garden … now I’m trying to figure out how to keep it alive in this weather. I’m trying to learn the culture of the Midwest.”
Phillips is particularly interested in sustainability. She recently published her 15th book, “Sustainable Communities.” Phillips looks to have an impact on the Purdue campus, starting with the new Honors College.
“The theme of the Honors College is on sustainability — the idea is that we will build a community of scholars around the ideas of ecological and technological innovations. We want students to look at the whole range of issues that are facing the world right now,” Phillips said. “There are things that they can impact.”