New dean champions the humanities
For Robert Ridel, PhD, the new dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix, the humanities reach far beyond coursework. He believes these liberal arts subjects — history, philosophy, communication, the arts and cultural studies — have great value in the world outside the classroom.
A look at Ridel’s career shows how he found practical purposes for his liberal arts education. Shortly after earning his degrees, Ridel moved to Europe and Asia, where he taught.
He also worked as a United Nations field observer, assessing the conditions of refugee camps in Africa and southeast Asia. He witnessed the stark contrasts of human behavior, from the good works of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in India to the devastating violence of warlords in the Horn of Africa.
These cultural experiences and his earlier studies were a powerful combination, Ridel explains. “Knowing how to communicate and think cross-culturally is tremendously important. ... My background in the humanities and social sciences chauffeured me along countless journeys.”
Ridel then returned to teaching in the United States, encouraging his students to pursue social change. He taught at various universities and received a Humanitarian award for his community efforts. He landed at the University of Phoenix Oregon Campus, and now teaches at the University of Phoenix Main Campus. “What makes me tick is the feeling of contributing,” he says.
Ridel admits he has a flair for the dramatic — it isn’t uncommon to see him standing on top of his desk to grab students’ attention. Yet he also focuses on getting down to business; he ran a career development and consulting firm for more than a decade.
As dean, Ridel will help faculty and students find new relevance in the humanities. He will continue teaching, too. “Education offers students the opportunity to realize their potential,” he says, “which I consider to be life’s ultimate objective.”