Rick Stewart: New Dean of Students

By Debra Wallace

Asked to become Dean of Student Services at Mendocino College, Rick Stewart came to Mendocino County with his son to investigate the area. It was important to Stewart that his son be in favor of the move because as a child Stewart had attended 14 different schools by the end of high school. His father was a military man, and it gave him the desire to include his son, who was then a junior in high school, in the decision making process.

They both decided that the move was a good idea and Stewart took the position. His family's first Christmas in California was a great family event, made even more special because they were able to see Stewart's alma mater play at the Rose Bowl.

Prior to working at Mendocino College, Stewart was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Era, and then spent 25 years as a counselor, taking time out in 1991 to get his doctorate. In Texas. While he enjoyed his time as a counselor, he feels that his time here has gone well also. He says that the hardest part of his job is having the discipline to enforce school codes. However, he also believes that the process of learning requires teamwork and says, "Rules or boundaries are needed to keep the balance of the team."

When asked what he thought of The Eagle newspaper when he first came to our college, he said, "I waited till I could read the paper and gathered information on it before I formed any opinions, but it became apparent that, while they're intentions were good the format had gone astray."

From his point of view, it is important that the paper be done with teamwork, honesty, and pride. The goals of the paper should be set and met in a trustworthy manner, and have a healthy sense of ethics as a backbone. Somehow opinions should be classified as opinions not facts, he said, and students should be willing to take responsibility for what they write and for the ownership of the paper.

When asked what he thought the role of the new class would be, he indicated that he hoped it would help change the environment from "chaotic and unsettled" as R. Michael Johnson (1975 Eagle editor) had put it, to the more stabilized proposal that English Department faculty member Nancy McLelland is working on.

"It is our hope that the class will allow the students to get the paper's format back in line with college journalism, and to provide transferable credits for those interested," said Stewart.

When asked where he sees the paper a year or two from now, he responded, "It's your paper, not mine. I believe it's up to you and the other staff. I hope it will be a paper that makes you proud to write in." He also stated that he was investigating the possibility of making the editor positions paid positions, and actively searching for information on how to better the program.

The newspaper web page seemed to be a subject that was in the works but not yet officially started. His comments on the subject were, "I am openly willing to work with anyone for a web connection to the school." I asked if he thought a class on web page construction and management might make it possible. His response was, "It's not necessary. I have seen other school web pages and they represent what the newspaper says, it's just on the Internet." He further commented that the web page needs to have an established set of rules in regards to libel and the responsibility of the web designers. For instance, when letters or responses are sent in to the site, the author should be notified that his or her writings may be taken to print. Those writing for the web site should sign their names and take credit for what they write, and the site should be conducted in a respectful manner.

When asked about the loss of our new teacher and her replacement Rick indicated that there were two possible candidates who were interested, and that he was in the process of meeting with them. I asked if this would change anything with the classes, and his comments were, "No, not really. The plan is that they will continue with the current agenda and editor. In fact, the editor is up to date on what's going on."

As a final point of interest, I asked what accomplishments he had been able to achieve here that he was the most pleased with. He responded, "The fact that people are recognizing the benefits of teamwork. In fact we just had an evaluation done and we are moving in the right direction. It makes me happy to see the teamwork." His motto seemed to be that anything is possible when you work as a team on common goals. Disagreement is a part of news, but a paper should be many equal voices speaking with honor, not just one loud voice.


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