By VAL OLIVAS, Four Points News
President of Austin Community College, Dr. Richard Rhodes, chose to live in Steiner Ranch after falling in love with Austin two decades ago.
While earning his doctorate from the University of Texas and completing both his internship at ACC in 1993 and residency in Austin, Rhodes and his wife, Kate, fell in love with Austin and hoped to return.
In 2011 when Rhodes was hired to be president of ACC, the couple searched many areas of Austin to call home.
“Once we drove into Steiner Ranch and saw the UT Golf Club, I decided this was for us,” said Rhodes with a smile. “This is a beautiful place and the commute is not that bad once you make it to 2222.”
As empty-nesters, the Rhodeses spend leisure time hiking, kayaking, playing tennis and swimming.
“We can load up the SUV with the kayak and be on the lake in five minutes,” he said.
Professionally, Rhodes is busy building relationships with educators including Leander ISD Superintendent Bret Champion, university partners, and a Program Advisory Committee comprised of professionals who meet with ACC faculty bi-annually to provide feedback on what new skill sets are necessary in their respective fields.
“We want to be the best partners with K-12. We service 30 different school districts in 7,000 square miles; a territory roughly the same size of the state of New Jersey,” Rhodes said. The Four Points area boasts approximately 1,400 ACC students.
Pete Dwyer, Hill Country Education Foundation (HCEF) Board member, invited Dr. and Mrs. Rhodes as his guests at the Focus on the Foundation meeting held January 30, 2013. Dwyer says Dr. Rhodes was impressed to learn that HCEF funds the Naviance College and Career Readiness Platform for all of the LISD, not just for Vandegrift High School.
“Dr. Rhodes and I are both participants in the E3 Alliance as are Bret Champion and Christine Bailie, one of my fellow HCEF Board members,” Dwyer said. “[Rhodes] explained to me his vision for ACC and was grateful for being introduced to many of his Steiner and River Place neighbors who also attended the Focus event.”
Rhodes’s vision emphasizes college readiness.
“One way ACC works with districts and students is by offering college credit courses to students attending high school. Dual credits afford students to earn about 12 college credit hours while attending high school if they are disciplined enough to do that,” Rhodes said.
These courses are tuition-free, an estimated savings of $4,000-$5,000 for those 12 credit hours.
“This program sends the message to students that if you work hard and can pass the assessment test, then you can take college courses and have all of this on your transcript by high school graduation,” he added. This program is available at Vandegrift High School for qualifying students.
A New Mexico native, Rhodes received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Master of Arts in Educational Management and Development from New Mexico State University.
Currently his wife, Kate, works as a distance learning teacher for Doña Ana Community College located in Las Cruces, NM.
Rhodes earned his doctorate through the Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) at UT. CCLP honored Rhodes with its Distinguished Graduate Award in 2001.
He is a self-professed “joiner” of organizations. Among them: the Governor’s Commission for a College-Ready Texas and the Carnegie Foundation.
“I love ACC. It does so many wonderful things and has great potential for the future in providing pathways for students to be successful,” Rhodes said.