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Just a college kid at heart

A new year at college brings a renewal of that precious sense of freedom - freedom to set your own schedule, go where you want when you want, freedom to involve yourself in activities and organizations, and freedom to make a difference. This is part of what made new Dean of Students Penny Rue choose her career and love it for the past 20 years.

Rue was selected to replace Robert T. Canevari, who retired last spring after working 29 years as the University's dean of students. She has been with the University for five short weeks now, but said she already has grown to appreciate the community.

"The University really has a sense of community and identity," Rue said. "I was ready to be a dean and this was the kind of institution I admire."

Prior to moving to Charlottesville, Rue was the Senior Associate Dean of Students at Georgetown University. She has followed a career path with college students, however, since her days as an undergraduate at Duke University.

"I had a great experience in college so I wanted to share it," Rue said.

She started her career working on an orientation program at Duke in 1972. She said she did such a good job and enjoyed it so much that one of her deans helped her select a graduate school and gave her the necessary mentoring to get ahead in a male-dominated career field.

After Duke, Rue went to Ohio State University to earn a master's degree in counseling and student personnel services. While working toward her degree, she served as a residence hall academic advisor. Then she moved on to the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill to be an area coordinator in the Residence Life Office. Eventually Rue moved to the University of Maryland-College Park to earn her doctorate while also working full time in the campus activities office.

Rue said one of her favorite parts of her career is getting involved with college students.

"I've never had to leave college," she said. "College is people who care talking about things that matter."

That philosophy has kept Rue excited about her field.

Asst. Dean of Students Aaron Laushway said he already is impressed with Rue.

"She's very energetic and obviously dedicated to students," Laushway said. "She's listening carefully to everybody, but particularly students."

Rue already has reached out to student groups around Grounds, who have reacted favorably thus far.

"Her attitude and personality seem to be perfect for the job," said Jamey Thompson, Student Council vice president for organizations. "I've heard nothing but positive reactions."

"I'd consider myself a success if anyone on Grounds could come to me with a problem or concern and I could effectively help or advise them," Rue said.

Through her years in college administration, she said her most prominent and favorite work has been with leadership development, service learning and sexual assault awareness and prevention. Rue has been a member of the committee for the National Conference for Women Leaders since 1987.

Her background has helped her bring several ideas to the table in her new capacity; She said she would like to try to better integrate community service with the University's academic experience.

In light of last week's armed sexual assault, Rue said she has more ideas to improve security.

"I would like to increase educational programs and offer assistance with assessing security of the home environment," she said.

Rue also is considering speaking with local landlords about their responsibility to provide a secure home to students and other community members.

In addition to dealing with the current hot topics, Rue's duties include dealing with other perpetual issues, such as alcohol-related deaths and student suicides. The University typically has a low suicide rate, which Rue said she believes stems from the unique community here.

"There is a community of connection here," she said. "People look out for each other so individuals are not isolated."

That "community of connection" is something she also hopes to foster with Student Council officers.

"We plan to meet at least once a month, probably every other week to make sure we're on the same page," said Brock Jolly, Student Council vice president for administration. "As issues arise we want to be able to work cooperatively."

Despite all the stresses that come along with working to intervene in student crises, Rue said she has found ways to stay grounded.

"I swim one mile every morning before work," she said. "It's good for mind, body and soul."

She added that she also enjoys hiking, camping and fiction reading. Rue said she and her husband love the beach and try to go at least once every summer.

Of course, working at so many ACC schools also has helped Rue become an avid basketball fan, but with so many loyalties, she finds it difficult to choose which team to root for. Georgetown did not have a Division I football team, so Rue stopped following football closely. Now that she is back in the ACC, however, she said she plans to attend all of the home football games this year.

As dean of students, Rue will cheer not just for the players, but for the students on the field as well.

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