This fall, Dr. Rhonda Capron arrived at Capella University and rolled up her sleeves, ready to serve as dean of the School of Business and Technology.
Capron, who previously worked at a Fortune 500 computer technology corporation, in government, at a liberal arts college in northern California, and at an online university, says in some ways her new job marries together all of her past experience, allowing her to bring wide-ranging expertise to the table.
Here’s what you should know about her.
She was a first-generation college student.
Capron’s parents came from large families and neither attended college. But her father valued education deeply, and when Capron got the chance to attend a state school near where her family lived in Pennsylvania, she took it. “I felt very lucky to get an education,” she says.
She has lots of hands-on, industry experience.
Capron, who holds a BA in computer science, worked for the U.S. Army and Department of Energy for more than a dozen years before joining the software giant Oracle, where she ultimately rose to the level of vice president. In 2009, she embarked on her second career: academia. “The beauty of my new role is that I get to combine both my business background and my technology background with my higher-ed background to create relevant programs for students at Capella,” Capron says.
She knows how to juggle work, family, and learning.
Capron was working full-time, was married, and had children when she decided she needed an MBA to advance her career. It wasn’t easy, but it created empathy for the adult students Capella serves. “I know what it’s like to drop kids off at a swim meet and pull out your book and read a chapter while they’re in the pool,” Capron says with a laugh.
She was nearing 50 when she went back to school for a PhD.
Twenty years elapsed between Capron’s MBA and PhD studies. She wanted a PhD so she could teach at the highest level possible, but she was also aware that the number of years she could ultimately teach before retirement was limited. “I’d sigh and say to my advisor, ‘I’m going to be over 50 before I finish this thing,’” she recalls. “And he would respond, ‘You’re going to be over 50 anyway, Rhonda, wouldn’t you like to have a doctoral degree?’”
She has big plans for the School of Business and Technology.
Capron says she came to Capella because she was impressed by its “solid, quality” reputation and the fact that it was an educational innovator (she cites FlexPath as a cutting-edge idea that piqued her interest). Digging into her new job, the dean wants to strengthen the University’s ties to industry advisors. “You find an article in the news almost any day of the week where employers say that workers just don’t have the skills they need most, particularly the soft skills.
“As dean, it’s my job to ensure that the folks who spend time, money, and energy with us during their educational process have the right knowledge, skills, and abilities so they can succeed in the workplace immediately.”
She is a lifelong learner.
“I’m always thinking: What do I need to learn next? What do I need to know to be successful in this role? Am I willing to take risks? Am I willing to make moves? Am I willing to take on new responsibilities? I’ve always said the worst thing you can do to me is bore me.”