Dr. Ronda Priest
by C. L. Stambush
USI faculty member since 1996 and veteran poker player, Dr. Ronda Priest, associate professor of sociology, knew from the first sociology class she took as an undergraduate at Regis University that she’d found her calling. Although always interested in science—she had a full-ride scholarship in biology—Priest found the “puzzle of measuring humans” more difficult than other sciences and, therefore, her career path of choice. Always up for a challenge, Priest spends part of her time teaching at USI and the other part as USI’s research liaison for Community One, Evansville, helping neighborhoods become better places to live—a project very much in line with USI’s mission.
What student/faculty interactive moment stands out the most in your years of teaching?
My very first lecture in my first class. I was so nervous. I woke up at 3 a.m. and the class didn’t start until 10 a.m. I started going through my lecture notes that I had been preparing over the last week or so. I practiced and practiced right up to class time. The class was Research methods with 400+ students. The lecture went very well and the students stood up and applauded at the end. That was the first time, and last, one of my lectures was applauded.
Why did you become a professor?
I was always a teacher. I held class with my stuffed animals as a young child. I tutored students in grade school through high school. And then I taught kindergarten for one year and realized it was too much pressure.
When and where are you happiest?
Snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea. There are small black and yellow fish (sergeant majors) that school with me, as my dive gear matches their colors. They seem to think I’m their leader.
What is your hobby outside of the classroom, and what does it teach you?
I’m an enthusiastic crafter/DIYer. I‘ve learned not to be afraid of failure and just go for it.
What one word sums you up?
What are the best and worst traits students can possess?
Best trait: Curiosity. Worst trait: Apathy (tied with) Unprofessionalism.
If you were an animal, what would it be and why?
Easy...a cat. They are curious, independent, slightly sneaky, acrobatic, strong, lie in the sun and find the most amazing places to sleep.
How would you like students to remember you?
As authentic. I teach from my heart and as myself, not as an actor on a stage. I believe (and hope) that comes through with every interaction I have with students.
How do you envision USI will look in the future?
I’ve seen a lot of changes over the past 20 years and have no doubt we will continue to grow and improve. I would like to see a strengthening and expansion of what I call university foundation disciplines. In times of rapid social change, there is a reason these traditional disciplines have remained. I believe they give our students the most flexibility for career(s) and the knowledge necessary for engaged citizenship.