Lines are long during Fall Fun Fest activities and other special occasions whenever soothsayer deluxe, Dr. Sue Tomlin, volunteers to read palms of curious students and staff alike.
Credit classes in Anthropology and Sociology to be taught by the 1995 Rend Lake College “Faculty Excellence Award” winner fill quicker than most each semester.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone the insightful presenter boasts an equally enthusiastic following among the RLC Institute for Learning in Retirement faithful. Tomlin has willingly taught ILR classes since the program’s inception in 1999.
Participant Beulah Johnson explains why. “I truly enjoy attending Learning in Retirement Arm Chair Tours. One reason is because Sue makes them so interesting. Another reason is that travel to places of interest is not as easy for me as it was when I was younger. But when I leave one of Sue’s classes, I feel like I was there myself.”
Do not count on Tomlin telling anyone about her most recent trip, however. We will have to take readers on her latest Arm Chair Tour of Springfield.
Accompanied by Rend Lake College ILR Coordinator Lori Ragland, Community Education Director Dawn Gibson and Rend Lake College Foundation CEO Pat Mitchell, Tomlin was an honored guest at the annual Lifelong Learning and Service Coalition Award ceremony at the State Organization for Lifelong Learning headquarters.
She was recognized as the statewide recipient of the Lifelong Learning Instructor Award. It marked the second year in a row an RLC Institute for Learning in Retirement representative has claimed honors. Tomlin follows in the footsteps of Dr. Evelyn Claxton.
In addition, the RLC Community Education Catalog produced Fall and Spring semesters by Gibson and Ragland took second-place in the “Catalog or Newsprint Promotional Piece” category. And a study they conducted in Accessing the District finished third for the “Challenge / Innovation Award.”
Only one other program, that of John Wood Community College in Quincy, received more. Illinois State University matched RLC’s three awards. A total of seven programs were recognized.
According to Tomlin’s letter of recommendation, submitted by Ragland, “Not only does she agree to instruct when asked, but Dr. Tomlin takes the initiative when she has an interesting topic to share. She also provides contact information of other potential instructors.”
The Lifelong Learning Instructor “is unique in that she volunteers her time and efforts to support our older adult program and lifelong learning, in addition to her many responsibilities to the ‘traditional’ student. She is an ILR instructor, participant and recruiter. She has encouraged many older adults to participate in the program.”
Adds Ragland, “Dr. Tomlin is an asset to both Rend Lake College and its Institute for Learning in Retirement. She is a true educator, both in and outside the classroom. Sue has touched and inspired numerous individuals to continue learning through her very own passion for education.”
Tomlin’s Liberal Arts Division Chair, Chris Kuberski, supports her “extracurricular” activities. “As a professor of Sociology at Rend Lake College,” notes Kuberski, “Dr. Tomlin typically teaches 18 hours a semester (12 is the norm), with 180 to 200 students. While this alone would be daunting for many teachers, it only sets the groundwork for Dr. Tomlin’s contributions to the community and the college.”
Tomlin comes by it naturally. Her mother, Ann Santoro, likewise is an active participant, as are many of her fellow residents at Green Tree Catered Living in Mt. Vernon, with the help of Tomlin.
She “teaches and leads by example,” Kuberski says of an inspirational educator who was slowed only briefly by recent hip surgery..
“She offers transportation to Rend Lake College cultural events to several senior citizens from her community. Dr. Tomlin does not just offer lifelong learning opportunities to others, but she demonstrates a personal commitment to learning by taking classes, traveling and volunteering. Furthermore, she does not wait for others to offer the opportunities; she seeks them out and often creates them herself.
“She is highly respected by her students, colleagues and community. She is very deserving of recognition for her dedication to lifelong learning.”
Is there anyone better qualified to offer ILR Arm Chair Tours?
Tomlin applied for and directed a $145,000 Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grant, which enabled eight RLC faculty members to spend 10 weeks in Japan and to internationalize courses at Rend Lake College. She recently participated in an Illinois Consortium of International Studies Programs (Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP)) Exchange to the Netherlands and has co-organized travel/study trips to France and Jamaica.
Earlier in her career, the Chair of RLC’s International Committee experienced Brazil through a Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad invitation and led RLC students and other individuals in Southern Illinois on annual excursions to such places as Spain and Morocco, Ireland, England and Italy.
Her teaching expertise covers the gamut from her Ph.D. specializations in “Deviance, Family and Social Psychology” to “Learning and Behavior Disorders” (Bachelor’s Degree) and “Guidance and Counseling,” (Master’s Degree); “Living Conditions in Selected Brazilian Correctional Facilities,” and “Stigma and Incest Survivors.”
Tomlin and her husband, Bob Tomlin, regularly host international guests, and she has taught both English as a Second Language classes (volunteer) and classes at Big Muddy River Correctional Center (part-time).
In the last three years – in her spare time, apparently – Tomlin completed graduate courses in “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning” and “AIDS and HIV,” as well as undergrad classes in “Japanese for Business Travelers” and “Jewelry I.”
Still not enough? Kuberski indicated Tomlin “is currently working to bring Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville’s ESL certificate program to the Rend Lake College MarketPlace. If all goes as planned, classes should begin in August 2006 and Dr. Tomlin will be one of the students in attendance.”
• Rend Lake College’s second-place Community Ed catalog, 7,000 of which are printed, is meant “to educate district residents of credit and noncredit programming in an easy-to-follow format with enticing photographs and descriptions.”
As a result, according to Gibson, “Student registrations have increased each and every semester since this catalog was created and implemented.
“The mission of Community Education at Rend Lake College is to establish a college presence throughout our district and raise awareness in each community that comprises our district. Our catalog is formatted by community, rather that subject area, to meet the needs specific to a district that is 72 miles wide and 48 miles long.”
John Wood C.C. received top honors for its Classes and Events Non-Credit Flyer.
• Problems caused by the large district led to third-place honors in “Challenge and Innovation.” Travel distance and weather during winter months make attendance difficult for many potential retired learners.
“The RLC Institute for Learning in Retirement developed and instituted a two-year Strategic Plan in Fall 2004. The first year we expanded our program by offering classes and departure locations for trips throughout communities of our district. The second year we provided transportation utilizing RLC buses to transport students to and from classes. Students do not have to worry about parking, and the bus takes them right to the building entrance.”
Catalogs are distributed throughout the college district, along with class flyers. Speaking engagements also help spread the word.
“Most importantly, our students are grateful for expansion of the Institute for Learning in Retirement out into the community; therefore, they are telling others what we have to offer.”
ILR enrollment numbers were 339 in 2003-04, compared to 375 in 2004-05. “We already have had increases in FY06 in both Summer and Fall enrollment, indicating another enrollment increase with the addition of Spring enrollment figures.”
Illinois State University (“Marketing the Senior Professional Program”) and John Wood C.C. (“Community Technology Center / Lab”) finished first and second, respectively, for the “Challenge / Innovation Award.”
Current Rend Lake College President Mark S. Kern started the Community Ed program as Dean of Community Services in the mid-1970s.