10 Questions with Shari Payne: Robert Morris University 10 Questions with Shari Payne | Robert Morris University

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Shari Payne M'00 can help you get engaged. And we’re not talking about diamond rings.

This past fall, Payne was named as RMU’s first dean of engaged learning. In this position, she oversees the university’s Student Engagement Transcript, which formally documents students’ participation in experiential learning: leadership activities, community service, study abroad, athletics, and work experience. She also helps to coordinate service-learning opportunities for students in conjunction with RMU’s Office of Student and Civic Engagement.

Payne, who grew up in Vandergrift, Pa., earned a doctor of education degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing. In 2000, she earned a master’s degree in communications and information systems from RMU.

1) Why do you think experiential learning is so important?
It helps students bridge the gap between theory and practice. Theories and concepts become so much clearer when students can roll up their sleeves and put their knowledge to work.

2) What did you like best about RMU’s communications and information systems program, and how has it helped you in your career?
I really enjoyed the Case Analysis class taught by Barb Levine, Ph.D., dean of the School of Communications and Information Sciences. The course focused on problem-solving in real-life situations. I enjoyed it so much, that it made me realize I wanted to move onto a doctoral program.

3) I hear you play the flute. Did you ever consider becoming a professional flautist?
There was a brief period of time when I was in high school that I toyed with the idea of becoming a professional musician. It wasn't unusual for me to practice several hours a night. But I realized that it wouldn't be as much fun if it I had to make a living doing it.

4) If you could be on any “reality” television show, which one would it be and why?
Let's see, I would probably want to be on a show where the central theme was some kind of competition. I guess it would be “Dancing With The Stars.” It just looks like so much fun!

5) What do students tell you when they first become involved in service learning?
That their service learning courses are a lot more work than their other courses. They also say that they’re a lot more rewarding, too.

6) How have you seen students changed by the type of engaged learning offered at RMU?
Students come out with more self-confidence and drive. It’s really heartening to see students who've just finished an engaged-learning experience come back for more.

7) How have students changed the lives of others through these same activities?
Our students are out there in the community serving as mentors and tutors to local elementary, middle, and high school students. They are really serving as leaders, not just in the RMU community but in the surrounding communities as well.

8) When you spent a few months as a newspaper reporter after first graduating from college, what was your strangest assignment?
Covering a local school board meeting was really an eye-opening experience. Prior to that, I had no exposure to the inner-workings of our public school system. For those readers who have never attended a school board meeting, I highly recommend doing so at some point in time.

9) Your favorite book is The Time Traveler’s Wife. If you could travel to any time in history, when would it be?
I guess if I had that power, it might be nice to go back to a time when my maternal grandparents were still alive and young. We used to all gather around the piano, which my mom played, and sing show tunes and Christmas songs. My Pap-Pap would lead the songs, while my Grandma would just sit back and watch because she couldn't carry a tune.

10) You say that, when you retire, you want to open up a mom-and-pop ice cream stand. If RMU was a flavor of ice cream, what would it be?
RMU would be like chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s a newer flavor that hasn't been around as long as vanilla and chocolate, but it's a fan favorite, nonetheless.

WRITTEN BY VALENTINE J. BRKICH