Rhonda Richards dreams of the future and the impact graduates of Oklahoma Baptist University's college of graduate and professional studies will have on the world. She dreams of growing the college's enrollment and degree options, not for the college's sake, but for the sake of the lives that will be touched. She dreams of broadening the college's influence and brand, not simply to gain more students and offer more programs, but to multiply the college's impact on the state, region, nation and the world, all for the cause of Christ.
Rhonda Richards has dreams -- dreams that will guide her and the OBU College of Graduate and Professional Studies into the months and years ahead.
Path to Bison Hill
Dr. Rhonda Richards joined OBU as dean of the CGPS earlier this summer, assuming her duties June 2. She grew up in Caddo, Oklahoma, and graduated from Caddo High School. She then graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southeastern Oklahoma State University with a minor in Computer Information Systems. Upon graduation, she worked in industry as the director of operations for an employment company and ran her own accounting practice. In 2002, she earned her Master of Business Administration from Southwest Baptist University and began her teaching career at Southwest Baptist in the accounting and computer information systems departments.
While teaching at Southwest Baptist, she passed the Certified Managerial Accountant (CMA) and the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exams. In 2005, she joined the faculty at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Business Computer Information Systems with a minor in Accounting at the University of North Texas in 2012.
Richards has a passion for teaching and loves the collegiate environment, teaching a variety of computer information systems and accounting courses throughout her career. Although she enjoys the classroom environment, many of her classes have been taught in an online format.
"God called me here, I have no doubt about that," she said. "I have worked in the corporate world and in academia, and found I have a great passion for education. This position gives me an opportunity to combine my passion for education and my corporate experience to follow God's calling and grow a program that will reach people globally for Christ. I want to help provide opportunities for students to transform the world."
Growing Into the Future
Richards comes with an ambitious agenda. She wants to grow the college, with new degrees, new tracks and higher enrollment. She plans to accomplish this through excellence in operations, through geographical growth, by offering more certification programs and by expanding partnerships; all leading to wider recognition of the OBU College of Graduate and Professional Studies.
She isn't shy about her excitement for the college's future. "There are so many great things happening in the college of graduate and professional studies," she said. "Right now, we offer online courses towards the Master of Science in Nursing, an MBA and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy. These programs are tremendous, and we will do nothing but strengthen them and add more degree availability going forward."
"Beginning this fall, we will offer online MSN courses and two new tracks -- leadership and project management -- in the MBA program," she said. "By spring, we plan to offer more online courses in the MSN program, an online Master of Arts in Christian Studies with concentrations in Leadership or Apologetics, and a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies with concentrations in Intercultural or Orality."
"In the near future, we plan to offer the RN to MSN track online, a physical therapy assistant degree in partnership with Gordon Cooper Technology Center and online MBA program tracks."
Richards said for the long-term future, there are several degrees in the works, with planning and feasibility studies being conducted for graduate programs in education and health related fields, along with a study on potentially offering a doctor of nursing practice.
Faith to Impact the World
She believes strongly in the value of the college of graduate and professional studies at OBU. "Students should select OBU for their graduate studies if they desire to earn a degree that will enable them to change the world for Christ through their vocation," she said. "While studying for my MBA, I gained an understanding of the importance of the integration of faith and learning. In my opinion, this integration is what makes a graduate degree from OBU the right decision. OBU integrates faith and learning and does this while seeking to transform the world."
The faculty are an experienced, knowledgeable, professional, caring group of people, and the opportunity to learn from them and to experience Christ cannot be matched. I am very excited about the opportunities we have to grow and develop this great program. God has a great plan for OBU and anyone should be privileged to be a part of it," she said.
While away from OBU, she enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading, sewing, crocheting and hanging out at the beach. She and her husband Ray have three daughters; Taylor, 20; Riley, 19; and Alexa, 17. Taylor plays basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and is majoring in Finance. Riley is studying at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and is majoring in Geospatial Science. Alexa is a senior at Durant High school and will join her mom at OBU in the fall of 2015.