In less than a year on UC San Diego’s La Jolla campus, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Penny Rue has already had a significant impact. The personable Rue, who came to UC San Diego after an eight-year stint as Dean of Students at University of Virginia, has displayed a hands-on style that has resonated with students and staff alike.
A graduate of Duke University, she received a Master’s degree from Ohio State University and a doctorate in Counseling and Personnel Services from University of Maryland. Prior to her work at Virginia, Rue held posts at Georgetown, Maryland and North Carolina. Among her varied responsibilities is oversight of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Dr. Rue had some big shoes to fill,” says UC San Diego Director of Athletics Earl Edwards, alluding to her predecessor, Dr. Joseph Watson who spent ___ years at the University, “but she’s stepped in seamlessly and is well-versed in the entire spectrum of student affairs, including athletics. We’re fortunate to have someone of her caliber at UCSD.” An avid sports enthusiast, Rue recently took time to talk about her early impressions of her new position and thoughts on the Triton Athletic program.
Q- In your one year on campus, what kinds of general observations have you made about UC San Diego? How does it compare to the other campuses you’ve been part of?
Rue- UC San Diego is a hidden gem. While much younger in years than other campuses I’ve been a part of, it is no less sophisticated, and our students are remarkable. I find the environment very stimulating and feel like it’s a university on the move. I love the differences inspired by the college system and the diversity of our art and architecture.
Q- Prior to UC San Diego, your professional career has been entirely in the eastern United States. What differences have you found as a first-time West Coaster?
Rue- Californians are friendlier, more laid-back and more down to earth. The climate is amazing—I didn’t know there could be summer without humidity. Oh, yeah, and I’m having to learn to say “freeway” rather than “interstate.”
Q- What are your primary focuses as you begin your second year?
Rue- Creating a sense of community and belonging, improving student mental health and well-being, and living out our commitment to diversity and social justice.
Q- What have been the toughest challenges so far?
Rue- Acronyms! Learning my way around, learning how we do things, creating a whole new set of relationships. I left behind knowledge of whom to go to get things done, and whom you could count on. I’d established myself as someone others could trust. I have to rebuild that all, here, one person at a time.
Q- Where do you get your personal inspiration?
Rue- My Dad was a wise and kind man with an innate sense of how to get things done with others. My head is full of his quotes that pop up in the appropriate situation. He grew up on a farm in Tennessee, and though he was a New York businessman by the time I came along, he had a kind of folksy wisdom. I remember in graduate school, when I was browbeaten by statistics, he said, “Daughter, set your plow deep and hang it in the furrow!” He’s gone now, but my sister and I always exchange that quote with a big laugh when things get tough.
Q- You’ve been visible at a variety of athletic events. What role do you feel intercollegiate athletics plays on a college campus?
Rue- I guess I inherited that, too. My Dad got a college athletic scholarship during the depression, when that meant you played three sports, one each season. He was captain of his basketball team, and I grew up watching a lot of sports with him. When I went to college it was natural to continue, and I got a sense of how the love of competition and school pride can come together to build school spirit. So, today, athletics fosters individual excellence, team development, and school spirit and community. That’s a pretty big contribution!
Q- Tell us about your athletic background. What sports do you enjoy as a participant? A viewer?
Rue- I grew up first as a gymnast, then a diver, and grew into field hockey, lacrosse and volleyball. I was co-captain of my synchronized swimming team in high school. Diving was my passion, but the discs began to go in my twenties, so I became a lap swimmer, which I continue today. I began lifting weights a few years ago and am an avid hiker.
For viewing, I love everything about the Olympics, from the opening ceremonies, to the obscure sports and the marquee ones. I try not to miss the gymnastics and diving. Year in, year out, I’m a college basketball junkie. In addition to my Dad’s influence, I’ve attended or worked at several basketball powerhouses (Duke, Georgetown, Carolina), so I guess it’s in my blood. I fill out my bracket and watch the NCAA tournament start to finish.
Q- What makes UC San Diego Athletics unique?
Rue- We’ve achieved local, regional and national prominence in a broad array of sports with little fanfare and notice. Our student-athletes meet the same admission standards as other students, get few perks, yet work incredibly hard. We’ve come far and fast, and a lot of people get the credit for that—a true team effort.
Q- Where do you envision UC San Diego Athletics in 10 years?
Rue- What I’d really like to change is the fanfare. We deserve full stands and daily newspaper coverage. Some of our athletes should be signing autographs. They’re great role models who will go on to be successful in something other than sports, like the NCAA ads say.
Q- What athlete or coach (at any level) do you find interesting? Why?
Rue- I have long been in awe of Greg Louganis, whom I got to see in person at a small diving exhibition in 1976 and again when he gave a speech at Georgetown in 1988. It’s very hard to achieve perfection in a sport with so many variables. As a diver myself, I had a real sense of the scope of his talent.
Q- Do you have a favorite place on campus?
Rue- Canyonview pool at 6 am .
Q- What new experiences and interests have you had since coming to San Diego? Rue- Fish tacos! Long walks on the beach, whenever I want. Cactus and succulent gardening. Q- What would you like your UC San Diego legacy to be? Rue-Creating a sense of community that builds lifelong bonds to UC San Diego for our students.
Q- What new experiences and interests have you had since coming to San Diego?
Rue- Fish tacos! Long walks on the beach, whenever I want. Cactus and succulent gardening. Q- What would you like your UC San Diego legacy to be? Rue-Creating a sense of community that builds lifelong bonds to UC San Diego for our students.
Q- What would you like your UC San Diego legacy to be?
Rue-Creating a sense of community that builds lifelong bonds to UC San Diego for our students.
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