Making Connections: Dr. Rochelle “Ro” Gilbert
Student Affairs Dean Dr. Rochelle Gilbert expands outreach to support alumni.
When Dr. Rochelle “Ro” Gilbert, EdD, joined Walden in 2010, she was looking for more than a job: She wanted to build an impactful career. In Walden, she saw a university aligned with her beliefs in transformational leadership, positive social change, and lifelong learning. An organization where she could not only put down roots but also foster growth for herself and Walden students.
Today, she is living that vision. In October 2020, after serving as associate academic director of University Residencies and director and senior director of operations for Academic Residencies, Gilbert accepted a new position as dean of Student Affairs. In this role, she brings together her broad experience as a results-oriented business leader and educational champion to help support and develop the next generation of Walden students.
Recently, Gilbert sat down for a Q&A session to share more about her life, career, and experience at Walden.
Q: Congratulations on your promotion. Can you tell us about your vision for Student Affairs?
Gilbert: I’m honored to have this opportunity to be a part of the exciting work that’s happening here at Walden and to lead such a dynamic and passionate team. Our office consists of student affairs, student organizations, disability services, and interconnectedness with the academic units. My overarching vision is for Student Affairs to be that premier division that provides accessible programs and services.
One of my goals is to make sure to create and maintain relationships with our students throughout their entire Walden journey, from the time they first explore our programs to long after they graduate. We want our community to know that, no matter what, we are here when they need it—whether they are preparing for a job interview, writing beyond their dissertation, or are just looking for extra resources.
Q: You’ve been a role model and mentor for countless people throughout your career. Who are some of your role models?
Gilbert: I would definitely have to say one person would be my mother, Clara Gilbert. Mother has always been a beacon of light and support for me in any endeavor. She has always encouraged me to progress, move forward … to never stop because there’s always a higher height that you can obtain, remembering that it is just as important to bring others with you along the way. My father, the late Charles L. Gilbert, was also instrumental in being a role model. Everyone at his job knew who I was. He constantly talked about me: “My daughter is doing this; my daughter is doing that.” Whereas I never considered the things that I did to be story-worthy, or noteworthy, he was extremely proud and made sure he provided stability for our home and practiced resilience in any challenges that he faced. Additionally, my husband, Dr. Sean Abram, and brother, Jerome Gilbert, have been incredibly supportive of my journey as well.
Q: What ignited your passion for learning?
Gilbert: My interest in education was influenced by my family; in particular, my great-grandfather, Papa (Willis Broom). Although Papa was never afforded the chance to go to school, he valued education. Papa esteemed education so much that he allowed aspiring teachers to reside in his home, free of charge, while attending school. Papa learned from them by listening to their academic sharings and having meaningful conversations. He believed that education was the key to life. Papa provided a service that ignited the fire of the majority of my family members to become educators.
Q: What advice would you offer students for getting the most from their Walden experience?
Gilbert: As a Walden student or as a leader, one of the goals typically is to enhance your leadership abilities, and you can do that through a collaborative approach to skill development and augmentation. To do that, I would encourage any student to network, network, network. Walden offers numerous resources through our student organizations, honor societies, and student support teams. In addition to networking, I would encourage students to find that person, resource, event, or group that enables them to make and keep a connection with the Walden community, one that fits them as a person and helps it align to where they are going.
Q: How has your Walden education influenced your life and career?
Gilbert: I tell people that I chose Walden! Walden may have selected me, but I chose Walden! I say this because I chose Walden as a place to not only work, but I chose to matriculate through a degree program to ensure I captured the student experience. In 2014, I earned my Executive MBA and I recently completed all the coursework for my MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling. Walden’s positive social change mission aligned to my philanthropic mission of creating change and being that change. I have always desired to make a difference by helping those in need, promoting excellence, maximizing one’s potential, and being the partner of that person who, too, can be a change agent for others.