Sarah Roche Receives Sul Ross RGC Distinguished Faculty Award

 Dr. Sarah Roche

By Laura Nelson

Dr. Sarah Roche, professor of English and Chair of Humanities Department at Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College, has received the President’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award.

She joins Dr. Louis Harveson, professor of Natural Resource Management and the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. Endowed Director of the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) of SRSU Alpine, the first recipients of the prestigious award.

Dr. Bill Kibler, President of Sul Ross State University, said, “The selection of Dr. Harveson and Dr. Roche as the university’s first Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award recipients definitely meets the anticipated standards of excellence. Their respective accomplishments embody the goals this university strives to meet.”

Requirements for faculty nominated for the award include full professor rank plus 10 years of service at Sul Ross State University and nominees must demonstrate a record of distinguished achievement in teaching, scholarship, and service to the community, state, and nation. In addition to the Distinguished Faculty designation, recipients receive a cash award, a special medallion, and a gift. Dr. Roche’s award will be presented at RGC’s spring commencement ceremony set for Saturday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Del Rio Civic Center.

Dr. Roche, known familiarly as Sally, began her teaching career at Rio Grande College in 1999 as an assistant professor, moving up to associate professor in 2005 and on to full professor in 2011. She chaired the Quality Enhancement Plan committee and wrote the committee's initial plan for enhancing student writing at RGC, which was approved by the regional accrediting body. She has also served as Chair of the Humanities department for the past six years, managing the administrative duties and providing faculty support within that area. She was based at the RGC campus in Del Rio, but now oversees the operation of the RGC site in Castroville that opened in 2015.

One of her most notable accomplishments has been the establishment and coordination of the Writing Center, a cooperative effort between Southwest Texas Junior College and RGC. The Center provides one-on-one, free peer writing assistance available to all SWTJC and RGC students. The program offers on-campus support for writers as well as professional experience for tutors. Sally said she appreciates working with SWTJC to contribute to a four-year college experience for writing center student clients.

Sally’s family left Australia to settle in Tennessee when she was a young woman, where she started her college career at Middle Tennessee State University. Intimidated by the thought of higher education, she took her studies seriously. The new immigrant eventually decided to study English and earned her undergraduate degree from Sewanee, a small liberal arts college in Tennessee. She returned to MTSU for a master’s in English. After presenting a scholarly paper on Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” she gained confidence when she discovered she could have a public voice. She realized that teaching could be a path for her, and this turning point led her to the Texas A&M doctoral program in English.

She serves as a devoted advocate for the students she teaches, and said, "I value the opportunities I have to help provide higher education to such a large geographical region that would not otherwise have a local university." Sally appreciates the daily, small ways she can help students, as she advises them about managing the demands of family, work, and academics or as she prepares them for the job market with advice and letters of recommendation. Sally enjoys working with SWTJC instructors whom she taught as graduate students or who tutored at the writing center. One of her favorite teaching experiences was serving as a mentor for the award-winning Del Rio High School FIRST Robotics Team 4063, TRikzR4kiDz. “The things I love about teaching at RGC are the partnerships with the Alpine English Department, the junior college, local high schools, and libraries; good changes happen when we work together,” she said.

Dr. Roche anticipates a bright future for RGC students. She hopes to collaborate with writing center coordinators and tutors on research related to tutoring English language learners and to further develop opportunities for tutors to participate in professional writing center conferences and organizations. She plans to initiate faculty-student research and to develop internships for humanities students.

She has engaged in a number of scholarly pursuits. She served as a Teagle Assessment Scholar for six years, assisting faculty at RGC and other colleges and universities incorporate evidence-based assessment to strengthen the impact of liberal arts education.

Her other outside activities include serving as President of the Texas Council of Faculty Senates and membership in the International Writing Centers Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Texas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts.

Sally became an American citizen in 2012 in a ceremony held at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. She and husband Mike have two children. Their son Robert is currently studying engineering at Texas A&M, and their daughter, Rosalind, is heading to the Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas in Austin in this fall.