Living with the Humanities: Dr. Rob Steinmetz

Patrick Walters

Living with the Humanities is a series inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, which began as a game popularized by the French essayist and novelist, Marcel Proust in the 19th century. In this series, PCC faculty, students, staff, board members and administrators share their personal experiences with the arts and humanities and the role that they play in their work at PCC and the broader world.

“There are so many roles that the arts and humanities plays in a college. The primary work we do is to teach students to think critically and learn what is commonly referred to as “soft skills”. Arts and humanities are a pivotal part of this work. The role, of course, goes far beyond pure intellectual growth. Arts and humanities allow for the expression of thought and emotion that are unique from other academic areas at a college.” – Dr. Rob Steinmetz

Beginning August 1, 2017, Dr. Rob Steinmetz became the vice-president of student affairs for Portland Community College.  Rob helps provide leadership and vision to all areas of student affairs including campus student development offices, enrollment management, and student success. He also co-chairs the colleges Achieving the Dream effort, Yes to Equitable Student Success (YESS).

In addition to an Associate of Science from Chattanooga State, Rob has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, as well as a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama.

Rob Steinmetz headshot

Which book have you read the most times?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

When do you listen to music?

Whenever possible: when I’m at my desk at work, in the car, while working out.

Which literary character do you admire the most?

Huckleberry Finn

What is the last film you saw in a theater?

A Star is Born…ah-mazing!

What was the first record you remember buying?

Billy Joel, Piano Man

Which work of art that you saw in a museum moved you or stopped you in your tracks?

The David

When you think of your high school years, what music comes to mind?

Garth Brooks, The Dance was the first thing that came to mind.

What are your guilty pleasures in books, films, music?

David Sedaris is my escape during difficult times. I also love Dan Brown and Harry Potter books when I want to go back to something that’s just fun. I also love comedy films, so movies like Clue, the Princess Bride, and Noises Off are some favorites. I absolutely love Broadway musicals, so many of them are guilty pleasures I go to, including Wicked, Hedwig, Hamilton, and Dear Evan Hansen.

Which emotions are evoked by the art you admire?

Sadness or joy

How has your life been shaped or influenced by the arts and humanities?

I’ve often said that theatre saved my life. I was an introverted and disconnected student in high school. My junior year, I got involved in theatre and I began to come out of my shell. I began attending a community college when I finished high school, I quickly got involved in the theatre department. This allowed me to feel engaged at the college, think critically, make friends, and grow in confidence. I can confidently say that without these early experiences, it’s very unlikely that I would have felt motivated to succeed in college and be where I am today.

What is the role of the arts and humanities in a college?

There are so many roles that the arts and humanities plays in a college. The primary work we do is to teach students to think critically and learn what is commonly referred to as “soft skills”. Arts and humanities are a pivotal part of this work. The role, of course, goes far beyond pure intellectual growth. Arts and humanities allow for the expression of thought and emotion that are unique from other academic areas at a college.

Are the arts and humanities today threatened or in decline? If so, why?

It certainly feels like the arts and humanities are generally be threatened in today’s climate. It seems that students, government, and others are setting a higher priority on “gaining a skill” over learning how to appreciate the world around us and think critically. While gaining a specific skill is certainly part of what students need, engaging in liberal arts, including the arts and humanities, will help with long-term success and being a good citizen of the world.