Lifelong Connections: Rod Parks

As university registrar, Rodney Parks is always looking for ways to innovate and improve existing processes. As an educator and mentor, his focus is on equipping students with the skills necessary to explore their individual paths.

Rod Parks, Elon’s registrar

By Lauren Silverman ’19

I met Rod during my first year at Elon when he was my Elon 101 professor and adviser. Like many Elon students, I got involved with a long list of extracurricular activities early on, which unsurprisingly contributed to my chronic feelings of overextension and stress. That first year I was stretched entirely too thin, but from the start, no matter the endeavor, Rod was a constant source of encouragement and support. I have a handful of stories that demonstrate the negative impacts of my over-involvement, but I’ve heard that one in particular has become quite popular in Rod’s Elon 101 classes.

It involves 18-year-old me, panicking about how overwhelmed I was feeling with everything spanning from classes and extracurriculars to the woes in my personal and social life. After spending nearly an hour on the verge of tears, fretting over this mainly self-imposed pressure, I asked Rod to write me a letter of recommendation for a spot in yet another organization.

Now, it’s clear that I was in no position to add a new obligation to my plate of commitments, but Rod, an advocate for experiential learning, happily agreed to recommend me — despite the likely possibility that I would end up back in his office in a similar (or worse) state. This approach may seem irresponsible to some, but this is where Rod’s knack for mentorship truly lies. In that conversation, as well as in the many that would follow throughout the years, he never told me what I should or shouldn’t do. Rather, he consistently encouraged me to evaluate all of the facts in front of me. Instead of giving his opinions, Rod encouraged me to develop my own skills and awareness in critical self-reflection so that I could become a more confident, self-reliant scholar and individual.

His mentoring skills do not end with the lessons he adroitly imparts. Thanks to Rod, I never felt alone. He always made himself available to provide support. Even when saddled with the responsibility of leading our Wilderness and Adventure Therapy class to the top of the Rainbow Mountains in Peru, Rod happily discussed my interest in applying to graduate school for social work, a choice that would change my entire career trajectory. When I decided to apply, Rod was there to guide me through the process and remind me of the strength of my candidacy when I had doubts.

Rod is one of a kind, a true embodiment of the phrase, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” He has guided me through experiences that have helped to develop my strengths, leadership skills and overall perspective of my own positionality in the world. I will forever be extraordinarily thankful for all of the support, both as a mentor and friend, that Rod has shown me throughout the years.

A public health studies and statistics double major, Lauren Irene Silverman ’19 is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical social work at Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work.