“For sure, the students want to change the world,” said Rocca. “They want to make a positive difference, and I want to nurture that. I want to prepare them to succeed and thrive and go on to do great things.” Photos: John Eisele/CSU Photography
Monique Rocca — a forest ecologist who has studied how forests change after fires or due to climate change and beetle outbreaks — teaches students about fire ecology, ecosystem science and sustainability.
In the last few years of her 15 years at Colorado State University, she has become more involved in academic administration and was recently appointed associate dean for academic affairs in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
In this new role, Rocca will focus on student success and teaching excellence, exploring how to reward effective teaching and service in a better way. She will work with an existing team focused on accessibility, diversity and inclusion to make sure degree programs allow students from diverse backgrounds to thrive.
Rocca said she will also review curriculum across the college, with an eye toward creating cross-cutting programs that would appeal to and prepare students to meet the challenges of the future.
“When students come to CSU, we want them to know that they’re supported, they will succeed and go on to do great things,” she said.
Warner College Dean John Hayes said Rocca has a strong background and passion for leadership.
“Her strengths in this arena will greatly benefit Warner College in her role as associate dean,” he said. “She enters the position with innovative ideas on ways that we can advance student success and educational excellence and is committed to work to take our diversity and inclusion efforts to the next level. I am thrilled that she has stepped up and will be playing this important service role.”
Rocca previously served as associate head of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and helped to create the related major. She has directed curriculum development, approaching it from the angle of what CSU students need to succeed, and helped faculty envision a student-centric approach in the classroom.
A leader for gender equity
Rocca is also co-chair of the Council for Gender Equity on the Faculty, a position she shares with Ruth Hufbauer, co-chair and a professor in the Department of Agricultural Biology.
The council is currently working on ways to recognize faculty service, support non-tenured faculty on equitable pay and ensuring a viable career pathway, and to support parents and women who, studies have shown, are statistically more likely to fall behind on research, grant submissions and publications due to COVID-19.
“Monique has a vision for what will help improve the university and support students and faculty,” said Hufbauer. “She was instrumental in launching ENCIRCLE, a mentoring network aimed at women, which came out of the Council for Gender Equity on the Faculty. That’s her baby, and it’s a program that the university sorely needed.”
Hufbauer said Rocca is thoughtful in her approach to work, with high standards and high expectations.
“It will be great having her in this new role in the Warner College,” she said.
Our students ‘want to change the world’
Rocca said she is inspired in her work by students in Warner College.
“For sure, the students want to change the world,” she said. “They want to make a positive difference, and I want to nurture that. I want to prepare them to succeed and thrive and go on to do great things.”
Rocca said that supporting students helps faculty and staff, by extension.
“I find it personally rewarding to be in that role,” she said. “I like bringing people together, working towards an outcome and getting things done.”
Professor Steven Fassnacht has taught Intro to Ecosystem and Watershed Science with Rocca over the last three years. He has also known her since she landed at CSU.
Fassnacht described Rocca as providing “a calm voice in these current difficult times,” noting that she has always been thoughtful in her approach to work.
In her role as associate department head, “she did a great job keeping the department moving as an academic unit, paying attention to diverging demands between faculty instructional support, student needs for teaching assistant positions and ensuring equitable resource allocation,” he said.
“Monique has such a positive, uplifting attitude that inspires students,” Fassnacht said. “She will be a strong advocate for our students, both undergraduate and graduate, and will ensure that their voices are heard.”