50 Influencers: Dr. Susan Tomlin, the traveled teacher

INA, Ill. (Nov. 11, 2017) - The world is Dr. Susan Santoro Tomlin’s classroom, and luckily for 26 years (1984-2010) she brought a number of Rend Lake College students along for the ride. Thanks to her efforts, RLC students were treated to a number of cultural and historical experiences that allowed them to not only learn, but become more rounded individuals.

With a Ph.D. in Sociology, a M.S. in Guidance Counseling (both from SIUC, 1992 and 1981 respectively) and an undergraduate degree in Special Education (Illinois State 1977), Tomlin was focused not only on helping and educating but also understanding the cause-and-effect nature of the world around her. That focus, along with no small measure of dedication, led to her receiving the Rend Lake College Faculty Excellence Award in 1995. An educator only needs three signatures to be nominated. A whopping 25 signatures of recommendation were on the letter nominating Tomlin for the honor.

tomlin awardWDr. Sue Tomlin accepts the Rend Lake College Faculty Excellence Award from former RLC President Mark Kern, left, and former RLCF Executive Director Herb Winemiller, Jr.

Tomlin “brings diversity in terms of academic training and instructional experience together ...” noted her nominating letter. “She demonstrates her impact on students outside the classroom by arranging field trips to local prisons; she also has several projects for her students involving service to the community, which can be very powerful and educational experiences for many of them.”

“While [her] merits will hopefully stand on their own, they cannot fully describe the valuable contributions Sue makes to her students, the Business / Social Science Dept., Rend Lake College and the community,” the letter concluded.

Just the year before her Excellence Award nod, Tomlin was nominated by one of her students for Who’s Who Among Community College Teachers and was a participant the year before that in the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad program to Brazil. She also was recipient of the college’s Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Endowed Chair for Global Education in 1991. She also served as Faculty Advisor for the RLC Human Services Club and Program Review committees, as well as the statewide Illinois Community College Advisory Committee.

Tomlin’s time in Brazil was just a small sample of the globetrotting that she has done in her life. Luckily, RLC students also benefited from her love of travel and culture. She is widely remembered for heading up the International Studies Programs, taking students to educational destinations like Jamaica for marine biology or to France, Mexico, England, Costa Rica, Italy, Spain, Morocco and Ireland to study history and culture.

tomlin at deskWDr. Tomlin hard at work at her desk

It wasn’t just students who gained a more worldly experience, she also helped bring international experiences to her fellow educators.

Tomlin applied for and directed a $145,000 Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grant, which enabled eight RLC faculty members to spend 10 weeks in Japan and to internationalize courses at Rend Lake College. She also participated in an Illinois Consortium of International Studies and Programs (ICISP) Exchange to the Netherlands.

Closer to home, Tomlin provided a new cultural and development program, helping bring the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to RLC with fellow instructor Dave Junkins. This innovative program takes RLC students and Jefferson County Justice Center inmates and asks them to look at issues outside the cell block. The two groups meet face-to-face, six hours each week in a semester, and discuss the criminal justice system – as well as relevant current events in politics, economics and society.

Tomlin carries a passion for lifelong learning and promoting educational opportunities for the retired residents of the district. She was recognized as the statewide recipient of the Lifelong Learning Instructor Award in 2006. Tomlin taught for the Institute for Learning in Retirement since its 1999 inception.

“Dr. Tomlin is an asset to both Rend Lake College and its Institute for Learning in Retirement. She is a true educator, both in and outside the classroom. Sue has touched and inspired numerous individuals to continue learning through her very own passion for education,” said Lori Ragland, then Vice President of Career Technical Instruction, in Tomlin’s letter of recommendation for the honor.

“Dr. Tomlin typically teaches 18 hours a semester (12 is the norm), with 180 to 200 students. While this alone would be daunting for many teachers, it only sets the groundwork for Dr. Tomlin’s contributions to the community and the college,” expressed former RLC Liberal Arts Division Chair Chris Kuberski.

“She offers transportation to Rend Lake College cultural events to several senior citizens from her community. Dr. Tomlin does not just offer lifelong learning opportunities to others, but she demonstrates a personal commitment to learning by taking classes, traveling and volunteering. Furthermore, she does not wait for others to offer the opportunities; she seeks them out and often creates them herself. She is highly respected by her students, colleagues and community. She is very deserving of recognition for her dedication to lifelong learning.”

Students, fellow faculty members, inmates and retirees – Tomlin brought important educational opportunities to all of them during her remarkable career at RLC, and her passion for education, learning and the future of the community remain strong even after retirement. She continues to support the college and its students through the Rend Lake College Foundation, and was even the featured guest speaker at the recent 2017 Annual Foundation Scholarship Dinner.

Tomlin’s passion and dedication to education and those around her has not just influenced, but personally touched thousands of lives for the better.

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