Career Profile: Rosann Poltrone

Rosann Poltrone resides in Littleton, Colorado where she serves as Instructor of Geography and Chair of the Social Sciences Department (anthropology, geography, history, and political science) at Arapahoe Community College (ACC). Prior to her ten-year academic career, Rosann worked with several consulting companies in the Denver area as an environmental scientist responsible for environmental assessments, regulatory compliance, permitting, and hazardous waste site investigations. She holds a B.A. in physical geography from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a M.A. in geography from the University of Wyoming.

This profile was published in 2003. Rosann is currently a distinguished faculty member in Geography at Arapahoe Community College. 

AAG: How many students do you have in your geography courses at the community college?

Rosann: I typically have 20 to 25 students, although more, 90 to 100, in the world regional geography class. That’s what people want when they come here to the community college—the basic transfer classes, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get people interested in geography and expand their horizons.

AAG: And maybe major in geography?

Rosann: And maybe major in geography. We’ve had a couple.

AAG: Are most of them undecided?

Rosann: A lot of our students are in education and want to teach K-12, so it’s an opportunity to introduce future teachers to geography. Rarely do students come in and say, “I want to be a geography major.” That’s my job to tell them it’s wonderful.

AAG: What other courses have you taught?

Rosann: Other than world regional geography, there is physical geography and intro to environmental science, or human ecology. I previously taught physical geology, environmental geology, site assessment, environmental sampling, and air, water, and land issues.

AAG: I imagine your previous professional experience is useful in the classroom, too?

Rosann: Yes, certainly. It’s an advantage. I can come in and talk about how I did it there in my classes. You see, I still consider myself to be an environmental scientist. And I worked as a consultant for almost eight years. I was laid off and decided to try teaching. I started with one course, then they took my position full time, and that’s how I ended up as the geography department.

AAG: The geography department?

Rosann: I am the department. The one and only!

AAG: What are the advantages and disadvantages of that?

Rosann: Well, you do it all! I hire and train adjunct instructors, schedule classes, manage the budget, serve on the curriculum committee, and do department chair duties for 4 departments. On top of teaching 5-6 classes per semester, you also have to learn new things and find funding for projects. For example, when I hear people say, “Hey I do all that GIS” and I say “Where were you when I needed you?” But here it’s the kind of thing, I’m going to have to do it.

AAG: So do you work with other geographers?

Rosann: Not as much as I’d like to! I’m pretty much kind of out here by myself, a lonely geographer. I’m going to the applied geography conference in Colorado Springs and to the early career faculty development workshop in Boulder. And, we do have the metro area universities and four year schools to feed students into and link up with.

AAG: And the AAG Community College Affinity Group?

Rosann: Yes, that too.

AAG: How long have you been a member?

Rosann: I’ve been a member off and on since I was an undergrad, about twenty years.

AAG: How is it helpful to you?

Rosann: I read the journals and newsletters and see my friends and have gone to the meetings. Not too often. What I’ve found is that there is nobody to teach for me if I go, since I am the only one here.

AAG: Do you plan to return to consulting or stay at the community college?

Rosann: I’m very happy teaching as long as they want me here. Recently, my position was cut from full time down 25% and they cut my salary 40%. Now I’m doing my extra load at the part time rate. I have kept benefits, but it’s sad because there’s not very many people out there qualified to teach. We require a master’s here and don’t pay very much and then the hours are strange, nighttime, you know. I sometimes do “free-lance” consulting, but I find teaching to be the most rewarding thing I have done in my career.

AAG: What are the rewards?

Rosann: There are many students out there who flounder in huge university classes. I feel that the smaller classes of a community college give them an opportunity to get their feet wet, and learn “I can do it.” Here they have the extra time and they can recognize they can do it. . . . We have many special programs here where they get help. . . .It’s a lot of fun watching the students who were once discouraged excel and graduate. I have a few of their graduation pictures on my wall with their business cards from their new careers, and it’s just delightful! That’s why I like teaching, something new every day. And, you are helping people succeed.

Dr. Patricia Solis, 2003