Staff Spotlight: Meet Rick Robb, Sr. Student Success Specialist

April 29, 2022

a bearded Rick Robb smiles for the camera in sunglasses with his garden behind him

If you’ve ever called or emailed UNM Online, Rick Robb was likely that friendly, caring, and helpful voice you spoke with. He’s been the Sr. Student Success Specialist for UNM Online since 2020, though his journey to finding his passion for helping students had a few challenges.

After years of thinking he wasn’t university material, in his mid-40s a friend encouraged Rick to come to college for the first time.

“It was a struggle,” he says. “I was a single parent and worked full-time managing advertising for a regional business. I had very little time to do anything.”

Not everything was as difficult as he’d imagined. “I’d been out of high school for nearly 30 years,” he said, “and was unsure of what to expect. I was relieved when most of my grades were A’s and I made the Dean’s List.” Being an older student helped him a lot, with maturity and life experience being a boon to learning.

Finding His Way in Academia

headshot of Rick Robb

Rick Robb has worked at UNM since 2009 and has been the Sr. Student Success Specialist for UNM Online for the past two years.

After a few years of finding his academic footing at CNM, he transferred to UNM as an undergraduate where he received his BA in English in 2009. He graduated magna cum laude from UNM and his senior thesis earned him summa cum laude from the Department of English Language and Literature.

That Fall, he was admitted to UNM's MFA program in Creative Writing. “I was told that, as a condition of being admitted to the program, I would be teaching a couple of first-year composition classes each semester — an idea that terrified me. I was not a public speaker.”

But his desire to continue his education overcame his dread of talking in front of groups and it was there, in the classroom, that he found his passion to help students.

“Helping people to understand their job of being college students made me forget my fears and feel like I was making a difference. I was able to work with my students one-on-one, helping them with struggles in my classes and the general college experience.”

He enjoyed that feeling so much that, after getting his MFA in 2012, he stayed on at UNM, teaching both Composition and Professional & Technical Writing for another seven years.

As a First-Generation student — the first in his family to earn a high school diploma, pursue a bachelor’s degree, and enter a graduate program — he understands how hard it can be when a student doesn’t have the support of family members. “Some of the students I’ve worked with over the years had family members who believed college was a waste. But more often, the family just didn’t have any experience with higher education and so didn’t know how to guide and support the student.”

Moving to UNM Online

When his current position with UNM Online opened, Rick saw an opportunity to continue working one-on-one. These days, he talks with people interested in online degree programs, helping them discover if online learning is for them, and discussing the details of the various programs. But he’s also there to assist students already enrolled in a program who need to know where to find other help.

“In my time at UNM Online,” he goes on to say, “I’ve been able to relate to so many obstacles current and prospective students are trying to overcome. Whether they’re older non-traditional students, first-generation students, transfer students, veterans, single-parents, or people working full-time jobs while attending school, I’ve been where these students are.”

“I would love to know what online students are going through today,” he adds. “What is their life like for them post-pandemic? Are the struggles timeless or has something profoundly shifted?” UNM Online Virtual Office Hours is a great way for students to connect. They’re hosted through Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A chat by Zoom is available outside of those hours too. To arrange something, email Rick at online@unm.edu or call 505-277-9000.

 

Join the Tuesday / Thursday Virtual Office Hours via Zoom