Ruthina Malone Administrator University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Many of her daughter’s classmates caught a ride to school with Ruthina Malone. “Oftentimes, I would end up collecting children on the way,” Ms. Malone recalled. “My mom did the same thing for us growing up. Even […]
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Ruthina Malone Administrator University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Many of her daughter’s classmates caught a ride to school with Ruthina Malone. “Oftentimes, I would end up collecting children on the way,” Ms. Malone recalled. “My mom did the same thing for us growing up. Even though she was a single mom, she stayed involved in our education. That was somebody I wanted to model when I had my own family.” Beginning as a classroom volunteer and treasurer of the Parent Teacher Organization, Ms. Malone remains involved even after her daughter’s 2018 graduation. She won her second four-year term on the Iowa City Community School Board. “School board was the next logical decision,” Ms. Malone said. “I think it’s important to continue to try and work to leave a place just a little better than when I came there.” Ms. Malone’s course — from campus activities as a University of Iowa student to her present position as an administrator in its Department of Sociology’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences — has been similar in her involvement at all levels of the organization. Ms. Malone, 45, first came to Iowa City from Chicago as a high school sophomore. She participated in a program for inner-city students at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. “I was one of Nick Colangelo’s kids,” is how Ms. Malone puts it. Dr. Colangelo was the dean of UI’s College of Education through 2016. “Dr. Colangelo and his staff instilled in us that not only could we have a great life, but through our education and giving back to our community and even as students, we could have an impact,” she said. Ms. Malone then won an Iowa scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. Her early university jobs included administrative assistant, secretary and office coordinator. Mary Kenyon, communications specialist for the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute, describes Ms. Malone as “a hard worker and goal oriented.” “She sets her sights on where she wants to be, and she does the work,” Ms. Kenyon said. Both Ms. Malone’s roles provided more than the usual share of crises through the COVID-19 pandemic and political disruptions of the past 18 months. “It’s been a wild ride,” she said of the school board experience. “We have the normal educational business of day-to-day school district activities, now throw in a pandemic. It was a matter of figuring out how to navigate the system with restrictions being put in place, and just taking care of yourself.” On-campus, Ms. Malone supervised her department’s move to remote work during the pandemic’s early days. “Ruthina managed the crisis with extraordinary skill and dedication,“ wrote Psychological & Brain Sciences Department Chair Mark Blumberg. “She even spent many hours one weekend applying tape to all our public furniture to enforce social distancing and establish other safety guidelines.” “Day-to-day, it’s always something new and different,” she said. “Most of my job is a problem solver. I’m the first line of defense that my faculty, staff and students come to. If it’s not in my wheelhouse, I definitely work to make sure they get in touch with the right person.” “She sees where leadership and coordination are called for and steps up to fill the need,” Mr. Blumberg added. Janet Godwin first met Ms. Malone in 2017, when both women were running for school board. “That summer we set up our campaign tables at the Iowa City farmer’s market every Saturday morning, and I got to see first-hand Ruthina’s work ethic, passion for public education, and focus on equity and social justice,” recalls Ms. Godwin, the CEO of the ACT testing group. Ms. Malone “is a true leader “on the school board,” Iowa City Community Schools Superintendent Matt Degner wrote. “Throughout the pandemic, Ruthina has been a steady, strong and assertive presence. She has led in a way that is always respectful of her constituents while keeping a students-first mentality.” Mr. Degner credits Ms. Malone’s work to design and implement the district’s plan to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. “She speaks voice to our structurally disadvantaged and those that can be forgotten by our institutions and champions their success,” Mr. Degner wrote. Continuing progress on those issues is a goal for Ms. Malone’s second term, as it is for her job at UI. “We’re diving more into diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said, “and we’re doing great work in our department, making sure we’re attracting diverse students and faculty — not just racially diverse, but it’s really important that we get more women in the sciences.” Similarly, Ms. Malone wants the school system to look more like its students and families. “Kindergarten through sixth grade doesn’t have a lot of male teachers,” she said. “I think it’s important for kids to see teachers who look like them.”