Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships goes directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.
Today’s interview is with Union alumna Twyla J. Cummings, who earned her Ph.D. in 1992 with a concentration in Management. She currently serves as the associate provost and dean of Graduate Education at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In the Q&A below, Dr. Cummings discusses the important role her Union degree played in transforming her career aspirations in corporate America and higher education. She believes in paying it forward and asks fellow alumni to remember how they were supported during their own educational journey and their appreciation of the support they received.
Q. You are paying your degree forward by investing in Union and its students. Why do you choose to invest in Union’s students?
A. The phrase “knowledge is power” is often stated. I understand and believe in the power and value of education. Pursuing an advanced degree is a challenge for anyone, but for those who work full time while trying to accomplish this goal, the challenge is even greater. I suspect that many Union graduate students are dealing with this type of challenge. Therefore, I hope that my gift makes a small difference.
Q. What did your degree and your Union experience do for your career?
A. Pursuing a doctoral degree was a personal goal. While I wanted this credential, I did not know how I would be able to accomplish this while working in corporate America. My position at the time was quite demanding and required a great deal of travel. When I learned about Union, I knew I had found a university that would allow me to realize this goal while maintaining my job. The experiences and the pathways to the degree greatly expanded my knowledge and forced me to stretch and grow beyond my comfort zone. Additionally, the structure of the degree really helped me understand and appreciate the value of interdisciplinary education.
When I decided to leave industry, my doctoral degree and my professional experience positioned me for my current academic journey. It provided the credentials necessary to open doors, which would not have been available otherwise. The knowledge gained from the degree allowed me to pursue in-depth research, to become an expert in my field and to transition from an assistant professor to my current role as associate provost and dean.
Q. Union is known for its commitment to social justice. Does that aspect of the university influence your decision to invest in Union and its students? If so, how?
A. I appreciate Union’s commitment to social justice. I feel that this is a commitment that should be expected of all faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
Q. Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. Can you share how this goal may have impacted you?
A. An interdisciplinary program structure like Union’s provides opportunities for individuals to shape their degrees in ways that align with their passions and areas of interest. As a Union doctoral student, one can focus on the areas that are relevant for their future career or on disciplines that will further advance them in a current role.
I realize that there have been many changes in the curricula and programs since I completed my degree, but I believe that the intent remains the same.
Q. Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. Can you share how this goal may have impacted you and your career?
A. Education at all levels transforms lives and thus can enhance communities. Earning a doctoral degree has positioned me to be able to excel in higher education. I am pleased that providing this type of learning has become more familiar and acceptable as an alternative to traditional doctoral programs.
Q. What else would you tell prospective donors about why they should give to Union?
A. Working at a university has helped me to understand the value of giving back my time, talent, and treasure. Students have so many unmet needs. Therefore, it is essential to encourage alumni and donors to support initiatives that will assist with student success. It is important to engage donors and allow them to provide support in areas that are meaningful to them. Having that understanding motivates me to make contributions and hopefully a difference.
If alumni like myself do not contribute, there will continue to be students with unmet needs who will not have sufficient funding to attend universities like Union without incurring a staggering amount of debt. It is not always possible for one alum or donor to give large amounts, but if several individuals come together to support a cause, it will make a difference.
Lastly, my message to prospective donors would be to think about their own educational journey, how they were supported, and to remember how grateful they were to receive this funding.
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About Dr. Cummings
Twyla J. Cummings, Ph.D., is dean of Graduate Education and associate provost at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Prior to this appointment, she served as the senior associate dean for Graduate Studies and Faculty Research in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS), and as professor in the School of Media Sciences at RIT.
Dr. Cummings began her career at RIT in 1999 as a tenure track faculty member. She was the graduate director for the M.S. degree in Print Media from 2002-2009, with oversight for the development of two new graduate programs. In 2006, she was appointed to the Paul and Louise Miller Distinguished Professorship.Dr. Cummings’ teaching and research is focused in the areas of media distribution, media business industry trends, and women in graphic communication. She is a frequent speaker on critical trends in post-press, service diversification, and other issues impacting the graphic communication industry. She is past board member of the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL; now EPICOMM) and the Board of Governors for the former R & E Council of NAPL. Dr. Cummings is a past member of the America East Advisory Board where she was the chairperson for the 2014 America East Conference. She is a member of the prestigious Walter E. Soderstrom and Nonpareil Societies of NAPL and the R & E Council. In 2013 she was inducted into the OutputLinks Communications Group’s Women of Distinction program. She was recognized with the Printing Industries of America’s 2015 Naomi Berber Memorial Award. Prior to her work at Rochester Institute of Technology, Dr. Cummings had an extensive career at Eastman Kodak Company in Dayton, Ohio.. While at Kodak, she was promoted from her first position as an ink chemist in R&D and quality assurance to levels of increasing responsibility, including marketing management, product management, and strategic management.
In addition to her professional commitments, she has been actively involved in the Rochester community. She is the past Board chair of the Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation. Previously she served as Board chair for the YWCA of Rochester and as a board member for the Rochester Women’s Network. She currently serves as a member of the YWCA Board Advisory Council.
Diversity is integral to every aspect of her role. Diversity and inclusion impacts her teaching, research, recruitment/retention, mentoring, and programming. Dr. Cummings is the recipient of the 2013 RIT Changing Hearts, Changing Minds Award and the 2014 Isaac L. Jordan, Sr. Faculty Pluralism Award. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry and a M.S. in Business and Industrial Management from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.