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Ralph Henderson & Eric Pemberton

Instructor committed to networking, sustainability

“Ralph Henderson is dedicated to the program, to students, and to students’ success,” says student Eric Pemberton. “As long as students are trying, he’ll do whatever it takes to help them get through and learn.”

Henderson, the program coordinator, also networks with construction industry leaders to help students get jobs in the field, Pemberton noted. And he’s continuously building the program around what the industry will want in the future as building materials and techniques evolve.

“Green” or sustainable technology is clearly the future for the building industry, Henderson said. Increasingly, RCC classes are focusing on emerging technologies, helping students get ready and current industry workers stay up-to-date.

Henderson says his role in helping students succeed does not end at graduation. He connects grads with employers and helps them build resume writing and interviewing skills.

“We are very much into networking,” Henderson explained. He helped set up student chapters of the Association of General Contractors and the Homebuilders Association, and he organizes events, including barbecues and golf tournaments, which put students in contact with local and national companies. He also draws on his many industry connections to help students gain interview opportunities.

Henderson, who joined the RCC faculty in 1990, earned an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree from RCC and a bachelor’s in business administration from SOU. He’s worked as a building inspector, fire marshal, and volunteer firefighter, and he owned a construction company doing residential, commercial and public works projects.

“One of the best things about teaching happens when I see a student understand a problem or when a concept becomes clear. The other is when they succeed after graduation,” Henderson said.

“I love to see graduates come full circle — when they do well, hire new grads from our program and come back to teach in the classroom and pass along what they know.”

Eric Pemberton evolved from reluctant student to Rogue Scholar

Eric Pemberton says his biggest surprise about college was how much he enjoyed it right out of the gate.

Pemberton began college figuring he would detest it—as he had high school— but could tough it out long enough to complete his one-year Construction Technology certificate. He'd dropped out of high school, earned his GED® through Rogue in 1998, and worked a range of jobs, including movie theater manager and wild lands firefighter.

Eventually, though, he realized that to advance professionally he needed more education. He enrolled at Rogue, succeeded immediately, transferred to the two-year program, and is now pursuing a career as a teacher.

“I absolutely loved it,” he recalled. “I will probably be taking classes the rest of my life. You can always further your education at RCC.”

The RCC Foundation recently honored Pemberton as the 2010 Rogue Scholar. “This award is supported entirely by the foundation’s board of directors and goes to the applicant receiving the highest score,” said Jennifer Wheatley, the foundation’s executive director. “To be selected out of nearly 1,000 applicants is quite a feat.”

Over the past two years, RCC Foundation scholarships have helped him keep his loans down and his grades up. It also allowed Pemberton, who has compiled a 3.96 GPA, to become more involved with his program, take advantage of leadership opportunities, and experience trade associations and training. He earned a Computer Aided Drafting certificate and served as president of the Student Chapter of Associated General Contractors and Homebuilders Association.

“These scholarships help make college possible. I encourage other students to apply,” Pemberton said. “It’s an easy process; one essay and application puts you in a pool for many scholarships. College is expensive, and without these funds I know many people would be unable to afford an education.”

Pemberton is wrapping up an Associate of Applied Science degree in construction management and working towards a bachelor’s in business from Southern Oregon University. He’s been hired as the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration coordinator at South Medford High School, where he is responsible for the high school’s construction program. His own experiences helped him relate to students who may be struggling in school.

“I never thought I would be pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” Pemberton said. “My goal now is to keep teaching. The best part of teaching is helping a student who’s had a hard time being in school change to wanting to learn, not just because they have to be there.”

Pemberton appreciates the hands-on experiential learning aspects of RCC’s program as well as his instructors’ supportiveness.

“All the instructors have real world knowledge and years of experience, often owning their own companies. Their knowledge is amazing,” he noted.

“We’re learning about new sustainable technologies,” he said. “There are whole new levels of jobs and career paths opening, and RCC is preparing graduates to be ready.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Atana Morell