Posted Sept. 12, 2014
By SHAWNA KHALAFI
The University of Miami prides itself on academic excellence.
Steve Ralph contributed greatly to the University throughout his 24 years of working within the International Studies Department as an influential staff administrator and beloved advisor. Now, in room 121 of the Ferre Building, with his name plaque still on the door, Ralph is nowhere to be found.
The International Studies Department at the University of Miami, also known as INS, is a small, tight-knit academic community. Its program offers classes in a number of disciplines, from political science to economics to humanities. There is a class for every interest. The INS Department encourages hands-on real world learning to compliment the material taught in class.
The department promotes research, internships and study abroad opportunities for its students. International Studies senior Alexis Johnson said her semester abroad changed her entire outlook on life:
“It just opened my eyes to a lot of things that I didn’t see before. It’s one thing to learn something in a classroom, but when you can take those lessons and apply them to real situations; that’s when all the hard work really pays off.”
The major itself consists of 30 credits, including 12 core requirement credits, 12 thematic core credits and six electives and interdisciplinary courses credits. This flexible curriculum offers a lot of freedom to students, allowing them to explore options and to take their careers in many different directions.
The department also boasts an impressive faculty and staff roster complete with knowledgeable and accomplished lecturers and administrators. INS students are especially thankful to their advisors such as Ralph.
Junior Will Pitts feels academic advisors are extremely important for undergraduates.
“The advisors will go above and beyond for any student who needs help,” he explained.
In such a small department, students will often keep the same advisor throughout their undergraduate careers and many of them grow much attached within the INS family.
This was true for most students who had the pleasure of ever encountering former INS Director of Student Services Steve Ralph. Ralph was not only an excellent advisor to his students, but also a caring friend and confidant with a sharp sense of humor.
Senior INS student Maria Mandes praised her former advisor:
“He was always willing to meet with you even if you just showed up, and he would spend as much time with you as you needed. I used to go sit and talk to him about social issues, personal dilemmas, current events, anything.”
Ralph’s page on ratemyprofessors.com showed a flawless grade of 5.0 for overall professor quality. Some even took it to the extreme like a comment that read,
“Steve Ralph = God”
The lack of negative comments shows that Ralph was greatly admired by his students. Another student gave Ralph a perfect rating and posted a comment that said,
“I would jump in front of a bus for steve, he is that good.”
In recent years, the university has made transitions and restructured within the administration. This ultimately led to some faculty and staff being dismissed from the university, including Ralph.
Faculty and students alike were enraged by the sudden decision to fire Ralph. Ralph commented on the situation upon receiving his notice:
“I never envisioned going out of the University of Miami like this,” he said. “This may be the worst month of my life.”
As everyone searched for answers, Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, released a statement explaining the shift in the college’s advising model:
“Recently, the college has made a strategic move to expand and centralize academic advising by hiring additional professional advisers whose sole responsibility is to help students successfully complete their degree requirements and find jobs post-graduation.”
The shock of the loss of a great administrator is still felt as the semester begins.
“Many people feel that the department now lacks a great asset,” said Laura Norman, an INS graduate student.
The International Studies family thanked Ralph for his contributions and wished him the best in his future endeavors.