Cecilia Rokusek reminds people that Czechoslovakia is no longer one country. She should know. In 2008, she was appointed by the Slovak ambassador to the U.S. as the 11th honorary consul of the Slovak Republic — the second woman to take the title.
At NSU, she is a professor of public health and family medicine at the College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is also the executive director of the Florida Coastal Geriatric Resources Education and Training Center and the project manager of the Center for Bioterrorism and All-Hazards Preparedness Training and Research.
Rokusek has been at NSU since 2006, but has been teaching for 34 years. Although she became an administrator at a young age, she said her heart has always been in teaching. “Education is, probably, the best profession you can be in,” she said. “Being a teacher is a lifelong education. And if you like being a student, it’s your opportunity to be a student for life. But you can be a student in inspiring and teaching and motivating others. So I always said, ‘I’m a teacher first and an administrator second.’”
Rokusek expresses her love for teaching through the advice that she gives her students.
“When you leave here, never stop learning,” she said. “Don’t think that just because you have a degree that’s the end, so never stop learning. See it as a constant process. Make sure that in life, you always balance work and play, so that you work hard. Always work hard, but always take time to play. Don’t stop working just because you’re a certain age. Always think about the joy of working.”
Although Rokusek received tenure at the age of 29 at Mount Marty College in South Dakota she turned it down to teach nutrition at the University of South Dakota because she said she was looking for new challenges. Rokusek said that she is still “a mover and a shaker.”
“I don’t ask, ‘Why are we doing the same thing every day?’ I ask, ‘Do we need to be doing the same thing every day?’ And if it’s good, fine. But, if we need to change it, how can we change it? Let’s not get in a rut and let’s always look for more opportunities and don’t be satisfied with the status quo all the time,” she said.
Apart from her jobs at NSU, she is the international vice president of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Czech and Slovak Cultural Club of North Miami. She and her husband, Robert, play the piano and the accordion and love to entertain at home. She is fluent in Czech and Slovak and still keeps the cultural traditions that her parents taught her.
“We all have a cultural bearing and foundation,” she said. “I think it’s really important — no matter if you’re Irish, German, French, whatever — that you learn what that is and you learn to embrace it.”
Rokusek is proud of the grants that the College of Osteopathic Medicine has received and her vision for NSU’s future is that it grows in the area of research.
“I would hope, most of all, that I will instill in this university a passion for and committed programming in the area of ongoing research and the generation of new funding sources to build our research and to support grant activities in training and service,” she said.