Auto professor reaches out to students through cars

For Tom Rosdahl, the years he’s spent at Pierce have translated into the satisfaction of seeing more of his students in the automotive program go on to succeed in that field.


“You see the students come through the program, and the skills they gain in the program, they use them in the work place to become productive citizens,” he said.


Rosedahl, who has taught at Pierce since 1985 and is the president of the Academic Senate, got into cars at a young age. He’s always felt mechanically inclined, and before he worked on cars he tinkered on whatever he could find, he said.


“When I was 12 I was taking my bicycle apart,” he said.


Now, as a professor, he remains just as invested in cars, but Rosdahl’s added the success of his students to his list of interests. Since starting his teaching career, he’s had many former students go on to start their own auto businesses. Some continue to drop by Rosdahl’s office to thank him for the training they’ve received, he said.


“[I] like to see all young people succeed, and to see people succeed is fulfilling a goal,” Rosdahl said.


Many of Rosdahl’s students currently attending Pierce can attest to his influence.


“Tom is the man,” said Chris Perez, an automotive major who had Rosdahl last year.


Rosdahl, Perez said, encouraged him to focus more on school and to get into the automotive field. Before taking his class, Perez felt he was traveling down the wrong road, but Rosdahl steered him towards a “more focused, more positive path.”


“The only reason I’m trying to finish school is because of him. Trying to get into cars, because of him,” he said.


Julian Johnson, an Automotive major who also took Rosdahl last year, feels Rosdahl impacted his life as well.


“He helped me with a lot of things I was going through, even with my family,” he said.


Johnson felt a similar lack of direction in his life like Perez, but since taking Rosdahl’s class he hopes to have his own shop one day. He owes Rosdahl’s ability to inspire his students to the bond they all share over cars.


“Me and him, we both got love for Camaros,” Johnson said.

For Rosdahl, earning the respect of his students comes down to a basic principle.


“I think to teach, and to impress on students, number one, you have to have respect for the students you have in class,” Rosdahl said.


The second, he believes, is that you must want to see your students succeed, which is why he includes the newest advancements affecting the auto industry in his class. Fuel mileage and emissions are the driving factors behind the industry now, and it takes more training and education to repair a vehicle than it did 20 years ago, he said.


“If we provide a better educated workforce, we’re basically providing a better community out there,” he said.


In the future, Rosdahl plans on retiring within the next year or year and half, but he’s considering continuing to teach as an adjunct as well.

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