Q1: Since taking on the additional role of community relations officer in 2022, can you share with us progress that has been made in developing community partnerships and engagement?
In 2019, the university adopted its current strategic plan and community engagement was one of the five core values identified as a needed focus over the next several years. Being the only four-year, comprehensive public university in the region, as well as a part of the Purdue University system, PFW has a responsibility to be an educational leader, dedicated to improving our world, and we start on campus as a great place to learn, live and work. Since having the community relations responsibilities added to my portfolio, I’ve spent a lot of time learning what partnerships the university already has in place and meeting people both on and off campus to see what new opportunities are out there. Many businesses and organizations discovered new ways of collaborating with various partners, as well as rebuilding what may have been lost as a result of the pandemic. It has been a wonderful experience listening and learning from others, and brainstorming ways the university can build new or re-establish relationships. I’m greatly looking forward to continuing this work in the future.
Q2: You have a long history with the university, first as a student and now as an employee. What are you most proud of in terms of how PFW has evolved and grown over the years?
There are so many things, but mostly I’m proud of how we have continued to serve our community and region by providing quality education through major transitions. The campus looks very different than it did when I first started. It’s moved from a solely commuter campus, to a residential campus that is being seen as a first-choice institution by students from outside northeast Indiana. The campus footprint has expanded by way of more academic and student space, and lastly we’ve become a fully branded Purdue University campus. We are well-positioned to offer an educated workforce needed by our region’s employers. When I think back to the time I sat in my first COM 114 class as a transfer sophomore, to now sitting in rooms as an administrative officer of the university, it’s humbling to recall all the conversations and decisions I’ve been part of that transformed the university. But I say with confidence that the decisions made kept one thing at the center: what will be best for our students and offer them the greatest opportunity for success. For that, I’m very proud.
Q3: What individuals throughout your life have positively influenced you and your career, and why?
It seems cliché to say my family, but it’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents and sister. My mom and dad both spent their careers in public servant roles; my mom was a nurse at Lutheran Hospital for over 40 years and my dad retired from the Fort Wayne Police Department, with many years as a command-level leader. They instilled in both me and my sister the importance of education. My dad is an IU-Fort Wayne graduate and my sister and I each earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees (my undergrad being a Purdue degree and my masters an IU degree). Had I not gone to college on this campus, I’m not sure I would have ever started working at the university. Earning my degrees over the course of six years made me feel at home on the campus and also offered me opportunities I’m not sure I would have received elsewhere. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked for and with some amazing leaders; people who encouraged me to try new things and step outside my comfort zone. While in most cases I am risk-averse, I have said yes more often than I’ve said no when it comes to my career, and it’s offered me some incredible experiences.
Q4: What new and exciting happenings are in store for PFW this year? Is there anything in particular you are most looking forward to?
There are two priorities for the university this coming year related to capital needs: a Music Industries Studies building and more student housing. We have laid a lot of groundwork the past several months to prepare for these projects and I am looking forward to seeing those come to fruition. PFW was incredibly fortunate to receive lead gifts from the Surack Family Foundation and the Auer Foundation for the Music Industries Studies building – now we’re working with our legislative delegation to secure the remaining funding needed to bring this facility to campus. As for student housing, the Purdue Board of Trustees met in December and approved a resolution, allowing us to proceed with developing design and funding plans to bring 350+ new beds to campus. Adding more traditional student housing will be a game changer for our campus, transforming it in ways we can only imagine and all for the greater good.
Q5: Do you watch the Super Bowl for the love of the game, halftime entertainment or both? Who do you hope makes it to the big game?
I usually go to a Super Bowl party, but watching the game is not generally part of the experience. My attention is focused on the food, drinks and friends! While they won’t make it this year, I am a Colts fan but have a feeling I’ll be more interested in the company than the game.
Q6: What can we find you doing in your free time? Tell us a bit about your hobbies and interests.
I built a new house last year near the Pufferbelly Trail and Salomon Farm park, so I’m often enjoying the trails, walking with Murphy (my six-year-old Golden Retriever) or riding my bike. I also enjoy spending time with friends, visiting local restaurants and breweries, listening to live music, working out at the north-side OPS facility, and traveling and exploring new places in the states or abroad. I recently purchased a world map and pinned places I’ve been and ranked places I want to go (that will be a fun bucket list to check off in the coming years!) Lastly, even though I work on campus, I truly enjoy cheering for our Mastodon student-athletes and attending various arts events. That is definitely an interest that I don’t consider work.
Q7: Are you a New Year’s Resolutions type of gal? If so, do you have resolutions for 2023?
I’m not necessarily into New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals (semantics, I know!) For the coming year, I intend to re-engage in the community. I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, and I’m so proud to call it home. The past few years I’ve taken a step back and used that time to reevaluate how I wish to spend my time, and how I can best use my talents to make the community a place that everyone loves. I tend to be a reflective person so this has given me the opportunity to explore board opportunities and look at causes that are near and dear to my heart. For 2023, I hope to engage more with city/county boards that will enhance the economic development of our city, region and state (I currently serve on the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority board); spend more time learning about mental health challenges and opportunities, particularly in the policy realm; and continuously seek out professional development opportunities.