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As the College of Applied Science and Technology moves into another school year, we welcome two new faculty members in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Amy Bardwell and Elke Altenburger have joined our Illinois State family and are gearing up for an exiting first year. We chatted with Bardwell and Altenburger to learn more about our newest Redbirds.

Tell us about yourself? What did your path to ISU look like?

Bardwell: I am originally from Oxford, Mississippli, a small college town in North Mississippi full of great restaurants with award-winning chefs and not too far from Memphis, Tennessee (which explains my love of BBQ). When I was an undergrad at the University of Mississippi (also known as Ole Miss), I began taking hospitality courses and really fell in love with the industry. I started in the master’s program in food and nutrition management at Ole Miss followed by a full-time position as the catering manager for the campus. I always knew I wanted to teach, and when the opportunity presented itself to go back to school for my Ph.D., my family and I moved to Auburn, Alabama, where I completed my Ph.D. in hotel and restaurant management. As I started searching for jobs, the position at ISU jumped out at me. There is so much to do in Bloomington-Normal, it is close to some large cities, and the people here are so friendly. My husband and I decided that this was an excellent fit for our family, and we are thrilled to be here!

Altenburger: I grew up in Hamburg which is located in Northern Germany. While studying interior architecture at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf, I met my husband who was an American art history student. For about a decade, we lived together in big German cities where I worked as a designer. In 2000 we decided to move with our two small children to Portland, Oregon. In 2011 I was recruited into the Ph.D. program in the Department of Architectural Studies at the University of Missouri. This is where I started to teach undergraduate interior design students. Designing classes and teaching them were important parts of my responsibilities as graduate student. I had no prior experience with teaching and was thrilled to discover how much fun it is. The focused work on a dissertation about learning environments eventually informed both the projects I chose for the design studio classes and my instruction style.

What can we find you teaching this semester?

Bardwell: This semester I will be teaching two courses. The first is The Hospitality Industry and the second is Quantity Foods. I specialize in food and restaurant management and truly love this fast-paced industry. I especially love family owned and operated restaurants and restaurants that utilize locally produced food products! If you have any good recommendations, let me know!

Altenburger: I am teaching Interior Design Studio 2 and Business Practices this semester and think of myself as an expert on environments for children and interior materials.

Where did you receive your degree from and how did you find your passion for teaching?

Bardwell: I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Mississippi and went on to receive my Ph.D. from Auburn University. Teaching has always been something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid. I think growing up around college professors and the university made me fall in love with the culture and atmosphere of a university setting.

Altenburger:  I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf, Germany, and my Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in the Department of Architectural Studies. This is where I began designing classes, teaching them, and where I discovered my passion for teaching.

What do you want students to know about your teaching style and personality in the classroom? What should students expect from you?

Bardwell: I want students to get a feel for what the industry is like. It is demanding and rewarding. It can be a lot of work, but so much fun at the same time. My teaching style is similar to that. I like for students to seek out the information, problem solve, and think like a manager. Students in my classes should expect group activities and case studies that make them think about a problem and try to solve it. There will be discussions and opportunities for different perspectives. There are usually multiple solutions to a management problem and exploring those solutions helps to determine what the best course of action is.

Altenburger: I try hard to encourage students to engage in high quality conversations with me and more importantly with their peers. I am open minded but at the same time very frank with my critique of students’ work. I strive to complement this straightforward approach with enthusiasm for students’ hard and focused work ethic and solidly developed yet unexpected results.

You visit family over the weekend … what meal can you guarantee will be made when you arrive?

Bardwell: I have a large, close family. When we go to visit, we always have Sunday lunch at my grandparents’ house (they do this every Sunday, whether we are home or not). There can be anywhere from 10 to 40 people at my grandparents’ house on a Sunday afternoon and without fail, we have Popeyes fried chicken (though for many years she claimed to have made it herself), turnip greens, fried okra, potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, and some type of dessert. It is all about the family being together and it is always a great time.

Although you just moved into your office, peak into your desk drawers. What is the most unique item you have?

Altenburger: I have an “Architect Barbie.” Want to see?

The Architect Barbie that Elke features in her office.

Since this is your very first year at ISU, what activities are you looking forward to the most?

Bardwell: My family and I are really excited about the circus! My daughter who is 9 thought that was the “coolest thing ever!” I am also looking forward to football games (we are a big football family), basketball games, and spending time meeting everyone.

Altenburger: I am getting excited for lively peer critiques in studio 2. beautiful portfolio presentations in week 16, and to get to know my students and colleagues. When I was in the late stages of my dissertation, I found the ad for the position at ISU and decided to apply, but it was my experience during the campus visit that made me want to be here. I was and still am extremely impressed and charmed by ISU students, faculty, staff, and administrators.