After 18 years and the creation of two visionary departments at Illinois State University, Janet Paterson recently announced that she will be retiring in June 2019. Paterson is currently the interim director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
“I have enjoyed working with Dr. Paterson since 2011 when I joined the University,” said Illinois State President Larry Dietz. “She was the dean of students then and worked diligently on behalf of students and extended that commitment in establishing the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. She has worked successfully with the University’s faculty and staff and community members in advancing the University’s value of civic engagement and has brought statewide and national attention to the University through her efforts. I am thankful for her good work and wish her all of the best in her retirement.”
Paterson came to Illinois State in spring 2001 as the associate director of student life. In that role, she supervised the administrative areas of registered student organizations, the Student Volunteer Center, and Leadership Development.
In spring 2004, Paterson was named dean of students, and she worked with a small team over the next year to envision and develop what is now the Dean of Students Office. Through the new office, she helped to improve access to support services for students while also facilitating work between existing departments.
“Jan was the catalyst behind the creation of the Dean of Students Office,” said Rick Lewis, a former associate dean who worked directly with Paterson during the process. “Her leadership allowed a diverse group of committed individuals to come together to build a department that put the student at the center of what we do at the University. Jan tapped into the individual strengths of each dean and gave us the freedom to function according to our passions. Jan has had a very successful career at Illinois State but her greatest accomplishment will always be, she put students first.”
Paterson’s student focus is evident in the programs she implemented during her 10 years as Illinois State’s Dean of Students. One such program, Dean on Duty, allows students immediate access to someone to listen to their needs and help resolve them. Other institutions have since adopted similar programs based on Illinois State’s model.
The Redbird Book Memorial is another program implemented by Paterson to honor students who passed away while attending Illinois State. Each student is memorialized through a book purchased and placed in Milner Library. The book selected for each student is based on the student’s interests. Families often find comfort in the memorial.
Jill Benson, a current associate dean who also worked with Paterson during creation of the Dean of Students Office, also appreciates Paterson’s student focus as well as her higher education background.
“In her role visioning, developing, and leading the re-emergence of a Dean of Students Office at Illinois State,” said Benson, “Jan applied her comprehensive knowledge of higher education to create systemic solutions that focused on student care and retention. One of the most recognizable examples is today’s widely-used Dean on Duty program. Jan also carefully designed the Dean of Students Office organizational culture to create a workplace where open communication, integrity, inclusion, trust, and care are valued and exhibited—what a wonderful legacy she left for those of us in this organization!”
Another legacy Paterson will be leaving at Illinois State is the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. In his September 2014 State of the University Address, President Dietz called for the establishment of a task force to evaluate ways Illinois State could further advance its core value of civic engagement. Paterson was named chair of that task force which was comprised of representatives from the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.
The task force ultimately recommended the creation of a center for civic engagement. In fall 2015 Paterson was named interim director, and she went on to create what has become the current Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
“One of my proudest accomplishments,” said Paterson, “was bringing together a highly qualified team of people to continue celebrating the existing civic engagement programs at Illinois State and to create new initiatives, championing civic and community engagement throughout the campus. I’ve also enjoyed establishing a solid foundation of systems and practices to ensure the sustainability of the Center.”
While establishing the Center, Paterson also helped to envision and establish Illinois State’s Redbird Impact magazine. Redbird Impact was created to celebrate community engagement efforts across campus and to inform the community about the great work taking place. Paterson served as publisher for the first four issues of the magazine.
The current staff of the Center for Community Engagement recognizes the work and heart that Paterson put into the Center’s creation.
According to Harriett Steinbach, assistant director for service learning at the Center, “Jan was instrumental in the creation of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. She is humble and will deflect that comment by saying the original task force did the work as a team to create the initial proposal or that she was executing the vision of the President. Those statements are true, but Jan deserves so much credit. Her natural strengths allowed her to dig deep into the details to develop this new department that expands upon the existing civic engagement work at Illinois State. That was not an easy feat. I’m forever grateful for the foundation she laid over the last few years. Civic engagement at Illinois State is better than it was before because of her work.”
Christine Bruckner, assistant director for assessment, data management, and grant writing at the Center, also appreciates Paterson’s work in establishing both the Center and its current team. “Collaboration is a lived value for Jan,” Bruckner said. “That is evident in the model and culture she created for the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. Whether she’s working with various units across campus, our community partners, or students, Jan goes above and beyond to make our campus more interconnected and inclusive.”
Throughout her time at Illinois State, Paterson also concurrently served an academic role through an adjunct appointment in the College of Education, teaching 15 semesters in the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) master’s program. She also served on the program’s advisory board and assisted Phyllis McCuskey-Titus, a professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations (EAF), with collecting data and writing the CSPA program review.
McCuskey-Titus noted Paterson’s impact on the CSPA program and the University. “CSPA students have benefited from Jan’s development and teaching the practicum class where she was able to offer a senior-level practitioner perspective on student affairs work and she demonstrated how to apply theory in practice. EAF has benefited from Jan’s organizational and writing skills by co-authoring the CSPA program review. Illinois State University is much better off because of the visionary leadership and extraordinary hard work of Dr. Jan Paterson.”
Before coming to Illinois State in 2004, Paterson worked at Texas A&M University and the University of Denver in a variety of different areas, including student activities, human resources, conference planning, and residential life. She also taught undergraduate leadership development and graduate administration courses while authoring several scholarly articles/chapters and presenting at professional association meetings.
Throughout her entire career, Paterson consistently made students and their education a priority, exemplifying many of the core values of Illinois State. Those values, in fact, are an element that Paterson has most enjoyed during her time here. “Illinois State is an institution that lives its values,” she said. “Many institutions have a strategic plan and various statements, but I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Illinois State actually lives its values and holds itself accountable to those values as well.”
According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Jan Murphy, “Over the past 18 years, Jan has had a profound impact on the lives of students and staff members at the University. Through her roles in Student Affairs, she has fostered the development of numerous student leaders and through her involvement with the College Student Personnel Administration program (in the College of Education), she has helped shape student affairs professionals who are now working throughout the nation. For the last several years, her leadership and enthusiasm as interim director of Community Engagement and Service Learning has enhanced community and campus partnership efforts.”
Paterson’s dedication to Illinois State’s core values, and community engagement in particular, will continue throughout her retirement as well. She noted that while she’s been able to contribute to local organizations in the past, she’s now looking forward to being able to volunteer more of her time as well.