Every month the Administrative/Professional (A/P) Council highlights an A/P staff member through a series of questions as another way for the Illinois State community to connect. This month readers can get to know Dr. Katy Strzepek, Ph.D. ’18, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
How long have you been an employee at ISU?
I have been at ISU since February of 2020.
What are your responsibilities in this role?
My position gives me the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the University and with community partners to enhance our institution’s core value of civic engagement. Our office coordinates a variety of civic engagement opportunities such as civic education events (films, Deliberative Dialogues, and voter education events); service projects; Alternative Break programs, and other cocurricular programs, which give students the chance to reflect upon their engagement and to make important connections between service and justice.
I am also the director of the civic engagement and responsibility minor, an interdisciplinary program that encourages students to analyze social issues using an intersectional lens and to participate in positive social change working in solidarity with community partners. Our program also benefits from our partnership with the National Center for Urban Education and offers a special concentration for teacher education majors who have an interest in urban education and who will work in solidarity with urban communities to collaborate as agents and advocates of social justice. This entails a dedicated strand of courses that have a strong focus on equity, anti-racism, and community-engaged classrooms.
What do you love most about working at ISU?
I love the people at ISU! I have the opportunity to work with an amazing staff at the center, who are dedicated to promoting our core value of civic engagement and who have a wealth of experience in working in solidarity with community partners. I appreciate the warm welcome I have received from students, faculty and staff, and members of the community. I also love the incredible school spirit here and love to see everyone sporting their Redbird gear.
What is one fact about yourself that might surprise people?
I love to sing, but I can never seem to remember song lyrics correctly. My daughters often delight my musical mistakes, such as my rendition of “Turn the Beat Around,” when I sang “Turn the Beat Around, Let me hear compassion!” Now I know it’s “Let me hear percussion!” I guess my musical mishap in this case reflects my interest in creating more compassionate communities.
When you’re not working, what are you most likely doing?
I love to spend time with my daughters and our new dog, Letty. I enjoy running and being outdoors and am so glad to have the Constitution trail nearby. Reading is also another favorite pastime and I usually have a stack of books by my bedside table.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
I love the Quad. It is a beautiful space that brings people together and is also an important space for civic engagement, where students and community members can raise their voices in support of positive social change.
What quote most inspires you and why?
I am a big fan of Maya Angelou, and it’s hard to choose just one quote, but here is one that resonates with me: “Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” To move from knowledge to action and social change requires tremendous courage. Maya Angelou is an incredible poet, and her poems inspire me to embrace who I am and to speak out for justice even when I am afraid my voice won’t be heard or that my story isn’t worthy. Angelou’s work and activism encourage us all to live with our whole hearts and to in her words “have the courage to trust love one more time.” To me civic engagement is about building beloved community, and Angelou’s work helps me have faith in the power of community and the importance of public institutions even at times when our national rhetoric is divisive.