Director of Interdisciplinary
Colleen Gabauer made a plan in seventh grade that many of her classmates didn't understand. They couldn't conceive of a future dedicated to schooling; Gabauer vowed to continue for a doctoral degree. When she finally realized that goal, she knew she would never leave campus life. "I remember going through course catalogs looking for course descriptions that best suited my interests. I was beyond myself when I found programs that allowed you to actually study higher education. I love what I do and where I work," she says.
As director of interdisciplinary graduate programs in Purdue's Graduate School, Gabauer is right where she wanted to be so many years ago. Some dreams do come true, and in doing so, help fuel the dreams of others.
Your undergraduate degree is in theatre and English. Why did you choose those majors?
English literature inspired me to find my true passions in my life. I love reading and writing, so I pursued them in college. I also knew that the liberal arts could help prepare me for a number of areas in graduate study. I initially chose English and added theatre along the way because I thoroughly enjoyed the directing and staging aspect. I was required to do some acting, though. I remember the improv sessions being the most challenging — fear actually comes to mind! I definitely still appreciate how these classes forced me out of my comfort zone — to take risks and to be daring. After earning my master's in English, I went on to earn a doctorate in higher education administration. My past experience as an editor at a publishing company, as an admissions counselor, and as an adjunct faculty member at two different institutions have informed my current role in graduate enrollment management.
As director of interdisciplinary graduate programs for the Graduate School, what are your responsibilities?
I have a number of responsibilities to our 15 interdisciplinary graduate programs (IGPs). I facilitate the creation of interdisciplinary graduate programs and work with faculty and administrators in various academic and budgetary units to promote their support for and participation in IGPs. I also consult with campus-wide IGPs regarding program structure, administrative functions, marketing strategies, recruitment, and retention initiatives.
Promoting interdisciplinary research is essential in today's world. We must train our graduate students to speak the language of multiple disciplines, so that they are equipped to take on the grand challenges of our society. Unfortunately, our systems of applying to programs, transcripting, and student record keeping do not easily keep up with these types of advancements. It is our role as administrators to ensure that bureaucracy does not ever inhibit the collaborative enterprise.
What is life like as a Wiley faculty fellow?
The Faculty Fellow Program is a highlight of Purdue, and I am honored to be part of the Wiley Hall family through this program. My entire family thoroughly enjoys participating in the events with the residents and we're looking so forward to starting a new year with them this fall. We have two young sons who love our visits to Wiley – they often ask, "Are we having dinner with our friends at Purdue tonight?" I'm delighted that Purdue residents have become part of my children's lives. Purdue builds community for all of us -- its residents, its employees, and our families.
What is life outside work like for you?
Busy! We have two young boys who seem to add new sports and activities to our agenda each semester. My husband (he is a fifth-grade teacher in Tippecanoe School Corp.) and I both have careers in education as well, so we always have something exciting to do in our educational communities.
In what way do you think you are helping move the world forward?
I believe in what we do here at Purdue, and I am dedicated to graduate education. As a higher education administrator, I have a number of responsibilities to collaboration, recruitment, retention, completion, mentoring, policy development, streamlining of systems, etc. One aspect of my work that is especially important to me is my connection to my professional associations both on a regional and national level. I am the founder and president of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (MAGAP), a chapter of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP), which is the only professional organization devoted exclusively to the concerns of individuals working in the graduate admissions and recruitment environment. I also serve the national organization in multiple capacities: membership committee, chapter presidents committee, and the mentoring committee. The NAGAP community has been an important part of my own professional development and I find it is essential to give back to the organization and its members across the country.
Most of all, I think my biggest contribution comes from my passion for what I do. It is an experience watching the students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. You remember the first time you met them, you see that Purdue has changed their lives, and you know that your staff had a hand in that process. That inspires. That moves everyone's world forward.