As a third-generation Purdue employee, it's no wonder that Gail Schrader considers the University a second home and her co-workers part of her family.
Schrader is the office manager at Purdue's Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), where she uses her passion for communication to help support military members and their families. A lifelong learner and an environmental enthusiast, Schrader has held a variety of positions at the University for the past 35 years, including in Buildings and Grounds, Nuclear Engineering, Chemistry, and Housing and Food Services.
What is your family's background at Purdue?
I'm a Lafayette native, and my grandmother worked here as a research assistant. My grandfather also worked for Purdue in the former creamery, and later on my mother worked here part time in the creamery, too. Being a Boilermaker is very natural to me.
I've worked at Purdue in various capacities since 1978. One of the things that I've learned is that the University is one very big, interconnected family. You can go almost anywhere in the world, and if you say you're from Purdue, people will recognize the name and they'll start making connections. We have a huge effect nationally and locally, too.
I've seen many changes here during the years, but the atmosphere of caring and community has never wavered. I've seen my work directly or indirectly make a difference for many. What could be more important than that?
What are your duties at the Military Family Research Institute?
As the office manager, I manage multiple calendars for our directors and staff, schedule meetings and room arrangements, handle phone and email requests from multiple accounts, oversee three to five student workers, and much more. In general, MFRI helps support the families of military members while they are deployed and afterward, so everything I do furthers that mission.
How are you also furthering your interest in agricultural communication?
I'm currently enrolled in Purdue's undergraduate agricultural communication program. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and it's been a wonderfully rich experience. This field also ties into my job at MFRI because I use a lot of communication skills in my day-to-day duties. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is on MFRI's advisory board, and we liaise with that department often to provide our programs. So MFRI ties into agricultural communication in that way, too.
What are some of your other passions?
While I love to make a difference at MFRI, I also try to make a difference in my life outside of work, too. For example, I'm very involved in the green movement, self-sufficiency, 4-H and World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). That is an international network of organizations that links volunteers with organic farmers to help people share a more sustainable way of living.
I have my own small-scale farm where I grow produce and fruits, generate eggs, make simple cheeses and wild forage. I’ve made my own soap since 1978 and own two mules, a donkey, a horse, dairy goats, pigs, honeybees and poultry — so you can see how my academic interest in agricultural communication marries two of my personal passions.
What has been rewarding about your time working at Purdue?
I've been at MFRI for about 2 1/2 years, but overall I've worked at the University for 29 out of the past 35 years. There is just nowhere that provides that same amazing enrichment that Purdue provides — the education opportunities here for staff are endless, and that's not an exaggeration.
I'm very proud of those opportunities, of the University's learning environment and of Purdue in general. I'm proud to say I've worked here for so long with so many other wonderful people. I don't think I could have spent these years at a better place or doing better things, and I couldn't have enjoyed my time here anymore.