February 21, 2017

Purdue Profiles: Colleen Gabauer

Colleen Gabauer Colleen Gabauer, managing director of the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, credits her success to mentors who taught, guided and inspired her. (Purdue University Photo/Rebecca Wilcox) Download image

Mentoring someone can have a lasting effect on their life and career path. Colleen Gabauer, managing director of the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, credits her success to mentors who taught, guided and inspired her.

Gabauer has a bachelor's in Theater/English from the State University of New York at Geneseo, a master's in English from Seton Hall University and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Rochester.

What do you do as managing director of the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs?

I manage strategic efforts involving the administration and creation of interdisciplinary graduate programs. I work with faculty and students from across campus to develop and design new curricular innovations that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. These programs allow for an expansion of Purdue's research offerings and provide forums for faculty to collaborate and engage in cross-disciplinary approaches within well-developed program models and infrastructure that we continue to refine over time.

I have two young boys that say I seem to give a lot of presentations! And maybe that is true, but I’m a collaborator and an innovator, so this position has been the best I could’ve ever imagined.

Why is this work important to graduate students?

Interdisciplinary work is essential, so being engaged in a curriculum that facilitates the understanding across disciplinary cultures is a true gift. If you have the opportunity to experiment with others across colleges in your graduate studies, you will be more capable in future careers that already have expectations for team science or collaborative partnerships built into their ecosystem. It is most certainly an advantage to learn to navigate not only the language of another discipline but also to identify theoretical paradigms that may work against your own or that of your particular discipline.

What inspired you to pursue this career path?

Mentoring. Mentoring. Mentoring. While I believe this started out as the most wonderful of role modeling from my nurturing, kind and supportive parents, as I grew up, it also became a mentorship process from some close family friends. I had the great fortune of close friendships not only with my friends, but with their parents as well and there is one in particular who strongly influenced my worldview. This particular family friend not only welcomed me into the family as a second daughter, but I was also welcomed to his place of work to see what the day-to-day was really like at his local law office. He not only took me to work with him, but he took me to lunch with his colleagues. I saw firsthand how he balanced his family and his growing career and while I was more interested in studying something in graduate school and furthering my education than I was in a particular field of law, he was always there to talk with me about graduate education and about balancing family.

Throughout my graduate studies and my time at Purdue, mentorship has only continued to make a pivotal difference in my life, career, strategic thinking, and confidence. I have been fortunate from the early stages, throughout my own graduate studies, and I now continue to be in the Graduate School and in Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, as I’ve had some of the absolute best mentors during my career here at Purdue.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?    

I love creating new systems, improving them, streamlining them and so on. So when we implement these systems as a team for our interdisciplinary programs and we see them take flight, it is rewarding. It is most rewarding when the people involved are collaborating seamlessly to make these things happen. It often involves our team in the Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, along with our dedicated faculty and graduate students to move our ideas to implementation. I appreciate these challenges as there are a number of moving parts that we are expected to handle at all times ... together.

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325, mhuckaby@purdue.edu

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