Janet M. Brown Ph.D, R.N., spirited and admired dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, has made a career out of making things grow, both inside the college and out. When she needs a retreat from the demands of expanding one of the finest colleges of its kind, Dean Brown spends time building a legacy centered around extended family and their longstanding quirks and traditions.
Inside the College
What is the most gratifying part of your career?
Watching our students become successful graduates who carry Valpo with them. When students come to the University, they adopt our mission and strong sense of community pretty quickly, and it continues to extend as they go out into the world. They exceed everyone’s expectations all the time. It is amazing to think you had a small part in that. One alumnus who I stay connected with now works at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, and since he graduated, he has done volunteer work in the Philippines, his home country. There are thousands more alumni doing similar things.
What has been your most significant contribution as dean?
When I came on board, it was my task to grow the college. At that time, there weren’t many options within the region to earn a baccalaureate education in nursing. Now, we have expanded to include other health programs, adding public health, a physician assistant program, health care leadership, and health administration.
What do students in the college gain at Valpo that sets them
apart from their peers?
The opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and real-world experience. Because of the wide variety of programs we now offer, our health care leaders have the opportunity to work with nurses and physician assistants before they enter the hospital setting. Let’s say that one of our graduates becomes the CEO of a hospital and needs to make budget cuts. Having that personal experience allows her or him to be more thoughtful when making tough decisions.
Outside the College
These days, not many people stay in one place for their entire career. Why have you chosen to stay at Valpo?
I have far too much Valpo apparel to leave at this point! But, all joking aside, this is where my life is — where my family is. I grew up in Valpo, and so did my husband. Now, our children have made a life here, and we have two grandchildren, Kylee, 13, and Kamryn, 9, to share it with as well. It is very unusual for an entire family to be in one place, and I am very fortunate. It makes getting together for holidays much easier, and I try to attend my grandchildren’s’ sporting events when I can. We also make a point to get together to watch football, especially the Super Bowl — it’s always an event for us regardless of who is playing.
What kinds of things do you enjoy doing with your family?
I love to be outdoors. When I was a child, our family used to go to the same cottage in the Upper Peninsula every summer. My father taught me how to fish, and by the time I could talk, I could identify every type of bait and lure on the boat. Now, I share that love with my children and grandchildren. We spend as much time out on a lake, on a boat, fishing, or just relaxing on the porch as we can. We’ve also taken several family vacations to destinations such as Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole. This year we are going to the Grand Canyon.
And you and your family are quite the sports enthusiasts?
Oh yes. We love to watch sports. We joke that our extended family is exactly like that NFL commercial on TV with the Vikings, Bengals, Eagles, and Steelers fans all in one family. My son in-law loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, and we also have a Colts fan in our midst.
So, as our family has grown, we have adopted new teams. And of course, we are big Valpo basketball fans as well. When the Crusaders are at home or if they make the NCAA tournament, I always try to go. I was delighted to be able to attend the game against Maryland this year and wear my Valpo gear proudly. The game was very exciting, of course, but participating in this event with other avid Valpo supporters was just thrilling.