Dana Thorp Patterson discusses why she is passionate about continuing education

Dana Thorp Patterson joined the Community & Technical College in December 2012 as the continuing education manager at the Chugiak-Eagle River Campus. She shares why she believes that continuing education opportunities can be powerful and life-changing experiences for students.

Dana Thorp Patterson
Dana Thorp Patterson
Continuing Education Manager
Why did you want to work in higher education?
I’ve worked in higher education administration for nearly 14 years. Prior to that I spent two decades working in law enforcement and psychiatric services, and I always found myself teaching in some capacity through in-service and industry trainings or in an adjunct role. I was always my happiest when I was working in education. Once I landed in continuing education, I knew I had found my professional home.

Growing up in rural Alaska, I benefited from independent studies and correspondence courses provided by the state. Because of these educational opportunities early in my life, I graduated from college with two bachelor’s degrees at the age of 19.

A few years later, I earned a master’s degree, and last year, I completed all but my dissertation for a doctoral degree in higher education administration. If a girl from a logging village in Alaska can do this, other people can as well. I certainly want to help them along their educational journey.

What is your background prior to accepting your current role at CTC?
I’m Alaska grown but spent the last several years working in higher education at a university and then a community college in the Midwest. For the past 11 years, I directed a large continuing education center. The center was an award-winning, self-supporting department that offered hundreds of classes each semester in professional development, job skills training, workforce development programs, and community education. I had a great team of staff and a community that was eager for these programs.

What excites you about this position in particular? More generally, what do you enjoy most about your profession?
The popular saying “be the change you wish to see in the world” rings true for me. I discovered early in life that knowledge opens new doors. Every time I help an individual step through that open door, I know that I am being that change agent. Whether it is a stay-at-home mom learning new computer software or a displaced worker learning new skills to get back into the workforce, I am rewarded to see that our programs can and do make a world of difference. Working with instructors of continuing ed is equally rewarding. There is a rush of excitement when I meet someone passionate about a topic and then find that they want to share their knowledge with others!

Are you originally from Alaska? What do you most enjoy about the state?
Southeast Alaska is home for me, and I grew up surrounded by beautiful forests, fishing for halibut and salmon, snow-machining, and even swimming in the cold ocean waters. My family lived in a very isolated area with no television or radio, so reading and table games were pastimes along with all the great outdoor activities.

We were entertained by bears, whales, and other wildlife – sometimes even by the humans in our community. I’m not sure I appreciated it fully at the time, but as I got older, I recognized what a unique adventure I had in my upbringing. After traveling and working in other places, I am so very happy to be home again, surrounded by all the beauty and exciting adventures that are just outside my door.

What are your hobbies and interests?
My love of reading has never waned over the years, and I thank my parents daily for instilling this in me. I am a die-hard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming home to Alaska, I’m most looking forward to hiking and traveling to some new areas. You just can’t beat a good walk in the woods!
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Dana Thorp Patterson discusses why she is passionate about continuing education
Dana Thorp Patterson discusses why she is passionate about continuing education
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