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Staff Spotlight: Lisa Jene Collins

In each issue of the Weinberg College faculty/staff newsletter, you’ll meet a member of the Weinberg College staff. We hope you enjoy getting to know colleagues from around the Northwestern campus! 

Staff member name: Lisa Jene Collins

Title:  Business Administrator, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

How long have you been working at Northwestern/Weinberg? 4.5 years

How did you get started? 

Rossi Guenkova in the Department of Religious Studies kept telling me this is an amazing place to work and that I should try to work as a temp to see what she meant. I soon accepted a full-time position in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures that evolved out of my temp role in the Program of African and Asian Languages. Even though PAAL is not around as a program anymore, the faculty and students there were my first “NU-work” family, so they will always have a special place in my heart. (In fact, a picture from the “farewell to PAAL after 40 years of service” serves as my Facebook homepage photo.)

But my first time on the Northwestern campus was not as a staffer. I spent my undergraduate years at Northwestern completing a degree in mathematics (heart Weinberg!) with my eyes set on a career in actuarial science. But it wasn’t until shortly after graduation that I came to realize the sad truth that for most people, complex math problems don’t necessarily bring people together socially. So I chose to do other, more social kinds of work (even though I still love the numbers!).

Do you have a special interest/talent/hobby?  

If I could, I would spend all my days improving the quality of gourmet meals for backpackers. I LOVE to cook and hike, and rarely can you truly enjoy both on the same trip — I’m getting close, though!

How do you devote time to this special interest/talent/hobby? 

I am very fortunate to have a very large extended family, for whom I cook on a constant basis — birthdays, summer barbeques, annual holidays, Sunday dinner. If it’s not at my house, I am bringing something to the table. I am most famous for my cheesier-than-cheesy mac ‘n’ cheese. I have entered a few local cooking competitions, but Chicago is so political, I have yet to win [grin].

As for the hiking, I must admit that since starting at Northwestern, I have not stayed on top of my game. But with family and friends located in great spots such as Helena, Mont. (on the edge of Glacier National Park), Los Altos, Calif. (outside Yosemite National Park), and, Louisville, Ky., just north of Mammoth Caves, I am sorely due for a nice long trek. I have hit about 40 percent of this nation’s national parks and plan to knock on the door of a few more in the years ahead. It’s just that the ones that I have already been to are so cool that I can’t help but keep going back!

What are your dreams and aspirations? 

My longtime dream has been to wake up one morning to find that Northwestern has rolled out a new and improved “upgraded NU financials application” — wait, please tell me that didn’t already happen! Anyway, what we do day in and day out is what shapes our lives, so I hope to keep my day-to-day activities as rich and engaging as possible. It is hard work realizing these dreams!

Oh, and I also would love to open a bed and breakfast for either young people or old people (you can’t be in the middle) who are at a point in their lives where they are trying to define themselves, again or for the first time, and just need that place where anything is possible and where all the resources are available to them to make it happen. I have in fact submitted a few proposals for funding, most recently to the Trump administration, and I hope to hear back soon. Ideally, the B&B would be in a national park and accessible by railroad. Invited guests would receive vouchers that would allow them to travel to international parks that are collaborating with this “identify yourself” program. The goal would be for the participants to identify what they are meant to focus on at this particular point in their lives,

They would also need to complete something substantive, such as a publishable work or recipes for meals using limited resources in a niche area, or contribute to the construction of an urban or rural piece of infrastructure. It would be something along the lines of Habitat-for-Humanity meets foundational-college-education meets headspace meets a good old-fashioned neighborhood comic-book swap, all pre-funded and percolated in an internationally extended system of B&Bs. Messy, I know, but I’ve found those make the best dreams when implemented in reality.

Favorite Chicago and/or Evanston restaurant, location, activity? 

Le Bouchon in Chicago on Damen has the most amazing food and ambiance. It is small as all get-out (even if you don’t know the folks at the tables all around you when you arrive, you sure the heck will by the time you leave!) so not for the shy crowd or those who require a lot of personal space; but well worth it for the experience of the delightful food and drink.

What is your expertise as it pertains to your job at Northwestern and Weinberg College?

I think my strongest suit is being able to work on projects that require a wide set of skills — not just managing them, but getting my hands in the mix and doing the necessary work to complete the tasks as required. From research administration to personnel matters to budget forecasting to communication management to continuously reconciling it all, I am able to step back and manage the work and then know when I need to step back in and do the work. This skill has been the most essential for me thus far.

If you have $5 and you’re at Walgreen’s, what do you buy? 

Definitely candy, gum or mints (I am always buying one or all three for the office, my daughter or my friends!).

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Kenya, Greece, the Maldives or Alaska. These are all top on my list to get to sometime in the next 10 years. Check back in with me in 2027 and see if I was able to make that happen!!

Want to know more about the Staff Advisory Board? Visit our website to learn about upcoming events and other information.

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