Donor Spotlight: Mary Jane Eisenhauer, Ed.D.

A Journey from Higher Education to Community Impact 

Mary Jane Eisenhauer's career trajectory is a testament to her dedication to early childhood education and community building. With a background as a kindergarten teacher and a higher education professional, Mary Jane has seamlessly transitioned into a role that allows her to make a significant impact on her community. 

 After moving to Indiana, she joined Purdue North Central as an adjunct faculty member, where she played a pivotal role in developing a bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education with licensure.  She served as an adjunct for a short time, before accepting a tenure track position, achieving rank of Professor of Early Childhood Education in 2019.  

Integrating Community Work in Education  

Understanding the importance of community support in education, Mary Jane ensured that the early childhood program at Purdue Northwest was deeply rooted in community work. She introduced a service-learning experience that immersed students in community engagement from their freshman year. This approach not only enriched the students' educational experience but also strengthened the community's educational ecosystem. 

Her innovative methods and dedication to community engagement earned her a grant from Community-Engaged Alliance. This grant was instrumental in embedding service learning into the early childhood program, transforming it into a comprehensive framework that connected undergraduates with community work. Mary Jane's efforts were further recognized when she was invited to participate in Community-Engaged Alliance’s Service-Learning Institute, which significantly influenced her approach to community engagement in education. 

Transition to the Community Foundation 

In a bold move three years ago, Mary Jane left her position in higher education to join the Porter County Community Foundation where she is the Executive Director, First Things First Porter County. This transition was driven by her passion for early childhood development and the opportunity to focus on the prenatal to three-year-old age group. Through a rigorous community listening process, Porter County Community Foundation identified that investing in the earliest years would make the greatest impact on all facets of the community. Mary Jane was invited to lead these efforts by launching the collective impact initiative, First Things First Porter County. 

Through persistent effort and collaboration, First Things First Porter County recently secured a $5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, who approached the Porter County Community Foundation regarding the initiative. This funding enables them to implement a well-thought-out plan to support and innovate in early relational health. The initiative aims to convene cross-sector partners to strengthen the ecosystem for early childhood development, focusing on healthy beginnings, supported families, and positive early childhood experiences. 

Experience with Faculty Fellows  

Mary Jane's involvement with the Faculty Fellows program significantly impacted her professional development. As a senior faculty fellow for several cohorts, she describes the experience as an invaluable opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds who are equally passionate about community engagement. She gained a supportive network and access to a wealth of knowledge and resources. This collaborative environment fostered a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose among the participants, enhancing her leadership skills. 

The Faculty Fellows program not only supported her growth as an educator and community leader but also reinforced her belief in the importance of fostering connections between academia and the community. As someone new to Indiana, the program allowed her to travel the state, visit state parks and landmarks with colleagues, and appreciate the significance of the quality of place, deepening her understanding of its critical role in community engagement. Her work was recognized by her colleagues, and in 2013, she was honored with the Brian Douglas Hiltunen Faculty Award for her outstanding contributions to the integration of service learning and community engagement in higher education. 

 Commitment to Giving Back 

She donates to Community-Engaged Alliance because she has witnessed firsthand the difference that well-supported community engagement initiatives can make. Mary Jane’s contributions are a way of giving back to an organization that has provided her with the tools, resources, and support needed to make a lasting impact in her community. Her donations are a testament to her belief in the mission of Community-Engaged Alliance and her desire to ensure that future educators and community leaders have the same opportunities to connect and truly make a difference. 

Looking Forward 

Mary Jane's story is one of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to community and education. He

r journey from a kindergarten teacher to a leader in community engagement exemplifies the long-term impact of dedicated educators. The ripples of her work continue to spread, influencing students, educators, and the broader community. 

As we highlight Mary Jane Eisenhauer in our Donor Spotlight, we celebrate not only her achievements but also the vision and dedication she brings to community-engaged education. Her work serves as an inspiration to all, demonstrating the profound impact that committed individuals can have on their communities. We are grateful for her contributions and look forward to seeing the continued positive outcomes of her efforts in early childhood education and community building. 

 

For more stories like Mary Jane’s, stay tuned to the Community-Engaged Alliance Chronicle. If you have any photos or additional stories to share about your community engagement work, please reach out to us. Together, we can continue to build stronger, more connected communities. 

 

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