Some may call Dr. Janet Coleman’s journey in higher education a series of coincidences, however, she is confident that God has opened every door along the way.
Growing up, Dr. Coleman enjoyed going to school, so when it came time to choose a major at Bowling Green State University, Education was the perfect fit.
“I always had a passion for children,” she said. “Not just elementary but I had a major in Special Education as well.”
After graduation, Dr. Coleman began her career as an elementary teacher at a private school, but after starting her family, she decided to stay at home with her children while they were young.
When her youngest child started school, Dr. Coleman was approached by the school to help out, as they knew she had teaching experience.
“It was a natural fit,” she remembered. “I started substitute teaching, tutoring special needs children, and ended up being asked to work in the office. I started as an administrative assistant and moved into the assistant principal role there.”
At the time, computers were just coming into schools and Dr. Coleman had very little experience with them so decided to take a class at the University of Toledo, which turned into a few more classes.
“A professor took notice of me and asked if I considered getting my doctorate,” she remembered. “I was finishing my master’s at the time and found the higher education environment very stimulating. My family and I talked about it, prayed about it, and decided this was the route I needed to go. I fell in love with higher education. And that professor, Dr. Bud Koontz (who has since passed) became the first of many mentors I have been blessed to have in my professional journey.”
Dr. Coleman started at a small private college, very similar to Emmanuel as their Director of Graduate Studies.
“They were just starting their graduate program and were applying for a level change with accreditation,” she said. “I enjoyed the environment there as I got to know everyone on campus. It was a challenge to get a graduate program up and running, but I enjoyed it.”
Following this, Dr. Coleman spent time at four public universities, Purdue University Calumet, Coastal Carolina University, Armstrong State University, and her most recent stop, Indiana State University, where she served as the Dean of the Bayh College of Education.
In each of her roles, Dr. Coleman gained ample hands-on experience with progressive roles of responsibility that she believes will benefit her in her role of Vice President for Academic Affairs at Emmanuel.
“I had the opportunity to grow programs and move a college forward. At Indiana State University, I had the added responsibility of developing external relations both internally on campus, in the community, and with alumni and donors across the country”, she said.
What intrigued her about Emmanuel College?
“I liked the strategic direction the college was taking,” she said. “For me, the biggest factor was having Christ as the foundation. Christ is the message and all knowledge comes through a relationship with him. The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. I’m excited to be a part of that too.”
In her visit to Franklin Springs, Dr. Coleman quickly realized what made Emmanuel unique…the community.
“Everyone was so welcoming,” she said. “I appreciated the fact that our major meetings began with prayer. Both the search committee and President White recognized that although this is a big decision for you as a college, it is for me, too. It was refreshing to see that you put your trust in the Lord. I felt that everyone I met was genuine and extremely helpful on the day I visited and ever since. I see people who are passionate about what they do and are willing to do things outside of their job descriptions for the betterment of the college and students.”
What’s one thing she would like the Emmanuel community to know about her?
“My door is always open,” she said. “While I know I’m over the academics side, we all work together for the same goal.”
She also said, “I’d like to know people’s experiences, professionally and personally. We bring our whole selves to work and it is important for me to be part of and nurture a community that cares about each other and what we do. You may wish to know a little about me personally. I am remarried and my husband is my best friend and my helpmate. Together, we have four adult children, all who are now married. We love to travel. The farthest I have traveled was South Korea, and I have been there three times. Last year, my husband and I bought a camper. I am not only addicted to camping already, but my husband recently taught me how to fish.”
When looking for a new role, Dr. Coleman turned to her former boss and one of her mentors, Dr. Bob Smith, who currently serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Valdosta State for advice.
“He took a chance hiring me as the Dean of the College of Education at Armstrong,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of administrative experience at the time. But I learned a lot under his leadership, and since then, he has been a trusted mentor and friend. It was he who encouraged me to look for Vice President positions. I was highly selective this time around. I wanted a smaller college experience where I could still have interactions with students, where I felt like I was making an impact, and where I was working together with all members of the college as a part of a team dedicated to truly educating our students.”
Dr. Coleman believes she has found all that and more at Emmanuel, and it all started with an open door.