Campus Closeup: Jeannie Wratschko
When she was a child living in Chicago, Jeannie Wratschko (AAUP) spent a month every summer with her parents and siblings in a rented cabin on Lake Michigan near Manistique. The cabin featured an outhouse, a wood stove and no electricity. Her family would take day trips to state parks and come to Marquette to collect agates and picnic at Presque Isle Park. Wratschko said these were some of her favorite childhood memories.
“It was strange coming from the inner city and suddenly finding yourself in the middle of boreal forest. I loved hearing the rhythm of the waves crashing, smelling the hot sand, the pines and the sweet fern mingling together, watching the sun rise and set and seeing stars for the first time. I think unless you grew up in a large city you wouldn’t quite understand. It was such an emotional and spiritual freedom."
Wratschko has worked at NMU for about eight years as a secretary in various departments, including First Year Experience, Diversity Student Services (now the Multicultural Education and Resource Center) and Vocational Support Services. She now serves as the secretary to the Academic Senate and the faculty union, the American Association of University Professors.
“Just seeing how everything interacts, from recommendations to the senate and their debates on issues, to how changes are made to the curriculums of various departments, is really interesting. I love the people I work with—they’re a diverse and very dynamic group,” Wratschko said.
She is in the midst of pursuing her third master’s degree, this one in educational administration, and plans to graduate this May. After starting at Northern in 1999 she earned a B.S. in psychology, a master’s in administration through the public administration program with an emphasis on program analysis and evaluation, and a second master's in psychology with an emphasis in training and development.
“I’ve been going to school year-round since I started working here. I think it is such a fantastic benefit for employees.” Wratschko said. “I believe in lifetime learning. Personal and professional development is very important to me. It’s also a great way to stay involved and to relate to other students.”
When she is not busy with AAUP/senate responsibilities or class work, Wratschko keeps busy with her two unique hobbies: raising monarch butterflies and foraging for natural foods. Her interest in raising butterflies came from reading an article in January 2002 about how illegal logging in Mexico decimated the monarch’s only winter habitat.
“The thought that monarchs would become extinct in my lifetime really shocked me!” she said.
Wratschko can also find edible food just about anywhere. She spends much of her free time as an amateur botanist and learning which wild foods are edible and how to prepare them.
Depending on the time of the year, in just a five-minute walk around Cohodas Hall where she works, Wratschko can point out at least 20 different plants and their medicinal, culinary or utilitarian properties.
“I’m interested in the relationship our ancestors had with plants. Learning about them honors them and helps preserve this knowledge,” Wratschko said.
If you’re lucky enough to run into her after one of her foraging outings, you may be treated to a gourmet meal of lambs quarter quiche or giant puffball crepes, steamed and buttered milkweed buds, creamy crawfish bisque, stuffed brook trout, cattail pollen biscuits with thimbleberry jam, a mixed wild greens salad with a dazzling array of edible flowers such as dianthus, calendula or violets ... all accompanied by a cup of her favorite sweet fern tea.