Campus Closeup: Pat Brown
Pat Brown (Biology) started his undergraduate degree at Central Michigan University to become a medical doctor. But his academic path changed entirely after a duck-hunting trip with his brother opened his eyes to the possibilities of research biology.
“We had a few ducks that landed in our decoys and instead of shooting those ducks, we decided to watch them. Well, they brought their friends and about two hours later we had about 200 ducks of five or six different species all swimming around us in a managed marsh,” Brown said. “While I was sitting there and chatting quietly with my brother, I started thinking that I really wanted to know what they eat, why they’re here, where they nest and what they do when they winter. And that got me interested in studying wildlife.”
Brown came to Northern two years ago to serve as department head. He also wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to live in the Upper Peninsula. He calls Marquette “absolutely the most beautiful spot in the U.P.” Brown said he loves working here, not only because of the scenic environment, but also because of NMU’s unique qualities.
“The campus is a very progressive campus in a lot of ways and it’s an exciting place. It’s big enough to have an impact and small enough that individuals really matter. If you walk across campus, students say hello to you. When I worked at Michigan State University, I walked across campus for four and half years, and I don’t think there were four times I saw somebody I knew.”
Before settling into academia, Brown’s first job was serving as a janitor’s assistant in the regional office of the Michigan Department of Conservation in Roscommon, where he swept floors, washed toilets, sinks and windows and did other general cleaning.
“Also, I was once a deputy conservation officer primarily charged with enforcing marine safety laws but also assisted conservation officers in all their duties. I had a lot of fun catching poachers! Both jobs were great learning experiences."
In addition to MSU, Brown’s academic career has taken him to the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau and the University of Illinois, where he conducted research, led research groups involved with wildlife and taught wildlife ecology courses. He teaches courses at Northern that include conservation biology and ecosystem management.
Brown said he likes being a department head because he is able to make significant changes that he wouldn’t have had much input on when he was a faculty member at other universities. He said that he tries to use this influence to create a better experience for students. One example is helping to create a new fish and wildlife management major. Another is helping to develop a new freshman seminar class for entering biology students.
In his spare time, Brown likes to take hikes with his wife of 38 years, Mary Ann, and his labrador retriever, Rosie. He is "immensely pround" of his two sons and a daughter-in-law. Daniel is an atmospheric physicist at the University of Michigan and married to Sarah, a medical student at the same institution. Adam is working on his doctorate in mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. Brown also enjoys reading history books and taking pictures of nature and friends.