Campus Closeup: Jan Paquette
Jan Paquette’s ties to Northern extend back even farther than the 39 years she has been employed by the university. She was a student at the former John D. Pierce Training School, a K-12 facility operated by the university where teacher certification candidates were trained by practicing instructors, many of whom also taught at Northern. The Marquette native grew up adjacent to campus on Schaffer Avenue and recalls riding horses on the once-open field that is now the site of the Learning Resources Center.
Paquette’s first job on campus was as a student cook. She later landed a similar full-time position in the Quad II dining operation and, over 13 years, shifted among different campus kitchens. After briefly taking classes part time on top of her work, she abandoned her original goal of becoming a park ranger or conservationist and settled in for a long career at NMU.
“The hours in Dining Services varied quite a bit,” she said. “I wanted something steady, so I moved to a midnight shift as a custodian at the Jacobetti Center. It was only about 18 months later that a custodial job at the University Center opened up with a Monday through Friday day shift. I’ve been here ever since. I love this job. It’s service-oriented and it’s not routine.”
Paquette’s main responsibility is setting up chairs and tables for banquets. She meets weekly with the Simply Superior catering staff to verify her assignments. Her supervisor, Tom Helgren, has encouraged her to branch out with some interior design-related contributions. Paquette selected the colors and design of the Great Lakes Rooms, Peter White Lounge and University Center hallways (she painted the scattered squares pattern near the main first-floor entrance, pictured below). She also helped paint and set up the clubhouse at the NMU Golf Course. Her and others’ efforts at the course earned a Distinguished Team Service Award at the 2010 employee recognition luncheon.
“Tom is a very good supervisor. He ’s allowed me to express my creative side, which is fun. And he’s been flexible and understanding of the fact I’m a single parent. He even let me change the start of my shift by an hour when my kids were young so I could get them in daycare. It counts—it really does. I guess the reason I’ve been so loyal is because he’s been very supportive. So have my two co-workers.”
Daughter Nichelle just graduated in December and is a long-term substitute teacher in Menominee. Son Noah is 19 and an apprentice carpenter.
She may not have followed through on her initial goal of becoming a park ranger, but Paquette still loves the outdoors. She tends flower beds and a vegetable garden outside the small “fixer-upper” she purchased 11 years ago. She completed the home’s renovations in time for her daughter’s NMU graduation.
Paquette applies her creative decorating skills to family graduation parties, weddings and birthdays. She also exercises her culinary talents in a service capacity by offering free catering services for a couple of non-profit fundraising receptions each year.