The Honors College recently welcomed Deborah Bachmann to the honors community as its new Program Coordinator. This transition comes as Brandon Rukes, who served as Program Coordinator since 2014, steps into the next stage of his career as Associate Pastor at Griffith First Christian Church.
We’ll miss you, Brandon!
Brandon Rukes was first introduced to honors as a freshman at Purdue University Northwest in 2009. He then served as student president of the Honors Program from the time he was a sophomore to the time he graduated in 2013. After a brief hiatus, Brandon returned to honors as the full-time Program Coordinator and has played a pivotal role in transforming the Honors Program into the college it is today.
“The Honors Program, as it was when I was a freshman, would be unrecognizable to students today, just as the current Honors College would be unrecognizable to students in 2009,” said Brandon. “There were only a couple events each semester, our annual banquet was held in the back room of a restaurant, there was no website or social media presence, no extra scholarships… there just wasn’t a bigger picture yet.”
Over the course of his tenure, Brandon helped establish a vision for the development of the Honors College, growing its membership from approximately 50 students to more than 300. Additionally, Brandon had a hand in obtaining office and lounge space for honors staff and students; securing funding for study abroad opportunities and conferences; developing leadership structures and working with student presidents; rounding up full-time honors staff members on both campuses; and creating systems for data management.
“So much has changed and so much has gone into becoming who we are. It’s cool to see how much the hard work pays off – that there’s a tangible difference from where honors was then to where it is now,” said Brandon. “It was all worth it.”
While Brandon is excited to become more involved with Griffith First Christian Church as the newly hired Associate Pastor, the thing he’ll miss most about honors is the team. Brandon has become especially close to Dean John Rowan, who stood up in Brandon’s wedding to honors alumna Cassie Rukes.
“There’s not a single staff person I won’t miss,” said Brandon. “It’s great to be able to come to work and not only love what you do, why you do it, and have passion behind it, but to then get to do it with people that you like to spend time with.”
Brandon leaves students with a final word of advice: “Get to know Debbie! The students are very lucky to have someone like her. I’m excited she’s taking over the Program Coordinator role, because she’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Deborah Bachmann, better known around campus as Debbie, joins the Honors College staff as its new program coordinator nearly 15 years into her Purdue University Northwest career.
“I kind of feel like I’ve always been here,” Debbie said of the Honors College. “Everyone is so welcoming, and it seems like everyone is a team and has good relationships with one another. It’s been an easy transition.”
Debbie was originally hired at PNW as a secretary in the Counseling Center, then went on to work in the Dean of Students Office and as assistant director of New Student Orientation in the Admissions Office.
As program coordinator, Debbie wants to emphasize an open-door policy, which has proved successful in her previous roles at the university. Atop her desk sits a large container of salted pretzel sticks, which she invites visitors to help themselves to when they come to her with questions, concerns or a quick chat.
“My door is always open,” Debbie advised students. “I want to be as helpful as possible. If there’s something the students need that I don’t know how to do, it’s my job to make sure I find the answers for them.”
The Honors College hosted “Debbie in the Den,” where Debbie met with students in the honors-reserved spaces on both the Hammond and Westville campuses. Along with getting acquainted with staff and students, Debbie has spent the first couple weeks getting familiar with her new position.
“Right now, I’m learning what the role is and seeing what I can bring to the table to enhance it,” said Debbie.
In her free time, when she’s not soaking up the sun at her favorite vacation spot in South Carolina, Debbie most enjoys spending time with her family. She is married to PNW’s Facilities Supervisor John Bachmann and has a married daughter, a married son, two grandchildren, two dogs of her own and two “grand-dogs.”
She also loves Mexican food and eating shrimp in “any way, shape or form, like Forrest Gump.”