Jan Reynolds’ career took a 180-degree turn from the financial world to academia – and she hasn’t looked back ever since.
Formerly in banking management, Reynolds earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology and by August 2007 landed at NIU to pursue a Master’s in Sociology. She called it a “natural fit” because of how it fed her interest in social problems such as homelessness, poverty and families.
After completing her graduate studies, Reynolds moved to the university’s teaching side as a full-time instructor in 2009. She said the job opening was “happenstance” which allowed her to continue her Huskie experience.
“I love NIU because of the diversity. What a rich environment,” she said.
Known for creating a welcoming classroom environment in which she encourages students to learn from each other, Reynolds was recently honored with an Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award. Kyle Urbashich, who graduated in 2016, recalls the immediate level of comfort he and other students feel in Reynolds’ classroom.
“Jan made it clear that no matter what background a student may come from or what family structure a student may have, that their experiences are valuable not only as learning experiences for the rest of the class, but also as a tool for learning more about ourselves,” Urbashich said. “Jan also made it clear that all students, regardless of their identity, were to feel safe in her classroom.”
It’s that type of feedback which makes the award particularly meaningful to Reynolds.
“I really care that students feel safe to express themselves and comfortable with engaging,” she offered.
Reynolds thrives on personal interaction with students and describes an “energizing effect” which comes from encouraging them to feed off one another to learn on a real-world level. She prides herself on being adaptable to what it takes to give students the best experience possible.
“Dr. Reynolds was one of the most influential professors I met at Northern Illinois University during an honors retreat my freshman year,” former student Christie Miksys wrote in a letter nominating Reynolds for the award. “Since that first meeting five years ago, Professor Reynolds has continually supported me in my academic endeavors and has profoundly impacted my academic career.”