The incoming dean of the College of Health and Human Services has a lifelong passion for influencing health care and the health of others.
Through Caroline Mallory’s life, her determination, drive and passion have led her to the position of dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Indiana State University this year. But, she is adamant: throughout her life and career, her achievements were not hers alone.
Mallory’s passion for health care started at a young age. “I attribute it primarily to the very strong women in my life starting with my mother, who was also a registered nurse.”
Her family lived in Red Bluff, Calif., in the northern Sacramento Valley. Her mother emigrated from Canada, and her father’s family had been California natives since the Gold Rush.
When Mallory was 6 years old, her father left their family, an event that the new dean describes as one of the most influential moments in her life.
“I realized from that point forward was how lucky I was to have a mother who was well-educated, who had a professional career and could support her family,” she said.
Her mother’s education included a year of traveling and working throughout Europe at age 18 — and earning a diploma in nursing, not a degree. Mallory saw her mother’s career advance, at a time when that was rare for women in most fields.
Growing up, Mallory was influenced by the concerns of second-wave feminism — social justice and equality — as well as wanting to be economically self-sufficient. “I had a strong belief that becoming a nurse would allow me to enact all of those things,” she said.
Although Mallory was the first in her family to hold a bachelor’s degree and remains the only family member with advanced degrees, the respect for education ran deep in her mother’s family.
“I really think that education can take many different forms,” Mallory said. “But I have to say that I think that for me education absolutely was a game-changer. I think if I had not gone off to college and did not have the experiences at universities that I’ve had, I would not be the person I am today.”
Mallory’s extracurricular activities were also life changing. She met her husband, Darin Eastburn, in college at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. They shared a love for science fiction — so much so that they named their first child, Brekke, (pronounced “breck”) after a character in the Anne McCaffery book, “Dragonriders of Pern.”
“She likes her name,” Mallory said, “but people never pronounce it correctly.”
Both of Mallory’s children have a strong education, which led Brekke to a career as a Montessori teacher. The couple’s son, Colin, earned a degree in international development and now works in international finance.
“I think in many ways my children have shaped me at least as much as I’ve shaped them,” Mallory said. “Perhaps more.” Her children and 3-year-old granddaughter “keep me connected to the future,” she added.
Mallory is excited by and focused on her future at State. While she stresses how much she appreciates and values her experience during the past 18 years at Illinois State University, the new dean says she was ready for a change.
One of the main facets of State’s mission that attracted her to the position was the school’s commitment to provide access to higher education to people from all walks of life.
She was also excited about the interdisciplinary nature of the College of Health and Human Services, as well as the school’s resources that reach into the Terre Haute community, like the Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab Clinic. “Those kinds of opportunities at an institution of this size are almost unheard of,” Mallory, said.
While her students might be quick to note her intelligence and the high standards she holds for them and herself, some of what fuels Mallory’s spirit might surprise those around her.
Is it the fact that she and her husband are avid ballroom dancers? No. Mallory said people aren’t surprised by that fact.
“I love to fish, camp, hike, really any excuse to be in the outdoors,” Mallory said. “That’s probably the thing people don’t expect about me. Maybe it’s the way I dress or the way I talk or whatever!”
Being in nature is the way Mallory recharges. “I just find that that makes a big difference in my quality of life.”
Looking ahead, Mallory sees her biggest challenges at State as the same ones the education and health care fields face nationally: the changing landscape in both areas because of technology, shifts in employer expectations and value-based funding.
For instance, 15 years ago, distance learning meant travel time for teachers. Now, the same lectures and information can be delivered to remote students digitally. Technological advancement is also changing how and where health care is delivered.
“We’re seeing a shift in demand from acute care to primary care,” Mallory said. “That means we have to think about how we prepare these health care and social welfare professionals to manage care in those settings.”
She said, “We are graduating people who will have other human lives in their hands, we can’t expect anything less than the best from those students.”
Mallory sees State as an institution that does its best for its students, a school that has its eyes open to realities. That includes adapting to evolving trends and working hard to ensure that students graduate without a lot of debt. The school has extended a robust welcome. “I can’t tell you how reassuring that has been,” she said.
“It’s hard to express how important I believe education is,” Mallory said. “It’s kind of a cliché to say that education is life-changing or is mind opening, but it really is all of those things.”