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CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Mary Kay Patton

Posted by | August 4, 2017

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.

Today we’re showcasing Mary Kay Patton, clinical assistant professor at the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership (CTLL) and the Department of Human DevelopmentHere are her answers to a few questions:

Where are you from?

Profile picture of Mary Kay Patton
Mary Kay Patton

I am an Idaho native. I can count back four generations on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family and all settled between here and the Camas Prairie. I actually grew up in Craigmont, Idaho and as a teenager was very impatient to leave, to leave for anywhere else. I never thought I’d return to this area, but it has been really rich and rewarding to return to the Palouse. I have a strong connection to the land and landscape and can really feel a palpable sense of peace here. The landscape evokes both stillness and motion and allows a deep reverence for the earth and for allowance and receptivity. 

Where did you go to school?

I like to think I am still in school, earth school. My life really feels like a never ending process of school. I am constantly learning and growing and shifting, picking up lessons from the ski slopes, the neighbor kids, my students, the tulips and rabbits and grasshoppers. All of it. Sometimes I even experience “unlearning” as old patterns and habits are released. Nonetheless, I think the question is driving at formal education. I attended the University of Washington, earning a degree in political science.  (Remember I couldn’t wait to get out of small town Idaho). I also spent a year at Glasgow University in Scotland, before attending law school at the University of Idaho.

Why did you want to become a professor?

I didn’t actually set out to become a professor. However, each day that I am in the classroom, I really want to be there. I love connecting with students, hearing their stories, finding possibilities to transform suffering, and laughing our way into new perspectives. I am deeply privileged to do the work that I do and my time working with students is infinitely rewarding and nourishing.

What is your favorite thing about working with college students?

College students, nontraditional or otherwise, are on a path of discovery and redefinition. They are working, in sometimes subtle ways, to transform old stories into new possibilities, for career, for relationship, and for self-awareness. My work is about holding a space for movement and growth, one where they are able to face challenges (sometimes everyday challenges and sometimes enormous ones) with honesty and courage. I get to empower them as they develop resilience and presence.

In some ways I feel like I get to champion each of my students as they brush past me on their unique journey. If I can offer a few nuggets that help them be more present and self-aware and to fuel a desire to live a values-based life, my work is sustaining.

What advice would you pass along to students?

Hmmmm….explore, get curious, get gritty, and love well. Little things matter, so when life starts feeling bumpy for me, I stop and look for beauty in the world. I adopt sunset mind and let myself move into appreciation and gratitude. My advice to my students is the same—to let yourself fall in love with this extraordinarily exquisite world, moment by moment.