Laura Dodds joined the Purdue Extension Marion County (PXMC) office in late April as the County Extension Director. Read below for a Q&A with Laura, covering topics ranging from her career achievements to her dinner party dreams.
What was the "aha moment" that got you interested in working with Purdue Extension?
Wow, let’s just say I had many majors in college and seem to have a knack for reinventing myself! I began my career with the Boys & Girls Club movement, then had a stint in higher education doing fundraising before finding myself growing a statewide nonprofit focused on STEM education for under-resourced students. I decided it was time for a career change after 12 years running the TechPoint Foundation for Youth, and I started looking around for the perfect fit. I think my aha moment was when I got the e-newsletter announcing my predecessor’s retirement. I instantly thought, that’s it, that is my next move. Between my professional experience, personal passion, and education, I have spent 20+ years doing something in each of Extension's four program areas (Community Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health & Human Services, & 4-H). Even with my experience, I find myself dealing with a little bit of imposter syndrome! I am just so grateful for the opportunity to join this team of smart, committed, creative educators, and staff.
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
I am a Hoosier three times over so it’s pretty funny to find myself working for Purdue University. My BS is from IU-Bloomington in Human Development and Family Studies, I have a MPA from IU-Indianapolis with a concentration in nonprofit management, and I am currently a doctoral candidate with IU-Indianapolis in the American Studies department focused on urban agriculture and food sovereignty.
What is the app on your phone you can't live without?
Apple Podcast. I love to take a long walk with my three useless dogs and listen to podcasts that vary from urban agriculture to real crime mysteries.
Who inspired you most in your career?
This is a hard one, I feel like I have so many people who have inspired me in so many different ways. Ultimately, I think it’s my kids though who have most inspired me. I have boy/girl twins who are incoming sophomores at North Central High School. When the twins were born I realized that every minute I spent away from them had to count. Having them has reminded me of how important it is to love your job.
What is your favorite restaurant in Indy?
I love food. My go-to is Upland because it’s walking distance from my house and I would never say no to going there. But as far as my favorite restaurant, I think I would have to say Shoefly Public House. I will never tire of their creative grilled cheeses and yucca fries.
What do you tell Alexa to play most often?
Jason Isabell has been my obsession for months. I also love to hear Bob Schneider, Prince, and Grateful Dead. You can’t go wrong with the Decemberist station either.
What is one word you would use to describe PXMC?
Secret. PXMC is the best-kept secret in town, and I plan to change that!
It's your last dinner party on earth, you can invite 3 people that are not of blood relation to join you at your table. These people can be alive or dead. Who are they?
Oprah- I grew up in the “region” and we are all Chicago TV and sports, so Oprah has always been my favorite (#GoCubbies, #BearDown), Jerry Garcia- duh, no explanation needed there, and I guess my husband because someone will need to work the grill.
Last question, do you believe in ghosts? What about Aliens?
Yes to both. I swear my deceased mother speaks to me through a light in my house. And yes, I realize that sounds crazy. One of my favorite movie genres is end of the world alien invasion movies. I am prepared to win the war should they come down!