By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Paul Layden (B.S., ’91’; M.S., ’98) was named Distinguished Faculty of the Year at the 2019 CSU Career Impact Awards. An instructor in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, he has built up the department’s internship program in truly impressive fashion.
He became internship coordinator when he joined the faculty in 1999. Since then, he has coordinated 2,000 internships, an average of 100 each year. Part of his success is due to the working relationships he has developed with more than 400 companies, non-governmental organizations, and natural resource agencies. These relationships enable him to connect students with opportunities, not only to obtain internships but also to find employment after graduation.
Layden’s success at coordinating internships also is due to an engaging personality, which makes him extremely effective at working with people and developing relationships. He is outstanding at mentoring and motivating students. He starts early in their education, as he teaches the department’s one-credit “new to the major” seminar. Students praise his approachability and his concern for their experience at CSU also well as in their careers. Layden received the University’s Jack E. Cermak Advising Award in 2005-06.
One former student, Mark Kowalik (B.S., ’09), currently a Chicago realtor, tells a not-unusual story: “Paul was an excellent educator and mentor while I was studying, and we continue to stay in contact 10 years after I graduated. I ran the largest bicycle touring company in Chicago, and he was able to connect me with a summer intern from the Recreation Tourism major concentration, which was excellent.” This young woman later became a full time employee of the company.
Layden refers to this as “one of the perquisites of my job. The parent in me really enjoys seeing former students after they graduate.” He follows their careers and sometimes shares lunch, coffee, or a beer when they come back to town. He gets their perspectives on how well the department prepared them and takes that information back to the faculty.
Paul and wife Jill Layden (B.S., ’91), chemist and senior scientist for quality at Tolmar Pharmaceuticals, are CSU Alumni Association Life Members. They attend many Alumni Association events, including food pairings and beer pairings. They also volunteer at the huge picnic the Alumni Association hosts for new students and their families at Ram Welcome, which is held a few days before classes begin each fall semester. They are Ram sports fans, as well. They have season tickets for men’s basketball and football, and they tailgate with a group of friends.
A third-generation CSU alumnus, Layden and his wife have their own CSU story. As he tells it, he met an attractive chemistry major in a dendrology (the science of trees) course. Passing dendrology involved rote memorization of an enormous amount of information regarding the types and scientific lexicon of trees. Their relationship blossomed when they went to the laboratory to study and “look at pinecones, which became a theme for our marriage.” What did he give his wife and fellow Ram on their 20th anniversary? A box of pinecones!