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SJMC administrative assistant Denise Ganpat resigns

Photo by Liv Klassen | Photo Editor

Denise Ganpat, one of the biggest gears that has kept the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication running smoothly for the last five years, will be leaving her administrative assistant position.

Ganpat attended Drake from 1990-1994, earning her B.A. in Magazines and Books with concentrations in art and interior design magna cum laude. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s in teaching from Drake with concentrations in teaching journalism and English to 5th-12th graders.

“I knew I wanted to study journalism, so I looked at various schools that offered journalism as a major, including Northwestern and Mizzou and Drake and a few others. I had family in Des Moines and northwest Iowa and I grew up near the Quad Cities in Illinois,” Ganpat said. “We [would] stop in Des Moines to see my uncle, so I was somewhat familiar with the community and just really loved some of the Meredith publications like Midwest Living. I originally came to college thinking that would be my dream job. So why not be at a school that has a connection with Meredith publications?”

Ganpat’s favorite memories of her time as an undergraduate were participating in two particular student organizations: Drake’s former yearbook publication, Quax, and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter on campus.

“I would get a free press pass and I would get to go down on the field during the Relays. I got to be there as Carl Lewis ran. It was just amazing to see him run the course. He just floated around the track as if it was no effort at all, pulling everybody out of the water,” Ganpat said. “I had a lot of fun being a photographer and photo editor for [Quax] along the way.”

The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship was Ganpat’s “core group of friends” and helped her to “grow in my faith and just grow in leadership and other skills and gifts that were maybe not part of who I was in high school.” Her involvement in campus ministry caused her to pivot from a magazine-focused career to one that focused on nonprofit work.

“I wasn’t really a hardcore newsy kind of person. That’s why I went [in the] direction of magazines…I realized I couldn’t write about couches and curtains for my career…I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa with a reading tutor for young people and really loved working with young people and working in nonprofit arenas and then pretty much did that for the majority of my career,” Ganpat said. “I think it’s great. I always encourage students to look at nonprofits, even though maybe they don’t pay the best, but you get such a breadth of experience, especially if it’s a small nonprofit.”

Though Ganpat did not end up going into the magazine industry, an internship senior year helped her develop professional skills. At Kimberley Press, a publisher and printer, she interviewed CEOs and other high-level figures for Iowa Commerce.

“It helped build my confidence and made me realize, you know, every human being is flesh and blood just like me, so I can walk in the door and ask them my questions,” Ganpat said.

Her involvement with the Boys and Girls Club led to a paid role with the organization, launching Ganpat’s career in nonprofit work.

“I was doing multiple part-time things and I got on board with the Science Center of Iowa. That was a fun job because as a farm girl, I walk into the interview and they asked me if I can hold a snake and a turtle and a salamander and a frog,” Ganpat said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my childhood!’ Of course, yes, I could hold all those things and more, so I got to do public demonstrations…there was a housing nonprofit, there was a black historical cultural center that I worked for down in Amarillo, Texas and a botanical center. I did a whole range of different types of nonprofit work and really enjoyed working for something that had a mission that I could believe in and support.”

After spending a decade in the nonprofit sphere, Ganpat stopped working to raise her two sons full-time for five years. Her sons are now a junior and freshmen in college at Bradley University and Iowa State University, respectively.

Ganpat restarted her career in 2009 with various teaching positions at DMACC and Southeast Polk Middle and High School. Two years later, she came back to Drake as an administrative assistant in the Drake International office, now the Drake Office of Global Engagement.

“I definitely looked at the position, especially because it was with the International Center. My family was part of what was called the American Family Friendship program, where you were a host family for Drake international students, they didn’t live with you, but you did activities with them maybe once a month or more,” Ganpat said. “The fact that it was a 32-and-a-half-hour-a-week position. I had elementary-age kids [so it was] very helpful to be the parent I wanted to be and to be able to take them to school, pick them up and then have basically summers off while they were off for their summers…it let me be the mom I wanted to be.”

After working in the Drake International office for seven years, she made her move over to the SJMC as the school’s administrative assistant in 2018.

“Of the 10 of us that were working in the international office when I started there, there were only two of us left. Basically, Annique [Kiel, Director of the Office of Global Engagement] and I, the other eight people in the middle had changed over to some new wonderful people, but it wasn’t the same team or the same dynamic and it was different leadership,” Ganpat said. “It just felt like it was time for a change of scenery. I actually kept my eye open and looked at different opportunities within Drake, first of all, and I was quite excited when the school of journalism position opened up to move into this role because, again, it was a place and people who are near and dear to my hearts.”

Ganpat plans to continue her involvement in the Drake and Des Moines communities and her legacy of service to others, including involvement in First Family Church and opening her home to people who are going through medical struggles.

“You know, suddenly when my 19-year-old is maybe not getting straight A’s or my 16-year-old is 10 minutes late for curfew. I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s given me a great perspective. And, again, I’ve gotten to meet wonderful and fascinating people along the way,” Ganpat said. “One of my goals in life is to be a positive influence or a pilot to have a positive effect on other people’s lives. And I think, in all my roles here at Drake, I’ve had that opportunity, both in the duties and the tasks, as well as hopefully in my attitude and approach to those things.”

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