Adaptation: The case for professional versatility in a windy world

Prescription for happiness

The main reason for many alumni to evolve professionally stems from the age-old pursuit of happiness. That’s what sent Andrea (Sindt) Dinkelman (’84) down a new career path.

In many ways, Dinkelman was doing just fine as a pharmacist. The money was good. But after a decade filling prescriptions, the biology major was certain of one thing. She didn’t want to stay where she was.

She pointed to persistent staffing problems at the pharmacies where she worked and the ever-increasing headache of third-party insurance. “I wasn’t happy,” Dinkelman said. “Just ask my husband.”

So she made the decision to jump ship. “My pharmacy colleagues all thought I was nuts,” she remembered. “But it wasn’t for monetary reasons. It was personal.” Even before she had her next steps planned out, she was relieved to have made a decision. “Not everyone has the luxury to say, ‘I’m not going to do this anymore.’”

While the move took courage, deciding whether or not to leap was easier for her than deciding where to land. She turned to NWU’s Career and Counseling Center for guidance. The director then was Bette Olson (‘73), who now serves as the university’s registrar and assistant dean for institutional effectiveness. “Bette had me take the interest inventories.

All of them pointed to library science. I remember reading the job description and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s me!’”

If anything helps you to be adaptable, it is to know yourself . . . The deeper you go, the more adaptable you become.

Like any prospective librarian worth her salt, Dinkelman did her research. “I wanted to be darn sure,” she said. She spoke with several Lincoln librarians, including NWU Professor Emerita of Library Science Janet Lu. “I asked them if they liked their jobs and whether they’d do it again if they were starting over. They all said, ‘Yes, of course!’ That was reassuring to me.”

Today, Dinkelman has combined her biology education and pharmacy background into her new career. She is the subject librarian for Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the departments of animal science; genetics; development and cell biology; and ecology, evolution and organismal biology.

Having experienced a transformation or two of her own helps her as she works with students studying evolution. “Teaching is thebest part of my job,” she said. And while her students range from freshmen to doctoral students, she has a soft spot for her youngest students. Coming from Nebraska Wesleyan, she said, “I have trouble imagining what it must be like for first year students” at a school of Iowa State’s size. “Even though ISU is big, I try to be personal and to carry over some of that attention I received from my professors at NWU.”

She knows she benefited from Lu’s personal encouragement as both a student and an alumna. In the same way, Dinkelman tries to “put a supportive face with the library to make it not so big and intimidating.” That kind of personal support, she said, avoids “throwing students out to the wolves.” Keeping students safe from the wolves is what makes all their future evolutions possible.

Meanwhile, Dinkelman’s professional evolution feels particularly complete. “I love my job now,” she said in front of her tenure review at Iowa State. “Part of me feels like that pharmacy thing happened to somebody else.”