Get to Know HFC: Lorraine Paffenroth finds inspiration in each individual student
HFC Coordinator of Student Success Lorraine Paffenroth has spent her entire career in higher education. 24 of those years have been at HFC.
“Working with college students is the best!” she said. “I get to use all my best skills and can see the impact. I like the humanness of this work; I get to use empathy and caring in my interactions with students and colleagues. The advising team [which she works closely with] is top notch and really cares for students and their needs. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.”
A Detroit native, Paffenroth is the eldest of two daughters. She lives with Rick, her husband of 40 years, and their two dogs, Lucy and Ethel (named after the two female leads of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy), in the Old Rosedale Gardens neighborhood of Livonia. This historic neighborhood was built in 1928 and modeled after Rosedale Park in Detroit. College namesake and automotive tycoon Henry Ford was a partner in its development and provided a Model A to every homeowner who added a garage to their home, according to Paffenroth.
“Our streets are very narrow, as they were built for much smaller vehicles than we have today,” said Paffenroth.
Paffenroth and her husband have two adult children: Justin and Jaime. In fact, Jaime works in the HFC Assessment Office as an Enrollment Associate III. She lives in Canton with her husband Abraham.
“Justin is married and lives in Livonia with his wife Emily,” said Paffenroth. “The College community was very generous when Justin was facing a bone marrow transplant about five years ago. [Retired HFC Manger of Enrollment Services] Cindy Parrelly led the charge to host a fundraising dinner to help support his medical bills. Justin is cancer-free now. I will always be grateful for that support. If you ever shop at Westborn Market in Berkley, say hi to Justin. He is the Cheese Master there.”
Walking alongside someone who is going through difficulty
After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School in Livonia, Paffenroth attended Eastern Michigan University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in child development and her master’s degree in higher education administration. She also met her husband while studying there.
“Like so many of our students, I changed my mind about my major a few times,” she recalled. “I was undecided at first, then tried theater, toyed with going into the ministry, then found my way to little ones via my child development degree. Working with college students, faculty, and staff at EMU solidified my place in higher education. Hence the master’s degree.”
Paffenroth is also commissioned as a lay minister, serving as a Stephen Minister and Leader.
“I train others to walk alongside someone who is experiencing something difficult,” she explained. “Stephen Ministers are the ‘after’ people – after a death, after a cancer diagnosis, after the loss of a job, after a divorce, any number of things that are part of the human experience. Our job is to be an ongoing presence in a time of need.”
Serving HFC students in a relational context rather than a transactional one
For 10 years, Paffenroth was the assistant director of EMU’s on-campus childcare center. Her position was eliminated due to budget cuts, so she joined HFC in 1998.
“A friend was working here in a part-time position and told me that another employee was leaving,” recalled Paffenroth. “I was hired to fill that spot as Admissions Assistant for Health Careers and Nursing.”
Paffenroth worked in this position for 18 years before becoming the Manager of Advising and Student Success. She is now the Coordinator of Student Success, focusing on initiatives such as the Learn4ward transfer program. She reports to HFC Vice President of Student Affairs Holly Diamond.
“It matters to me that we always serve students at a high level. Sometimes it’s a challenge to serve all the students who want to see us,” explained Paffenroth. “Our mission is to develop an ongoing partnership with students so we can support them on their educational journey. We strive to share accurate and timely resources that help them to navigate the educational system and identify and reach their educational, personal, and career goals. We rely on our faculty and staff partners to share information that will also help students. Things change, and we like to be out in front of the changes that impact students.”
Vice President Diamond values Paffenroth's empathetic and success-driven approach. “I appreciate the care and compassion that Lorraine demonstrates for our students. While guiding students, she also provides them with the opportunity to be heard and shows empathy for the student and the situations that they face. I know the students are very appreciative!"
A great understanding of individual needs
Paffenroth is a SAFE@HFC Ally. She has also participated in various initiatives with NACADA and the Michigan Community College Association. In 2022, Paffenroth was a member of the team that earned “Best in Conference” at the MIACADA Conference. Along with her peers, she made this presentation again at the NACADA National Conference in Portland, OR in October.
“Lorraine displays respect and a great understanding of individuality,” said Paffenroth's colleague, HFC Student Success Navigator for Nursing, Health Careers, and Liberal Arts Troy Gibson. “She continues to encourage creativity and enjoys being a part of the process. Lorraine sincerely celebrates students' success. She truly cares about the College, students, her staff, and the overall wellbeing of everyone. It is my pleasure to call her my colleague and teammate.”
Added HFC Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Nealon: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege partnering with Lorraine as Academic Affairs and Student Affairs work collaboratively to improve student success at the College. We share the common goal of helping HFC grow as a student-ready and student-centered college. And we will get there – together!"