Longtime educator Patricia Jensen ’71, PhD, was passionate about experiential learning and creating hospitable spaces for learning. In her 35 years of teaching at Alverno, Jensen – who died of ovarian cancer in November 2021 – was an inspiration to many students, alums and faculty.
Throughout the past year, her family, friends, colleagues and former students have joined together to establish the Patricia J. Jensen PhD Experiential Learning Scholarship to honor her legacy.
“Patricia left a mark on all of us – she inspired us to be strong women in the world, to have the courage to change the things that need changing, and to stand together supporting others on their journeys,” shares Rebecca Porter, independent strategy consultant and former Alverno assistant professor and Linda Olszewski, ’98 ’08, DBA, associate professor and director of Alverno’s Business Division.
Olszewski and Porter, along with Jensen’s spouse and retired Alverno faculty member Sandra Graham, PhD, established the scholarship to support future generations of women, just as Jensen did.
A gifted educator who embodied Alverno’s unique approach to assessment learning, Jensen radiated compassion and a love of teaching. She was committed to knowing each student she taught as both an individual and as a professional.
“Patricia made everyone feel like they were the most important,” says Olszewski, who was Jensen’s student in the first cohort of Alverno’s MBA program. “She had a powerful ability to lift up whomever it was she was working with.”
Jensen started teaching at Alverno in 1979 and was one of the key faculty members involved in the formation of the Business and Management division’s Weekend College program. Later, she worked on the development, implementation and administration of the Master of Arts (MA) in Education program and development of the MBA program.
During her career, Jensen co-authored the book Conversational Learning: An Experiential Approach to Knowledge Creation, and designed her classes to support the strengths of students in all stages of the learning cycle. Jensen also worked as an Alverno professional training consultant to share her vast knowledge of organizational theory, leadership and assessment with institutions in the Milwaukee area and beyond. From Hong Kong to Vancouver to Amsterdam and all across the United States, she shared her valuable expertise with educators across the globe.
In her self-reflection for promotion and tenure, Jensen shared about a treasured experience creating a hospitable space for learners in a weekday class she taught in the 1990s. Jensen wrote, “In this class the learners were so proud of their work – both product and group interaction – that they spontaneously decided to invite their parents and relatives to a final potluck luncheon where they shared their group’s presentations. One of the things that was really powerful about this was that their parents got to hear that their daughters were articulate and knowledgeable about business in ways that surprised them. So here, both daughter and parent become the learner.”
As a scholar-teacher, Jensen’s hope for her students was that they learn and grow to become competent and confident. “She would want her legacy to be that she really helped students to learn and grow and be really good at what they did. She cared so much about that,” Graham says. “She wanted them to be solid citizens who could listen and discern, and then act from a mature and informed sense of the world around them.”
Jensen helped Olszewski to realize she wanted to work in education.
“She was the one who saw in me that I could be a good educator,” Olszewski recalls. “I’ve been trying to live up to that for her and because of her every day.”
The endowed scholarship supports what Jensen really believed in – experiential learning. The scholarships will be awarded to undergraduate women studying business who demonstrate a commitment to the community, their families and Alverno’s abilities.
Graham said she hopes the scholarship helps a student focus more on learning and provides a confidence boost. “Patricia was really about that – helping students to become more confident in their learning process,” Graham says.