Decked out in a fluffy white rabbit suit, Director of Student Activities Pam Dilday walked out onto Joliet Junior College’s concourse as the Trix bunny last fall. She, along with co-workers dressed as Lucky the leprechaun, a Wheaties box, a sun, and a carton of milk, were ready to bring some fun to Mainstreet – an event where students can visit booths to learn about different clubs and other activities offered at the college.
Dressing up in costume comes naturally to Dilday, who always wants to get students excited about JJC and the variety of student activities that are offered.
That same day, JJC was also celebrating the opening of its new Veterans Resource Center. Not wanting to miss out on another opportunity to support JJC students, and without time to change out of her bunny suit, Dilday walked over to the celebration. She didn’t realize until she got there that in addition to JJC faculty and staff, there would also be area legislators celebrating at the event.
“So here I was, dressed as the Trix bunny, with all these legislators around. It was definitely a memorable experience! But I wouldn’t change it. This is who I am,” she laughed. “I remember former JJC student and Veterans Alliance President Bob Gualandi saying to me: ‘You’re going to attend the ribbon cutting, right? But not as the Trix bunny, right?’ ”
When she’s not in costume, Dilday has about one million other things on her to-do list. But she’s never too busy for students – and that’s why she always leaves her office door open. Throughout the years, she has helped many, most just needing a little encouragement to make it through the last few classes of the semester.
Dilday is also the adviser for Student Government. At meetings, she helps guide members as they conduct service projects, surveys and plan events for the student body.
It’s true that Dilday, who has worked at JJC for 20 years, wears many hats – sometimes literally – but doing so has made her feel like she isn’t a day over 20, thanks to the dozens of students on campus who consider her one of them.
“I can’t imagine my life without these students – their energy, their enthusiasm, their creativity. Sometimes their ideas can be a little too far out there and I have to reign them in,” Dilday laughed. “But they’re all great and really funny. They keep me going. They keep me young. They are what makes my job so awesome.”
Dilday knows it’s important for students to get involved on campus. Over the years she’s noticed that the more connected students are with JJC, the more likely they are to graduate or complete their educational goals.
“Plus, being involved in student activities just makes your time here so much more fun,” she added.
The most rewarding part of her job is watching her students walk across the graduation stage each year. After all the challenges she’s seen them work through and overcome, the ceremony brings out her emotions and reminds her of how overwhelmingly proud she is of each one of them.
“When they walk across that stage, it makes all the hard work they put in worthwhile. And it makes it worthwhile for me too, knowing that our office did the best we could to help them achieve their goals,” she said.
When Dilday was fresh out of college herself, she did not picture herself working in higher education. Instead, she wanted to work with a different age group of students – toddlers.
Studying early childhood development at Illinois State University, Dilday was assigned an unusual internship for her major: she worked in substance abuse prevention.
She started working at JJC in 1995, as an outreach specialist at the Dislocated Worker Assistance Center at the City Center Campus.
Two years later, she landed a job in the Office of Student Activities as the Holistic Wellness Program Coordinator, a position that was brand new at the time. It was her experience during her college internship in substance abuse prevention that helped her get that role. She became Director of Student Activities in 2006.
As director, Dilday is responsible for the Office of Student Activities, leading student orientations, scheduling extracurricular and co-curricular events, and on occasion teaching a college success class. She also attends conferences on behalf of the college, does budgeting for her office, and is President of the Illinois Community College Student Activities Association.
Dilday said she wouldn’t change her experience at JJC for anything.
“Every day, the reason why I work here is validated,” she said. “Whether it’s getting a hug from a student or getting to see an alum who’s visiting for the day. I am so thankful to have a job that I love and can learn from everyday.”
For more information about the Office of Student Activities, or to get involved at JJC, visit www.jjc.edu/student-activities.