It is our pleasure to spotlight some of our distinguished Family Institute alum! Today’s spotlight is on Jon Derek Croteau, EdD, who received a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern’s School of Education (what is now The Family Institute’s MA in Counseling program).
Jon Croteau is a senior partner with Witt/Kieffer’s education, academic medicine and not-for-profit practices. He received his EdD from Boston University, and is the author numerous academic articles and of the memoir My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within, forthcoming from Hazelden Publishing in September, 2014.
We asked Jon a few questions about his relationship to The Family Institute and Northwestern University, his career path, as well as his thoughts on our upcoming June 5th Circle of Knowledge event Gay and Married: Welcome to the Family.
JDC: My involvement with The Family Institute at Northwestern is fairly recent because of the relocation of my master’s degree program. I did spend some time at the former building when my program was housed at the School of Education and Social Policy just across Sheridan Road. My admiration and respect for the program’s quality, its faculty, and outreach to the community was always strong but has grown even stronger over the last couple of years. The mission of the Institute is a powerful one and one that is closely aligned with my own personal mission in making a difference in families’ lives.
TFI Talks: How would you describe your current career path? What has changed since your time at The Family Institute? What has stayed the same?
JDC: My career path looks a little bit non-traditional compared to some other CPSY or Family Institute alumni. However, the cornerstone of my career has been the skills and experiences I learned as a student in the classroom and as a counseling intern or extern. Since graduating in 2000, I have become fascinated with the notion of the whole person in the workplace and how leaders can be more effective in motivating their organizations, whether small or large. After working for a global HR consulting firm and subsequently earning my doctorate, I spent some time exploring the notion of human capital investment in not-for-profit organizations, higher education, and healthcare, both as an administrator and as an adjunct faculty member and author of books and articles. Then, in 2008, I joined Witt/Kieffer, an executive search and leadership solutions firm that works primarily with organizations that “improve the quality of life” (e.g., colleges and universities, hospitals and health systems, nonprofits). This was the perfect fit for me. Throughout the years, what has remained the same is the skill set that I gained from Northwestern: listening to understand others, to empathize with others so they feel understood when they are with me, and to hear a plethora of issues arise both with individuals and within organizations so that I can help them solve problems. Solutions can be in the form of a new executive, an organizational talent management assessment, or building a succession plan for a cabinet.
TFI Talks: What do you consider your biggest career challenges to date, and in what ways did your experience at The Family Institute impact those challenges?
JDC: Because I’m an author, a speaker, a teacher, and a consultant, I am extraordinarily busy. The greatest career challenge is always ensuring that I am a balanced person and a healthy and whole person. I have overcome great personal challenges in my life, as my memoir, My Thinning Years, coming out this September, delves deeply into. I experienced great healing in my own life at Northwestern and through my CPSY program. The program, the faculty, and my supervisors in clinical training wisely taught me that for me to be helpful to others, I had to be sure that I was taking care of myself. Today, I continue to strive for balance and make time for things that keep me a healthy and balanced human being. I make time for my family and friends, for spending time in nature, which has always been a powerful refuge for me, for the arts and theatre, which bring me great joy. For me to be the best for others, I need to be the best for myself. Most important to me is my relationship with my husband, Justin, whom I cherish and admire deeply. We always say we have to feed our relationship in between meals (the regular three times a day thing) to cultivate our friendship and love. Though I’m so busy in my professional life, Justin is my number one priority.
TFI Talks: What do you consider your biggest career accomplishments to date, and in what ways did your experience at The Family Institute impact those accomplishments?
JDC: I would say being able to juggle many different things at once and doing my best to make sure all of what I do is at the highest level of quality. In my CPSY program, it was a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary approach. Not only was there rigorous coursework in the classroom, but we had our internships/externships, I was a research assistant at the School of Education and Social Policy and I was a teaching assistant for the undergraduate course, Introduction to Counseling Psychology. Learning to juggle multiple projects, and ensuring the highest level of service and attention to all of those difference audiences—students, clients, researchers, and professor—taught me an invaluable lesson that I use every day. Not only do I use that skill in balancing my range of professional activities, but also in my day-to-day work with Witt/Kieffer. We serve many different institutions that change the quality of life in different, unique, and special ways. I have to serve many different clients as well as my teammates inside the firm every single day with care, attention and the highest level of quality. I can easily point to my time at NU for giving me that ability.
TFI Talks: On June 5th, The Family Institute will host our Circle of Knowledge Event Gay & Married: Welcome to the Family. In your expert opinion, what unique issues do marriages and relationships in the LGBT community face, and what can clinicians such as those at The Family Institute do to help and support couples as they face those issues?
JDC: In many ways, the marriage that I enjoy with my husband Justin is no different than the one that his parents have celebrated for the last 35 years (they’ve been wonderful role models to us). We deal with many of the same issues and struggles and work hard (with pleasure) at our relationship. We endure the same sadness, like when we lost my beloved mother suddenly in 2009. We balance both of our families and how we dedicate our time to them. We share in our explorations of faith and religion, the volunteer work we commit ourselves to, or even how we want to decorate our home.
TFI Talks: As a member of the LGBT community, in what ways do you think issues of marriage equality impact the larger community and/or the culture at large?
JDC: I think the main point to remember is that the marriage of two people (any two people) does NOT primarily impact the larger community and/or the culture at large. Many scare tactics used by opponents were based on the premise that marriage between same sex couples would lessen the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. I think it is now safe to say that that premise has been proven untrue. Marriage at its core is a union of two people and their commitment to each other.
The secondary impact of same sex marriage is the same impact that heterosexual marriage has upon the larger community and/or the culture at large. There are positive and negative impacts. I don’t see a difference between the two.
The impact upon the larger community and/or the culture at large was when we were not able to marry the person we loved (if that is what we wanted) and to live our authentic life. Now, without this restriction, the next generation of LGBT youth will have a better understanding that no matter how alone they may feel in their current community, they are not alone, and that there is a public community out provide role models and, although I hate using this word, “normalize” their feelings.
To learn more about Jon Derek Croteau, visit his website
Our Alumni are active in the mental health field, and within the Institute. To learn more about our Alumni Association, visit our webpage.