Interview with Jennifer Woodruff, Class of 2007



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Jennifer Woodruff, Class of 2007. The interview was conducted by Milner Library intern Paige Malloy on May 23, 2023.

Woodruff grew up in Decatur, Illinois against a backdrop of familial challenges. She describes working closing shifts at McDonald’s while in high school and compares her work experiences as a teen to those of her daughter’s. After graduation she elected to pursue a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement with a minor in sociology at Western Illinois University with the hopes of becoming a police officer. She joined the Normal Police Department in the late 1990s, but her worsening health and experiences of systemic sexism led her to leave the field and enroll in a graduate program at nearby Illinois State University. Balancing a full courseload with impending motherhood, she earned a master’s degree in sociology with a certificate in women’s studies and ultimately found fulfillment in teaching, first at Heartland Community College and later at ISU and Illinois Wesleyan University.

Woodruff prides herself on her hands-on teaching methodologies and innovative course offerings. She describes a course she taught exploring race, class, and gender through the lens of Disney films and leading field trips to analyze differences in local neighborhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a sudden shift to online instruction, has, in her opinion, had a great impact on the students of 2023, disrupting the dynamics of classroom interaction and worsening mental health issues.

Woodruff, who first came out as bisexual in graduate school, finds it important to make sure queer students know that “there’s someone willing to be there for them” both in and out of the classroom. She has served as the advisor for Illinois Wesleyan University’s Pride student organization for several years.

Looking to the future, Woodruff hopes for continued academic excellence from ISU, expansion of PhD programs, and maintenance of a balance between in-person and online education.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Woodruff’s background; working at McDonald’s as a teen: 00:00-04:21
  • Majoring in law enforcement at Western Illinois University: 04:21-05:54
  • Working for Normal Police Department: 05:54-10:10
  • Pursuing graduate degree in sociology at ISU: 10:10-15:32
  • Electing to remain in Bloomington-Normal: 15:32-18:21
  • Teaching experiences at ISU: 18:21-21:42
  • Impact of COVID-19 pandemic: 21:42-25:50
  • Other major events impacting students; changes in university administration: 25:50-27:53
  • Relationship with ISU’s Sociology and Anthropology Department: 27:53-28:59
  • Sexual identity; serving as advisor to Pride at Illinois Wesleyan University: 28:59-33:34
  • Encouraging hands-on learning: 33:34-38:29
  • Proudest accomplishments and favorite class activities: 38:29-40:44
  • Hopes for ISU’s future; conclusion: 40:44-43:04

Interview with Jennifer Woodruff, Class of 2007