You might have a certain picture painted in your mind when you think of a college student. But Jeanette Falotico, a 56-year-old journalism major, president of The Innovation Network (TIN), and member of Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) here at Brookdale, smashes society’s easel all the while playing Pokémon in her free time.


In Falotico’s words, TIN, as a club, strives to “implement projects that drive change.” Her reasoning for joining, she said, was “born out of my desire to have something in common with my daughter,” who is an environmental and marine science major at Bryn Mawr College. Her daughter chose her major based on their walks in the woods and their beach escapades.


In addition to also being inspired by nature, Falotico also didn’t want “to be left behind in the smarts department.”


Recent TIN accomplishments include the development of Brookdale’s new butterfly garden and the Blossoming at Brookdale series, which focuses on health and wellness programs. Falotico has enjoyed working with many people at TIN, including Vice President Isabel Shaw, whom she called “the great finisher of sentences” and adviser Debbie Mura, “the perfect mentor because she’s open to new and maybe crazy ideas.”

And giving back to her community is nothing new for Falotico, who said, “I come from a long line of civil servants and politicians.”


She also stressed the importance of everyone helping others. “Noticing the individuals who live in your community, it’s essential to dedicate time and give back. And if you can’t donate time, find a cause you support and give money,” she said.


But what made her choose to return to school? There are a few answers: her visits to over 30 colleges for her 20-year-old triplets and a similar sentiment causing change and self-reflection for many: the COVID-19 pandemic.


So, Falotico began her time at Brookdale and chose journalism as her major, which wasn’t a hard choice: “Since I communicate in many formats for a living, I figured it was a natural fit.”


Falotico’s education journey was not exactly a straight path. She graduated high school in 1983 and struggled with math courses at various colleges. Beginning her career, she entered the world of politics working for a local senator and later in Washington, D.C. working for a member of Congress. She worked in tech at one point and currently runs a business consultancy.


Falotico has been succeeding in academics at Brookdale, passing math classes such as algebra and statistics, the same ones that proved to be a challenge in the past.


And although Brookdale educates many students of different ages, she has often shared classrooms with students of the “traditional” college age. But her children keep her prepared and in the know: “The benefit of having kids similarly aged to my fellow students at Brookdale is that I’m well-versed in Gen Z’s modes and means.”


Falotico has also discovered a new passion for women’s studies after taking Professor Roseanne Alvarez’s Issues in Women’s Studies course: “My world was set on its ear.”


From joining WILL and taking more women’s studies classes, Falotico has taken what she’s learned not only from academia but also from her work in male-dominated fields and is “speaking openly about women’s accomplishments and the grit and tenacity it takes to succeed as a woman.”


She feels strongly about the knowledge she’s been gaining from these courses: “Arguably some of this wisdom comes with age and experience. But education is power, and I’m thrilled to see some of my class research manifest into actual, educational, and awareness-raising events,” Falotico said.


One of Falotico’s research papers for a course led to the recent WILL- and TIN-sponsored panel The Mysterious and Momentous Times of Menstruation: Keeping the Information Flowing, a collaboration between WILL, TIN, and guest speakers. The presentation was all about menstrual health advocacy.


After Falotico graduates from Brookdale, she plans to apply to Smith College’s Ada Comstock Scholars program, which offers women of nontraditional college age the chance to gain a bachelor’s degree at their school. After she finishes school, she’ll continue doing what she loves: “write to influence, walk my dog, and juggle the lives of my family,” she said.


Original article published in The Current.