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Retired Illinois Army Guard General Salutes GSU for Preparing Her for Life, Career

Brigadier General Alicia Tate-Nadeau earned a master’s degree in what is now Governors State University’s Health Administration program, accelerating her military career to become the first female officer to reach the rank of general in the Illinois National Guard.

Tate-Nadeau enjoyed a “32-year-love affair” with the military that took her across the country, to Iraq, and Israel before returning stateside to retire in 2016. Today, she serves in dual roles as the governor-appointed Homeland Security Advisor and also Acting Director of Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

“My program at Governors State was really small and the professors treated me holistically, looking at where I was and where I wanted to go,’’ Tate-Nadeau said.

Can you describe your position/role?

Emergency management has evolved with the introduction of new technology and new threats in today’s 21st century society. We deal with issues from securing our cyber network and protecting against influences in our election process, to immigration, terrorism and natural disasters. Regardless of what causes the incident, the preparedness or the plans that go into the response and recovery are what I’m responsible for coordinating. I’m looking at what kind of plan do we have in place? How do we help our residents to recover? How do we coordinate with state and federal officials, and other areas outside our jurisdiction to assist those in need?

How did GSU help you achieve your career goals/perform your tasks?

They looked at me as a young mother, going to school, and they did a nice job of working with us holistically and not just as students. One professor said, “Hey, look, you have to learn to play golf.” They weren’t just didactic in their approach, I learned how to dress for the role I wanted, how to build relationships, how to interface with different types of people. I also learned never send an email when you can call, and never call when you can walk to someone’s office.

From an analytical standpoint, they were thought provoking. They taught us to think past the first order of things—to dig deeper.

What inspired your decision to join the military?

I had a wonderful professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University where I was a business major. She said, “Everyone else is going to teach you to manage things, but ROTC will teach you to lead people.” This one woman saw something in me that I could not see in myself and I took a course that led to a 32-year military career. I call it a 32-year love affair.

What’s next professionally/personally?

I will continue to serve at the pleasure of the governor. My professional focus is to be there for the residents of Illinois, preparing them in the event we should have a catastrophic event. If something should occur, we will be prepared.

Personally, it’s all about my family. I have two kids in Texas, and one in Illinois, and one in Florida. They will tell you I am always calling to say, “Turn around, don’t drown,” or “Always make sure you have your emergency preparedness kit.” I also like to remind my kids of the importance of financial preparedness. Statistics show most people cannot get their hands on $500 cash. If the bank is closed or the ATMs are down, what will you do? I recommend they keep a small amount of cash at home, in a safe place. It is important to have small bills on hand in case you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food.

Advice to current GSU students?

Have balance in your life. It’s hard to be a student, a parent, a professional all at the same time. Practice self-care, mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. When I was a younger woman, I used to pride myself on not taking vacation, being the first into the office and the last to leave. Now, I say to my staff, I’m not impressed if you have vacation time and don’t take it. Balance is necessary for everyone.