The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

Athena Pajer Takes on Her Next Adventure

The CIE’s Beloved Student Service Coordinator Takes a New Position in Student Affairs

Adventures can be scary. 

Terrifying, even—especially if one doesn’t have the right tools or support system. No one in their right mind is going to jump out of a plane without a parachute, nor would a diver splash into the ocean without scuba gear and an oxygen tank. 

The same can be said about young students traveling abroad to an entirely new country and accompanying culture: it’s scary. 

However, one zany individual, clad in long cardigans, has helped with the anxieties that come with studying abroad, and that is the much-loved Athena Pajer. 

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From finding a home in the English department and writing for the Decaturian to working in the CIE office for nearly eight years, Athena Pajer is taking her nuanced education and diverse work background into a new position in Student Affairs. 

As a student journalist, Pajer cultivated a thoughtful perspective of the power that Millikin and its students have over their community. 

“It is a liberating place,” said Athena Pajer. “If you do it right.” 

Her love for writing and interest in international affairs led her to travel to Italy for a study-abroad program. 

“It was a very formative experience, living in Italy,” said Pajer. “I made a lot of connections in Centri Studi Italiani.” 

The experiences that she had and opportunities she took part of ignited a passion toward wanting to be a staff member in an international office. 

“I was a 17-year-old kid,” said Pajer. “I barely spoke Italian when I got there, and they really helped me out. That was very important to my mind as a young person because I realized that the world wasn’t so scary.” 

Millikin’s CIE office has a similar feel, Pajer likes to think, and the student-workers make the environment a vibrant and fun place to work.

“I care really deeply for the students in this office,” said Pajer. 

Yet her care doesn’t stop at the colorful doors of the CIE—it overflows onto each student that comes across her path, international or not.

One particular student, Asier Zabala, who worked alongside Pajer, says that she shows great promise in helping to combine other students and cultures in her new position as Inaugural Director for Student Engagement and Leadership Development.

“Millikin has the potential to break boundaries and merge together,” said Zabala, an international student from Spain studying political science. “Athena can help integrate both local and international communities together.” 

Zabala believes that Millikin should focus on the collaboration between the local campus community and incoming international students. Events that mix both of them together would be beneficial, and Pajer could be the key to that.  

“Moving into this new position is bittersweet,” said Pajer. “But at the same time, I’m not really leaving the building. I don’t want to abandon anybody. The wonderful thing about Millikin is that no matter what, you walk around and see the same people every day, and you can be accessible to students that need you.”

While she will be leaving the CIE office, Pajer won’t be far from the lively international student body. Her new position will allow her to manage Welcome Week, oversee student staff and help assist student organizations and Greek life—all of which Pajer can lend her vast set of skills.

“Athena is the type of person you think of when you think of what Millikin represents,” said Dr. Scott Lambert, associate professor of journalism. “She was an outstanding student: inquisitive, a great communicator. She is the poster child for what Millikin should look like.”

One of the highest compliments one can receive is that of being trustworthy, and Athena Pajer has earned this reputation from both faculty and students. 

“Athena is calming and trustworthy,” said Zabala. “If you have a serious or personal issue, students look for Athena to help. She creates a safe zone.” 

Pajer is always the first person to cheer you on, whether you pass an exam or change majors; her presence in the community is irreplaceable. 

“She is one of those people who is the first person to support you,” said Carin Houser, a student who previously worked alongside Pajer on the Decaturian staff. “She is a very good leader, always involving people and very inviting.” 

Not only is Pajer an outstanding communicator, and she also has significant empathy for those around her and can relate to students traveling across the world or even across the states. Her youthful energy helps to alleviate any anxieties that students might have, and her bubbly verve is almost contagious.

“Being an adventurer is very rewarding,” said Pajer. 

Pajer’s hope is to help students from all walks of life and backgrounds to take ownership of the campus and help them achieve their goals. She believes that it is crucial to provide students access to success in case of an emergency, whether financial, personal or health-wise. 

Whether learning Spanish from students, walking her dogs around campus or dropping everything to be of service, Pajer’s drive to learn and passion to support others will help her thrive in her new position in Student Affairs. 


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About the Contributor
Madelyn Cummins, Writer
Writer 2022- Present

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    Colleen SwinarskiMay 14, 2024 at 5:10 am

    Knowing Athena personally this article depicts this young woman quite beautifully as a support, knowledgeable and dedicated humanitarian however I must add her sense of humor is uniquely unmatched in the most delightful way! She will be very successful and touch more people’s lives in a positive way then she will ever know! Love and light…