June 21, 2023

Pride Month Profiles in Diversity: Senior Enrollment Advisor Susanna Kelley

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Get to Know Noodle Senior Enrollment Advisor, Susanna Kelley

Exceptional leadership involves cultivating trust and actively listening to those you lead.

Susanna Kelley is an Senior Enrollment Advisor at Noodle. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA but raised on the North Fork of Long Island in Southold, NY she received her Bachelor’s degree in Music from George Mason University. She also received her Masters in Higher Education this year from Penn. Susanna shares that her journey working in education began in undergrad when she became an orientation leader. From her time there she discovered that she could make a career in higher education/student affairs. After her time in college she served with Americorps at a program called College Possible, which is a college access program out of Philadelphia. Now here at Noodle, Susanna supports her team and the Rainbow Noodlers ERG by being a great advocate for equity and inclusion, making they develop the skills and knowledge to address needs specific to the region, programs and students. 

What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?

An indispensable leadership trait is the unwavering commitment to practicing anti-racism and fostering inclusivity. It means consistently speaking out against harmful language, advocating for marginalized communities, and amplifying the voices of individuals from diverse backgrounds, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals, within your spheres of influence. Exceptional leadership also involves cultivating trust and actively listening to those you lead. When team members express concerns or offer suggestions for improvement, or propose solutions, it is vital for leaders to believe, validate, and create a safe space for this open communication. Great leaders understand that leadership does not equate to possessing all the answers or thinking your practices are always the best—great leaders distribute their power and include all voices within their team and beyond.

When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind? Why?

During my time in graduate school, I had the privilege of working with two supervisors and mentors who exemplified exceptional leadership through their unwavering advocacy and support. Their dedication extended not only to me,  but also to everyone in our office and every student we served. These leaders displayed genuine and passionate care, consistently demonstrating a high level of concern for the well-being of everyone. Their genuine investment in my personal success was a tremendous source of motivation as I completed my program.

How has your personal leadership style evolved? 

At the start of my career, working extensively with students from low-income backgrounds and students of color equipped me with a commitment to advocating for equity and access. This passion for advocacy has continued to shape my approach in subsequent roles, including my previous position in undergraduate admissions and my current role in graduate enrollment here. While the nature of my mentorship and support has evolved, my dedication to advocating for equity has not changed. As I work with prospective graduate students and lead my team of Enrollment Advisors, I prioritize being a strong advocate for both our students and the EAs. Throughout my six years in the field, I have actively tried to utilize the invaluable lessons from those who have guided me.  I continuously strive to learn from my mentors and colleagues to enhance my own capabilities as a leader.

What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle? Describe that role.

All of my roles prior to Noodle involved a lot of interaction with others over a variety of platforms: in person, on the phone, in front of audiences/large groups, etc— and this has prepared me well to make lots of phone calls to prospective students and have countless conversations! I have always loved that each role I’ve had has involved supporting students in pursuit of success in education in some way. Whether that is during a program or preparing for it, these experiences have only deepened my passion for and ability to encourage students to pursue their ambitions. As a Senior Enrollment Advisor, I love being able to continue to support students while also supporting my region’s team in a variety of ways every day. This daily balance of student success while supporting and empowering my team is incredibly fulfilling!

How do you support the success of your team?

As a Senior Enrollment Advisor, I try my best to maintain open communication where the Enrollment Advisors on my team can provide honest feedback and suggestions. This allows me to be a great advocate with upper management and find ways to implement changes that will best serve them and the students we support. I also try to consistently provide our team training  and resources specific to our programs and university partner to continue to develop our skills and knowledge to address needs specific to our region and the students we serve. 

Finally, recognizing and celebrating achievements is another crucial aspect of supporting my team's success. I try to acknowledge individual and collective accomplishments often— both publicly and privately. Recognizing and rewarding hard work and dedication boosts morale and motivates the team to consistently perform at their best.

Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places or experiences.

Working in many diverse spaces has allowed me to appreciate the value of diverse perspectives in problem-solving and decision-making processes. Because of this, I also understand the importance for more innovation and creative thinking. I grew up in a small, sheltered town and thus was intentional in my choice of where I wanted to end up after high school. I chose a large, diverse university for undergrad and have tried to make similar decisions in where I have worked and lived since then. This has impacted me positively in ways beyond what I have imagined when I left my hometown. It has given me the tools to help contribute to creating culturally competent spaces and to value and appreciate varying perspectives and ideas. 

What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?

Listening and encouragement are my two top tools in my leadership arsenal- I value a supportive environment for myself so I try to create that for others as much as possible.

Please tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.

When I was a senior in college, Michelle Obama came to campus to campaign for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and I got to sing the national anthem before she came on stage!