Profiles in Diversity: Kathy Wasilewski

May 16, 2024

Get to Know Noodle VP, University Engagement and Field Placement, Kathy Wasilewski

“A great leader remains authentic while consistently embracing opportunities for learning, growth, and evolution.”

Kathy Wasilewski is a VP, University Engagement and Field Placement at Noodle. Originally born in Germany, but raised in Southern California by her parents who are originally from Vietnam. She started her education journey at Pepperdine University which instilled a strong sense of servant leadership in her. Kathy also taught English in Japan for a few years before returning to the U.S. to obtain her MSW from University of Southern California. From there she worked with youth aging out of the foster care system. She shares that she was drawn to how education is a transformative pathway that has a significant impact on individuals, families, and communities—particularly at-risk or underrepresented populations. This continues to fuel Kathy’s work today at Noodle as we foster accessibility for individuals who might otherwise not have the opportunity to acquire education and training for their careers. Now here at Noodle, Kathy supports her team through her extensive experiences and leadership skills to ensure they feel empowered to excel and make meaningful contributions.

What elements or traits does a great leader exhibit?

A great leader remains authentic while consistently embracing opportunities for learning, growth, and evolution. This is not only inspiring but also motivating for others.

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

I admire my grandfather for not just his successful career at IBM, but primarily for his exceptional leadership within our family. Leading a family of nine out of Vietnam in pursuit of a better life in a foreign country showcased his remarkable leadership qualities. In the face of uncertainty, he provided reassurance and showed confidence and resilience. Throughout his life, he provided inspiration across multiple generations by modeling how to lead with grace and kindness—but with authority. 

How has your personal leadership style evolved? 

In the past, I didn’t prioritize authenticity and transparency in my approach to leadership. These qualities contradicted the cultural norms I was raised with, where emphasis was placed on performance and avoiding any display of weakness. However, I’ve come to recognize that embracing vulnerability is not only essential for my personal growth but also instrumental in fostering growth within my team.

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

Both my roles at USC and in social services influences my work today as we offer thought partnership and services to universities. These experiences have afforded me unique perspectives on framing and engaging with universities and their stakeholders.

How do you support the success of your team?

Stemming from my servant leadership influence, I aspire to be the type of leader that fosters the growth and development of each individual on my team, enabling them to reach their fullest potential. My goal is to cultivate an environment where my team is empowered to excel and make meaningful contributions.

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

Through my engagement with diverse experiences and people, it has taught me to appreciate the richness of human experiences and to approach every interaction with an open mind and a willingness to learn. When I truly embrace the diversity of people, their backgrounds and experiences, it not only enhances my skills and knowledge but has also enriched my life by shaping me into a more well-rounded and empathetic professional. 

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

My approach continually adapts based on factors such as the situation at hand, the dynamics of the team, the unique qualities of the individuals involved, and my ongoing development as a leader. At this moment, I prioritize authenticity and transparency, recognizing these aspects as pivotal to my growth as a leader. They represent my current focus area, as I strive to cultivate genuine connections, foster trust, and lead with integrity.

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

I love to knit and I love a good thrill—jumping off a plane, finding off-piste terrain to snowboard, and going off the beaten path during travel! I take less risks after becoming a parent as a human being is reliant on me. Also, I love bad TV—especially reality TV – the more drama the better!

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