At least once a year, we tap the minds of high achievers and they provide our readers with high quality information they rarely have access to. It’s rare to get access to this kind of information from individuals at the top of their field and we get them to open up and share in very personal and profound ways.

This year we selected women in higher education a tough and political field.

Surprisingly, African -American women are doing exceptionally rare in the field of higher education, but making it to the highest level isn’t with its challenges.

These women have learned how to side step land mines placed in their way, how to recover when you fail to avoid the mine, how to gain respect in the midst of racism, sexism and other isms, and how to still go home and give your family your all. Whew!!

The personal advise these ladies share is worth millions, plus we get them to share advise their mentors gave them.

If you’re a young woman, or man, hoping to make it to the top of your profession, don’t miss an opportunity to learn from these ladies. If you’re struggling in your career, at a crossroads, or almost ready to give up … FIND TIME TO READ THIS SECTION.

Parents and grandparents, we suggest strongly recommending this section to your millennial as a must read and if they don’t like reading and old fuddy duddy newspaper, show it to them online.That might make it a little more palatable. All issues of The Community Voice are always online @ www.communityvoiceks.com.

Finally, we want to thank these ladies for taking the time out of their busy schedule to participate with us this year. They all recognize the importance of helping others along the way.

ALETRA CHANEY-PROFIT 

Director of Career Services

Butler Community College – El Dorado, KS

ABOUT HER

A dynamic and respected leader in Workforce Development, Aletra Chaney-Profit provides tools for employment success to students at Butler Community College. In this role, fostering employer relationships, linking students to employment and work experience, offering career guidance and championing departmental graduates are her focal points.

Prior to becoming the Communications Director, Aletra served as the Training Program Director, leveraging resources to provide demand-driven workforce solutions. Aletra believes in building a robust community by empowering others to realize their full potential by utilizing career pathways to build a skilled workforce.

While building her career in Workforce Development, Aletra served as the One Stop Director covering a six county region. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the system, Aletra was responsible for implementing new processes using a customer focused approach to enhance service delivery. In this role, Aletra developed and strengthened new and existing relationships with community and core partners.

Aletra’s passion for service to the community was sparked at a young age after growing up in a home of community leaders. Aletra’s background, including television editing and producing, she has always maintained an emphasis on serving the greater good. She is the president of the Chaney Legacy Foundation and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? I was definitely a leader, very competitive, and a little bossy!

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? I always knew that I wanted to go to college, and making good grades was my ticket! I received a full ride to Benedict College, an HBCU, in Columbia, SC. I majored in Media Arts with a minor in Political Science, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and what is the best advice/help they gave you? My earliest role models were my parents, David and Armelia Chaney. They taught me the importance of going to work every day, being on-time, and doing my best, even when it’s not acknowledged. Later on, I worked for a woman named Katie Givens, and she taught me a lot about managing people and adopting a transparent philosophy, meaning: “communicating with my staff regularly so that nothing is ever a surprise, especially when it comes to performance evaluations.”

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them. I once worked for a company that had dynamic mission and vision and, overall, did exceptional work in the community. However, behind the scenes, it was a mess and very unethical.

I stayed there for a long time, thinking I could evoke change if I maintained my character and showed them a different point of view. This, however, made me a target. I invested a lot of time, passion, and hard work, and I didn’t want to be a quitter….

Unfortunately, I had to make the decision to leave because things were concretely stagnate. But God is faithful! He allowed me to move on to something else that was just as meaningful, surrounded by great people.

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is?

My experience in workforce development.

How do you gain respect for you and your work? I believe I gain respect by being knowledgeable and proving to be an “expert” in my field where my colleagues come to me and trust my judgement. In addition, I let God lead me and He gives me favor.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? GO FOR IT! If you have the will and the drive, all things are possible… including getting the money needed to pursue that degree. Being a lifelong learner is essential to staying sharp and expanding our minds to new ideas, opportunities, and possibilities.

Two things people don’t know about you?

1) I’m tom-boyish! I love being “girly” and dressing up, but I’m just as comfortable in a t-shirt and basketball shorts!

2) I’m in the process, along with my family, of establishing the Chaney Legacy Foundation. This non-profit will be service-oriented and will educate and promote legacies within our family to include music and the arts, religious enrichment, education, and health initiatives.

Top item on your bucket list? Go to the Essence Festival in New Orleans and attend ALL the events (or most of them)

Your go to way to relax? I love playing Candy Crush, Pet Rescue (games), and watching HALLMARK!… Although, the best way for me to truly relax is to get away… and I’m in love with Destin, Florida.

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? I would say… the importance of networking. Often times it really is “who you know, not what you know”. That’s not meant to be pessimistic for those who work hard because hard work pays off; but it may take longer when there’s no connection.

Aletra Chaney-Profit – Congratulations

DR. MARCHÉ FLEMING-RANDLE 

Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement

Wichita State University – Wichita, KS

ABOUT HER

Dr. Marché Fleming-Randle was born in Birmingham, Alabama to James and Walter Mary Fleming and was raised abroad. She is the first African American Female Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement in the 123-year history of Wichita State University. Dr. Fleming-Randle earned an associate’s degree in science from the University Maryland, bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s degree in Adult and Continuing Education from Kansas State University, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Fleming-Randle’s career at WSU began in June 2007 as the Assistant Dean for the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In November 2015, she was appointed as the Assistant to the President for Diversity by WSU President John Bardo and in August 2017 she was promoted to Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement. In this role, she serves as the Chief Diversity Officer, oversees the President’s Diversity Council and other university departments, monitors institutional equity and compliance issues, and serves as the university liaison for community engagement.

Her research and academic interests include mental health, child and youth programs and educational leadership and diversity. She has published a myriad of articles related to diversity, gender issues and mental health topics. She has also published handbooks on the Gumbo Analysis of Diversity, Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Women: Love, Lust and Loss and she has co-authored articles with fellow peers in her field of study. In addition, she is a motivational speaker, student advocate and public figure.

Dr. Fleming-Randle has received a number of awards and honors. She was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s MLK Drum Major Innovation Service Award, WSU’s Excellence in Teaching Award, Wichita Urban Professionals’ Mentor of the Year Award, Wichita Business Journal’s Leaders in Diversity Award, the Sigma Gamma Rho Community Service Award, and she was named Who’s Who Among America’s college professors. She also received WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Phenomenal Woman Award and TRIO Disability Support Services’ Lighthouse Award for Faculty of the Year.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? I was always inquisitive, curious, and eager to learn new things and figure out how things work. Fortunately for me, I had teachers and parents who understood that through providing additional challenges, this inquisitive spirit could be nurtured and developed. I was very fortunate to have the proper support system at home and at school to avoid this type of pitfall.

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? I was truly inspired by some of my teachers from early on and was therefore motivated to pursue early childhood education. My career in teaching actually started with me teaching Kindergarten. When I decided to make the transition to higher education, I didn’t always have the same support that I had experienced in K-12, so my motivation changed to that of still wanting to assist others, but this time because I didn’t want others to experience the same frustrations that I had experienced from having limited support.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and what is the best advice/help they gave you? I’ve had several role-models and mentors throughout my journey of becoming a university vice-president, but none have been more influential than my parents, James Fleming Sr. and Walter Mary Fleming. Both of my parents are from Alabama and lived in Birmingham during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, they were members of 16th Street Baptist Church during the time it was bombed by Klan members on Sept.15, 1963. Being that close to the pain and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, they instilled in me (a) to never let the blood, sweat, and tears of the movement go in vain; (b) to utilize education as means of fighting oppression and racial apartheid; and (c) to use my voice as a weapon to advocate for those lacking the resources, voice, or capacity to advocate for themselves. My mother became ill while I was completing my doctorate degree, and I worked tirelessly to make sure that I completed the process prior to her transition. While she isn’t here in physical form to see all that I have accomplished since then, I know that she is smiling from heaven, and I am proud that her light can continue to shine through my accomplishments!

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them. The one thing I tell anyone who admires my position is that you see the glory, but you don’t know the story. It is important to let others know that nothing comes without hard work and without obstacles.. As an African American female, even with a Ph.D., I’ve dealt with racism, sexism, and various other isms that have cast doubt on my abilities. I never stopped believing in myself and never allowed myself to get too discouraged to keep pressing on.

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is? Transparency is my most valuable trait with regards to making me effective in my current role. I have found that having open dialogue and all pertinent information on the table is a small discomfort in comparison to the discomfort and hurt that comes on the back end from hiding information, not providing the necessary information, or just flat out not telling the truth.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? My advice for those looking to pursue a degree in higher education is to be prepared for the unexpected. Be certain that you truly have passion and love for this type of work, because it is not a 40-hour-per week gig, and no two hours are the same, much less any two days. In order to commit to a career in higher education and to execute effectively, you must truly love it, understand why you do it, and understand that this work is bigger than any one individual.

Two things people don’t know about me are that:

1) I played the roulette wheel at Harrah’s with Ice Cube and took a picture!

2) I met Grace Jones in an Airport in Germany!

Top item on your bucket list? Travel to Ipanema, Brazi.,l for vacation for 30 days and to help hold Deanna Carrithers and Kevin Harrison on graduation day for their successful completion of their doctorates.

Your go to way to relax? I listen to Prince all day with my loving husband Aron Randle by my side eating Garrett Popcorn!

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes?

1) Racism continues despite status, education, job title, or income, so prepare strategies to deal with it on each level as you climb.

2) Discrimination as a byproduct of racism will cause frustration but believe in yourself and never stop working to achieve your goals. Overcoming discrimination is nothing new, so I constantly remind myself of the violent discrimination that others have had to endure, and I use this as motivation to keep moving forward.

3)Most importantly, I have learned how to create a legacy. My goal is to leave a legacy of Ph.D.s in various fields, and the groundwork has already been laid.

Dr. Marché Fleming-Randle – Congratulations

DR. GLORIA WALKER

VP, Finance & Administration& Chief Financial Officer

Cowley College – Arkansas City, KS

ABOUT HER

Dr. Gloria Walker is a Doctor of Education from Northeastern University (Boston) with a concentration in Higher Education Administration. Prior to earning her doctoral degree, she served over twenty years in senior to executive level management in higher education.

Dr. Walker served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Texas Southern University. She is subject-matter expert in performance-based budgeting in higher education. She has overseen a $300+ million annual operating budget, and have managed budgets for federal, state, or local grant and student financial aid in excess of $70 million, annually, and has overseen in excess of $600 million in a Capital Improvement Program.

Dr. Walker has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Accounting from University of Houston and a Master’s of Business Administration in Finance from the University of St. Thomas. She has numerous professional affiliations including American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, National Assn. of College & University Business Officers (NACUBO), Community College Business Officers (CCBO), and listed in numerous Who’s Who Publications. Locally, Dr. Walker serves on the board of Habitat for Humanities – Ark City, and Big Brother Big Sister – Cowley County, and member of Rotary International – Ark City Chapter.

Dr. Walker and her husband of 36 years, George have two children, daughter – Lauren and son – Jordan.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? I was a leader and studious. My mother called me a book-worm.

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? Through my husband’s career as an intercollegiate basketball coach and him moving from the University of Houston basketball program to Midland College’s basketball program as an assistant coach. After being in Midland,Texas about six months the Director of Accounting and Business Services position opened. I set my thoughts on how I could stay employed when my husband decides to take another basketball position somewhere else. So, I asked the Vice President of Business Affair to mentor me and teach me how to run a college. He did, and every position my husband took after Midland College gave me the opportunity to go up the ranks in higher education administration. At South Florida Community College, I got the Executive Director of Accounting and Financial and two years later I was promoted to Vice President for Financial Services. I took a Financial Controller position at Houston Community College, and within two years, I was promoted to the Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration of the entire district.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and how did you connect, and what is the best advice/help they gave you? Mr. Robert Phillips was my role model and mentor. He was a Certified Public Accountant as I was the Vice President of Business Affairs. At South Florida Community College, Dr. Catherine Cornelius took me under her wings. She was the second female to become a college president in the state of Florida.

She was tough as nails but I learned to appreciate everything she taught me about leadership. The third role-model and mentor that entered my life was Dr. Adena Loston, currently President of St. Phillips College in the Alamo College district. She taught me that everything I do in higher education is political. She taught me valuable lessons about being at the top of an organization, how to handle numerous situations and how to protect myself as an executive administrator.

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them and how you found your way through. It turned out that I got better opportunities each time we moved. I was out of work for at least a year before being hired by the higher institution.

One of the most defining moments in my career was when I decided to leave Houston Community College after serving close to nine years in the second in command position. But, I learnt that my faith, believes, and life as a Christian cannot be compromised for the sake of pleasing people, and my allegiance was to the Lord God I serve. So, I decided to resign from the college and my position as the Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration when my supervisor, CEO, asked me to do something that was unethical and against college policy. The CEO wanted absolute authority and loyalty to her from me. I could not be the person God wants me to be if I continued under that supervisor. And since the CEO was newly hired, I could not go to the Board of Trustees, so I decided to leave. Years later, the CEO retaliated and tried to defame my character by writing a negative article about me, but in the end the CEO was fired, and died, and one of the members of board of trustees was indicted, convicted, and sent to prison. I prevailed in getting an even a better position at the local university as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. I left that position to get my doctorate degree.

So, it turned out the way the Lord wanted it to, and I never compromise my moral compass and ethics. So, the lessons learnt was to always we transparent, ethical, and trustworthy. It pays off in the end; no matter how people may want to hurt you or ruin your career. 

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is?

One skill that have helped me the most in my current position is by people and relationship building skills. These skills have help me to be an influencer, and garner trust from others. My leaderships align with being a transformation, servant, and participatory leader. I have developed various leadership attributes and abilities, which I utilize in my approach to work. God as provided me the ability to be a visionary, strategic risk-taker, analyst, problem-solver, and change agent. Those abilities are delivered through humility, respect, courage, and self-confidence. My approach to performing my job responsibilities centers on strengthening the institution, and its employees and students. I am energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about meeting the mission of the institution, and serving others. Through transformational leadership, my interactions are to intentionally engage the institution’s communities in the process of developing shared vision, and decision-making. Through participatory leadership, I build consensus among my colleagues – senior leadership and subordinates. Through servant leadership, I foster creativity, innovation, collaboration, and ownership in others when developing approaches, strategies, and solutions for conducting the institution’s business of delivering education to multiple communities and society.

I am highly visible and trustworthy. I develop relationships with colleagues and direct reports where I work that promotes positive communication, relationships, and trust. I treat others with respect and care, and develop people to be sensitive to the needs of others as they perform their job duties and responsibilities.

How do you gain respect for you and your work? I gain respect for myself and my work by being a great leader. Additionally, by producing great work using the knowledge I have learned, and experiences and skills I have obtained throughout my career. By becoming a subject matter expertise in the higher education finance arena, and being trustworthy; doing what I say I am going to do. By treating other with respect and making sure they feel valued.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education?  Dream big and follow your dream and aspiration. Trust God to get you where you want to be. Do you part in working hard to achieve the degree seeking goals you set for yourself. Build good relationships with others, and be sensitive to other persons needs. Do not give up and do not let anyone steal your joy of doing what you want to do and what God wants you to do.

Two things people don’t know about you? People do not know that I collect cookbooks and love to cook, and love to read about history and civil war era in particular.

Top item on your bucket list? Get another master degree or go to law school.

Your go to way to relax? Watch intercollegiate football and basketball, read, and cook.

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? How to navigate politics of the work environment.

Dr. Gloria Walker – Congratulations

DR. KIMBERLY BEATTY 

Chancellor 

Metropolitan Community College – Kansas City, MO

ABOUT HER

Dr. Kimberly Beatty began her tenure as Metropolitan Community College’s eighth chancellor on July 1, 2017. She came to MCC from Houston Community College, the nation’s fourth-largest community college system, where she served as vice chancellor for instructional services and chief academic officer.

As the first African-American leader in the 103-year history of Metropolitan Community College, and the only African-American CEO in the Missouri community college system, “I live and walk in the truth of who I am each day,” Dr. Beatty says.

A champion of access and equity, she is devoted to the community college mission of providing access to higher education for all.

At Metropolitan Community College, Dr. Beatty finalized and restructured the college’s five-year strategic plan; authored a new vision statement for the college and a new shared governance model; and is leading the college community through an organizational realignment.

A three-time graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Dr. Beatty received a B.A. in English, an M.A. in English, and an Ed.D. in higher education, with a specialization in community college leadership. She brought to MCC 28 years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education, including 21 years of progressive leadership experience at community colleges in California, Virginia and Texas. She has also served as a tenured associate professor in English.

Dr. Beatty has served on a number of boards at the state and national levels. She is married to Kelvin Beatty and they are proud parents of three sons, Kelvin Jr., Michael and Ian. They also have five grandsons.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? If you were to ask my mother, she would say, as an only child that I was spoiled. I was always outgoing from the beginning. As an only child, I always wanted to have people around, so my house became the “hang out” for the neighborhood.

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? I really fell into it accidentally. I majored in English because I wanted to go to law school. When I did not do well on the LSAT, I went to work for one summer and realized that a bachelor’s degree was not enough. Somehow, my car meandered back to Morgan State, where I learned they had a graduate assistantship waiting for me. With a full ride for graduate school, I completed my MA in English and started teaching my last year of graduate school and never stopped.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and how did you connect, and what is the best advice/help they gave you? I have many mentors, both men and women, but all in higher education. I can single one mentor out who always couples her advice with, “I tell you this because your goal is to be better than me.” In other words, take the wisdom, and start achieving milestones earlier so that you can reap the benefits earlier.

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them and how you found your way through. Two instances come to mind. The first instance occurred when I was transitioning from being a faculty member to a dean. I was teaching at a community college in Southern California making about $93,000 when considering my base salary, overload teaching, and summer teaching. I was offered the opportunity to be a Dean at Tidewater Community College in Southeastern Virginia for $71,000.000.

With this being such a big pay cut and the job coming with much more responsibility, I did not want to take it. However, I had to see the forest for the tress—this is a long game. I knew that the administrative experience would put me on a path to sit in the seat I have now. While at Tidewater, I had a great boss who supported and encouraged me going back to graduate school to get my doctorate degree. I received my degree eight years ago. In 8 years, I have gone from being a dean to chancellor where I have more than tripled my salary.

The second experience occurred right after receiving my doctorate. I was (and still am) a solid academic; however. While I was being groomed for the next level at my institution, I was passed over. Because I knew the individual, I was at peace with it, but the atmosphere became very toxic. I was interviewing all over the country and unable to land anything! One day, I receive a call from my mentor regarding an Associate Vice Chancellor position at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. The position sounded great except it was on the student affairs side of the house.

Many people advised me not to take the position because the student services side of the house is saturated with African Americans, but there are not enough African Americans on the academic side of the house. It was at this point that I could really see myself in my current role, and I knew that having experience with both sides of the house would benefit me in the long-run—and so it has! My ability to leverage all of these experiences has, in my opinion, strengthened my leadership as chancellor.

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is? I have the ability to connect with people. By listening closely to people and their needs, I am able to make connections from their experience or needs to those of the college or task at hand.

How do you gain respect for you and your work? Results—they speak form themselves.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? Work hard. Don’t give up, if it were easy, everyone would do it!

Two things people don’t know about you? This is really difficult to answer because I am very transparent. However, I would say people don’t realize the level of vulnerability I have in this position.

Top item on your bucket list? Travel the world.

Your go to way to relax? Get in my garden or cook a fabulous meal.

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? No one is going to GIVE you anything. You have to work hard for success (how every you define that) in life.

DR. TYJAUN LEE 

President

Penn Valley & Maple Woods Campuses

Metropolitan Community College – Kansas City, MO

ABOUT HER

Dr. Tyjaun A. Lee serves as the campus president of Penn Valley & Maple Woods campuses at Metropolitan Community College. She is responsible for all campus operations including the Heath Sciences Institute, which encompasses over thirteen health sciences programs. She is also responsible for all academic and student services on the Penn Valley Campus. Prior to arriving at MCC Penn Valley, she served as Vice President for Student Services at Prince George’s Community College. In that role, she was responsible for managing administrative units, programs and student services including recruitment, enrollment, student development, retention, marketing, athletics, and the coordination of the operational oversight of auxiliary services for students.

Dr. Lee served as Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Services at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, VA, where she provided strategic college-wide guidance and execution for all activities related to enrollment and student services.

Currently, she serves on the Broadway Westport Council, which oversees the community development projects around the campus. She is a recent inductee in the Black Achievers of Kansas City. She also served as past president for the National Council on Student Development and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges – Pathways Commission.

Dr. Lee has been nationally recognized with awards and appointments for her exceptional leadership capabilities and her work with underrepresented and underprivileged students. Lee considers this work near and dear to her heart as she is the product of a single parent home and a first-generation college student. Lee serves on the Academic, Student, and Community Development commission. She is also an active member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

A Cleveland native, she completed her undergraduate and graduate programs at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where she received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership, with an emphasis in higher education administration.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? I was hard headed, I was a defender of my cousins, and I was always the leader.

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? I had two mentors who were in upper level administration.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and how did you connect, and what is the best advice/help they gave you? My work role model was Jerry Sue Thornton. She was an unapologetic leader and committed to student success. Her best advice was to be myself and focus on the student.

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them and how you found your way through to a positive (or negative) conclusion. 

I left my friends and cheerleaders to accept this position. It was difficult to move across the country by myself with no family and only one friend who was also moving to Kansas City Missouri.

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is? Emotional intelligence

How do you gain respect for you and your work? Treat others as I want to be treated.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? Get a terminal degree

Two things people don’t know about you? I watch Ellen before work and I say, be kind to one another before leaving the house.

Top item on your bucket list? I don’t have a bucket list. I live my life as day one…

Your go to way to relax? I travel to the beach.

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? Everybody doesn’t have common sense.

BRIDGET LOCKE 

Director of Strategic Communications

Park University – Parkville, MO

ABOUT HER

Bridget Locke currently serves as director of strategic communications within the Office of University Engagement at Park University. This appointment was effective July 1, 2018.

Locke, who previously served as manager of strategic communications, began her career at Park in April 2016 as a development and marketing writer. In her current role, Locke is charged with developing and executing strategic communications that promote the University, including a comprehensive communication plan for the Office of the President, and delivers communications pieces to other units of the University. In addition, she is responsible for the communications elements of Park’s major public and internal programs, and collaborates with the University’s special events team in the planning and coordination of key programs and events.

Prior to joining Park University, Locke was the major gifts manager for United Way of Greater Kansas City. She has also served as the assistant director of enrollment services and marketing manager at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kan., and in various roles at Assurant Employee Benefits in Kansas City, Mo., including a stint as the corporate communications and community relations specialist.

Locke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and human development from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., and in December 2018, earned a Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership from Park.

Q AND A

What kind of child were you? I was never shy, per se, but I was an introvert who loved to read. As the youngest of two, I’m sure I was a brat to my sister—but not intentionally. I asked a lot of questions and was naturally curious.

I was also a reluctant leader. Eventually, I broke out of my shell and took on more leadership roles, but I was more comfortable in the background. Because I read a lot, I grew to become a strong, persuasive communicator. Others saw that as a leadership strength.

How did you find your way to a career in higher education? In 2013, I left a career in the insurance industry after 14 years; I was looking for an opportunity to manage and realized that wouldn’t be happening within the organization I’d spent the majority of my career in. A nearby institution was hiring, and valued my skill set—so I left the insurance company and became a higher ed professional.

Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and what is the best advice/help they gave you? My role model was (and still is) a communications guru named Joyce Richards. She hired me for my first communications job. She was good at her role and was tough to please … but in a way that made you better. She taught me four lessons that have stuck with me:

1) “There are examples out there.” – I once came to her to discuss an assignment I hadn’t completed. Rather than allow me to lean on her expertise for direction, she simply said, “There are examples out there,” and redirected me to find my own way through my confusion. She was a little annoyed with me at the time, but in hindsight, it was the best thing she could have said. It taught me to be self-sufficient and to try to find the answer for myself before saying, “I don’t know what to do.”

2) “Give 120%, then at the end of the day, you’re square.” – I struggled with work/life balance early in my career (and still don’t have it mastered), and she taught me to be fully present and accountable on the clock … but to do my best to leave work at work and to enjoy my family and loved ones once I made it home. At the end of the day, go home and give your loved ones as much energy as you give your career.

3) “Trust your gut.” You know the right answer, most of the time…but even if you make a choice that wasn’t the best course of action, you’ll survive and learn from the experience.

4) “Listen, assess, then recommend.” As a younger professional, I would use language that lacked confidence and seemed self-defeating. My mentor taught me to replace phrases like, “What if we …” and “What do you think about …” to “I recommend you…” and “Based on my experience, I believe it would be best to…”

Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them and how you found your way through. I once left a lucrative job because I didn’t feel valued or heard. At the time, I believed I was in a position to start my own business with what I’d learned in the industry. I wasn’t ready, though; because I hadn’t built a strong enough client base or marketed myself well, my business failed and I wound up returning to the job I’d left. It was humbling, but I learned resilience and recognized the importance of not burning bridges.

The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is? As a communications director, it’s important to have a knack for writing. I do lots of it and I enjoy creating things that move people to action or improve understanding. Still, I am humble enough to try to constantly improve my writing. My mantra: Everyone needs an editor. Including editors.

How do you gain respect for you and your work?

First and foremost, it is important to be consistent. You simply have to keep your word, meet deadlines, understand what people need to know, and continually learn.

As someone who is responsible for steering communications, it’s important for all people to feel as if their perspective has been heard and represented. Sometimes that means speaking truth to power or going against the grain to be sure communications and access to information are fair and balanced. Maintaining a sense of personal integrity – particularly as a person of color in spaces where there may not always be equal representation of people of color – is personally important. I believe to be respected, you must be authentic.

Additionally, it’s important to be humble and trainable. I recognize that I am not perfect, am never above reproach, and know there is always more to learn. I need to constantly sharpen my skills and learn from others around me. I believe people who are constantly trying to evolve and grow gain the trust of their peers, and the respect of those who want to elevate them to higher levels.

What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? Love people and love learning. In higher education, the mission to make education accessible to more people should always be paramount. If you make that your true north, everything else that comes with working in higher ed falls into place.

Two things people don’t know about you?

1 – I am a pretty good impressionist! Cartoon characters, 80s pop stars, British television hosts …

2 – My favorite place on the planet is the public library.

Top item on your bucket list?

1 – To become a famous novelist.

Your go-to-way to relax? Hearty laughter, moving music and intentional prayer soothes my soul. That said, I’m not above the occasional glass of white wine …

What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? In many cases, people don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care. Learn constantly, but lead with love. It covers a multitude of sins and will open more doors than your degree.

Honorable Mention – Women Making History in Higher Education 2019