Women of Higher Ed: More Stories of Mentoring

Linda HoopesVice President, University PartnershipsMarch 10, 2022

The popularity of my first blog on “Women of Higher Ed” prompted the idea of making it a short blog series. I reached out to four more of my colleagues who inspire me each and every day to share their stories. I also realized that I did not share my story in the previous blog, so I will start there.

I have always found it interesting when others say people don’t change. I would beg to differ as I am a case in point that counters that idea. As a young, first-time leader, I would have been described as no nonsense and on the verge of “over the top” assertive in both style and approach. As I mentioned in the first blog, my philosophy then was to be direct and no nonsense; however, with age and a few mentors along the way, I have learned that style and approach really does matter. One such mentor, Pegi Anton, who retired from RNL nearly a year ago, taught me that I can ask direct questions that need to be asked and to do so with real authenticity. This is not to say I am not 100 percent authentic, but I felt that by being direct I was perceived as not truly caring about others—which was not the case at all. Pegi always had her institutional partners at the heart of everything she said and did. She taught me that the very best a person can do in any business is always to put the “customer” first. This makes the relationship a win-win for both parties.

When I asked a few more of my women colleagues at RNL to provide their stories of mentorship, I never have had to ask twice. It is heartwarming to know that one person can so greatly impact another’s life, and here are a few of those stories.

Kristin Davis, Associate Vice President (bio)

Kristin Davis

Early in my career, I was asked to join the leadership team at Noel-Levitz (RNL’s legacy company). The composition of the leadership team had significantly more experience in higher education than I did, so I reached out to another colleague to be my mentor. I wanted her to not just give me advice or tips but to actually critique me. Following internal or external meetings, client visits, sales presentations, and so on, she would give me suggestions on how to exude more confidence, speak up, and embrace my own experiences. This was the most profound training opportunity in my career. To this day I constantly think back to what she shared as I continue my professional and networking path. In fact, I recently had my own mentee. It feels great to be part of the mentor circle. I encourage you to find a colleague who just needs a little support and be part of seeing them blossom. It is one of the most rewarding professional experiences I have encountered.

Brandi Phillips, Executive Consultant, Student Success Services (bio)

Brandi Phillips
Brandi Phillips

I have been blessed to have had several women mentors—both formal and informal — over the course of my life. They have helped me by providing leadership, guidance, and support in so many ways and through countless experiences. From transitioning to college as an adult student to navigating parenthood and learning “the ropes” of a new position, I have benefited greatly from the mentors in my life.

One woman in particular demonstrated many of the characteristics that I strive to emulate as a mentor to others. She was always willing to listen and sought to understand my personal perspective. I was encouraged by her desire to see my growth and development and her willingness to speak the “truth” when providing constructive feedback. Lastly, she helped me navigate new territories and brainstorm for a solution when needed. Her guidance stretched and challenged me, but also helped me to begin to realize my true potential.

I am grateful for each of the mentors in my life; their personal and professional leadership has had a profound impact. I would not be the person I am today without the strength of the women who have helped pave the path, lit their torches, and guided me along my way.

Dr. Reena Lichtenfeld, Executive Consultant (bio)

Reena Lichtenfeld

I live by a personal philosophy that I developed over time that was inspired by the women who have supported me along the way in both my professional and personal life: “Lead with your worth, not your worry”.

I can’t really pinpoint a place in time that I developed this philosophy of living, but the quote itself it was born during a dinner conversation with two of the most incredible women I have had the pleasure of working with when I was at the University of South Carolina: Jane (Willis) Mayer and Georgia Holmes Doran. There is no doubt that these two women had a tremendous impact in my personal growth and development, but they were certainly not the first. In fact, I’ve had the good fortune of working with women throughout my career who have encouraged, supported, and cared about me from the very beginning starting when I was a resident advisor at the University of South Carolina where Casey Goldston Giraudy was my resident hall director. She was the one who opened my eyes to the field of “student personnel services” (the O.G. name for higher education administration). The fact that she just took the time to sit down and explain to me the educational path and career options was life changing! She made a huge impact on my life.

Then there are Janet DeAndrea and RNL’s very own Sarah Keating (fun fact: Sarah is my supervisor here at RNL and was also my supervisor 24 years ago when Janet hired me as an admissions counselor at Keystone College!). Janet was shopping at the Express store in Steamtown Mall where I was a manager (where I was awaiting for the chance to get my foot in the door in higher education). Janet was shopping for her daughter and happened to say that she was the director of admissions at Keystone.She probably laughed all the way home with my overly joyful reaction telling her that working in admissions was my dream job. I also would be remiss not to mention Jennifer Hall or Dr. Denise DeZolt, who were both supervisors at different points during my time for a large online institution.Denise was the one who truly encouraged me (as well as my other co-supervisor, Dr. Darrell Luzzo) to get my doctorate.There are countless others who have supported, befriended, and encouraged me along the way.

The bottom line is that no matter how insignificant something you say to encourage another may seem to you, it could be life changing to another. Along the way, I truly have found the way to always lead with my worth and not my worry!  Women have so many things on their plate to manage, and worrying comes second nature to us. But when you can find the strength from within—which evolves from being able to build close relationships with other women in our lives—there isn’t anything we can’t do!

Sarah Keating, Vice President for Recruitment Consulting Services (bio)

Sarah Keating
Sarah Keating

When I started my career in higher education back in the nineties, I quickly noticed that leadership roles were dominated by men. When I became director of admissions at 28 years old, not only was I young to be in that position, I was also female. Fortunately, I had the privilege of having two female faculty members who were kind enough to mentor and guide me. Although highly independent and driven my entire life, I wasn’t very good at self-reflection. I was demanding of my staff and set the bar high for everyone; I also worked for a male vice president who—although extremely knowledgeable in enrollment management—had a “take no prisoners” approach to management. They knew I had the brains to do the job, but also knew that I needed some guidance on how to manage and work with people. My faculty members, both very different in themselves, gave me much needed advice. That advice was presented by example. I watched how they worked with other faculty and staff, how they communicated in meetings, and how they took time to listen to their colleagues, students, and me. An occasional glass of wine also came with a mild dose of constructive criticism and a good laugh over, “Maybe you should have handled it this way, Sarah.” They helped me to appreciate that its okay to be firm and direct, provided you do so with tact.

It wasn’t until I was much older and in a vice president role that I realized how much their guidance had shaped my approach to how I did my job, managed my staff, and my family. Having worked with over 85 campuses, I can honestly say how rewarding it is to now see so many bright woman in enrollment management leadership roles across the country. There is no way, I would be here now without those two faculty members who took it upon themselves to give me much needed guidance and support so many years ago.

How much do we pour into others?

As I wrap up this second blog about the women in higher education, I want to quote a statement by David Stoddard: Getting the most out of life isn’t about how much you keep for yourself, but how much you pour into others. This is so very true! Many thanks to my colleagues who shared their stories in these two blogs.

About the Author

Linda Hoopes

Linda Hoopes joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz in 2010 as a consultant before transitioning to her current role as Vice President, University Partnerships. Dr. Hoopes assists the team of seasoned experts who conduct the RNL Campus Opportunity...

Read more about Linda's experience and expertise

Reach Linda by e-mail at Linda.Hoopes@RuffaloNL.com.

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