Staff Connections – Meet Susan Connelly


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Susan, aged 38 from Akron, Ohio, joined the RSI family in May 2018 as an admissions representative. As part of the Admissions team, Susan helps people who call or visit RSI to learn more about the school and our programs, helping prospective students to map out their career goals and decide whether this is the right career and environment for them.

Thanks for your time, Susan. Tell us why you chose a career in education?

I have a degree in Criminal Justice and expected to go into that field, but I was also a single mother working two jobs while finishing school. I think that experience propelled me into this career because I know firsthand how important it is to balance all that life throws at you, while trying to better your situation through education. It was the struggle of getting my degree that set me on this career path.

Talk to us about your experience in admissions.

I started with online students at South University. I dealt with undergrads and grad students all over the country, helping them identify the right way to reach their goals. Then I went on to work at another college where I worked face-to-face with students, before I came to RSI earlier this year. On and off, I’ve been doing this for six or seven years.

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Working with students in person was like a whole new career. Once I had the experience of meeting the people I was helping. I knew this is where I’d be for the rest of my career. I get to watch these people grow through their lifetime of being a student. It’s much more rewarding to not only help them start the process, but also watch them complete it at their graduation ceremony. It’s just the best!

How many are there in your team?

Five admissions reps and one director. We’re a pretty close-knit team. We all work together to make sure the students have the best experience possible. We all support one another.

What do you enjoy most about this job?

When I first talk to a potential student, my intention is to learn where the person is at in their life and why they want to make a change. Through open dialogue, I can determine if there is something here that could help them make the change they are looking for. It’s really just building a rapport, letting them know that I’m concerned with only their best interests. I try to get to know them a little, learn what their needs are, what their goals are. Then I try to draw a line for them so they can reach those goals. Our programs are great, but they are not for everybody, so that line may or may not go through RSI.

RSI offers welding, electrical and HVAC programs. Do you meet people who don’t know what to do? 

Absolutely. Some students aren’t sure what they want to do. They just know they want to do something. Others come in thinking one thing, and when we talk through all the different opportunities and where they could go, they change their direction. I’ve had students come in wanting to get into HVAC, and as we talk and uncover their skills and the things they enjoy, they discover welding is a better fit—and vice versa. We take the time to really get to know the student so we can point them in the right direction.

susan connelly

Talk us through a typical visit if someone comes in to the school.

You’ll be greeted by our receptionist and fill out a paper, which is given to me or another rep, depending on who is available. We look that paper over for a few important facts, then we introduce ourselves. We’ll break the ice, make sure you’re comfortable and go over what we’ll be doing during the visit.

You’ll learn a lot about us as a school: our history, our programs, what departments we have here for student support, and we’ll try to learn a lot about you. We want to know where you are working and what kind of previous education you’ve had. Do you know anyone in the field? Do you learn best with hands-on training? Then we go through a short presentation of some important information at my desk, which is tailored to your area of interest before we take a tour.

What’s involved in the tour?

We start by introducing them to Career Services because they will play a crucial role as the student transitions into their new career. We also bring them to Student Services and the Financial Aid team. Then I take them into their first class and introduce them to the instructor. I always try to make sure that anyone who comes in has the chance to speak with at least one student and an instructor while they are on campus. We will spend about 30 minutes on the tour so they can see how the program will teach them everything they need, and the school will support them in every way it can.

By the end of the tour, my goal is to empower them to make the best decision for their future. There’s no pressure whatsoever. The entire visit can be done in 45 minutes to an hour.

Do you have much contact with students once they’re enrolled?

I’m with them through the entire process, from the tour through the first two weeks of class. Then I hand them over to an advisor in Student Services, so they always know they have someone here on campus who will support them. But the nice thing is that we will run into each other often, as we’re all here on campus. I get to find out how they are doing and play a part in their entire school career.

What are the most common questions you get asked by students?

How long will this program take? What kind of jobs will I be able to get when I leave? Will this work with my schedule? Am I going to get help finding a job?

Do you stay in touch with past graduates?

I haven’t really been here long enough for that yet, but sometimes, yes. We do have graduates who come back for a different program, such as the associate’s degree program.

How can students help you to help them?

Be honest and open about their goals, and talk about what has stopped them from reaching those goals in the past. The more they let us know about their situation, the more we can help them come up with a plan for their success. At the end of the day, we want them to commit to graduating school, not starting school.

What’s your favorite student success story from your time at RSI?

We have a student who spent a good portion of his life making bad choices, some of which led to incarceration. He wasn’t sure that he could turn his life around. Initially, he came in to look at the HVAC program, but after being honest and discussing some of the things in his background, we came to the decision that welding might be a better opportunity. He is proving to be the best in his welding class right now. He is excited to have the opportunity and the tools to rebuild his life. He gets in early, stays late, helps others in his class, and is just an awesome student.

What advice do you have for students considering attending RSI?

Don’t overwhelm yourself with the concept that if you come down here for a tour, you have to start school. There’s no obligation or pressure, you’re just taking a tour. We want you to take that first step to come down and see the campus. Get all the pieces of the puzzle put together and see if this could help you change your life and be a rewarding career. We are going to be here through the entire process if this is what you want to do. A tour might even allow you to rule this field out, and that’s okay, too.

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