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Award-Winning Support

July 1, 2022 Jim Warner
Sarah Kelley

When Sarah Kelley told her parents she was leaving the world of boat sales to pursue a career in the family business, the response was supportive. “Higher education particularly has always been ingrained in my blood. My mom worked for UofL on the business side as staff. My dad is the chair of the computer science department at Bellarmine,” says Sarah. “He sees value in higher ed because that’s what he has also dedicated his life to doing. I think he is secretly proud that I’m keeping the family business going.”

The Family Business

Working in higher education themselves, Sarah’s parents knew the challenges she would face following in their footsteps. Still, as someone who grew up on college campuses, Sarah Kelley’s road to academia always felt inevitable. That journey brought Sarah to the College of Business. In a handful of months, her work earned her the respect of her peers and the 2021-22 Staff Excellence Award.

As a Student Services Program Coordinator, Sarah joined the Graduate Programs office in 2021. From event planning to fielding student questions and requests, Sarah wears many different hats. At the core, Sarah believes her responsibilities come down to one thing, “making sure that our student experience outside of the classroom and the academic side of the program is as excellent and wonderful and inspiring as it possibly could be.”

Student engagement is where Sarah believes she truly excels. “Whether [it’s] when they first come in at orientation, and they’re all abuzz…or graduation, where they’re all excited, and you’re excited and proud of them—you’ve watched them move through their program…I love interacting with them.” Making that point of connection is essential for a student’s success. In many instances, Sarah’s ability to build a bond of trust speaks to her easygoing nature, and her willingness to step in and lend a hand has made her a go-to person in a short time.

Impact of Mentoring

Sarah credits her successes at the College to various mentors, from friends and family to those at the office. “I cannot say enough good things about Kim Mallory and Kelly Watson. Each has talked with me about the importance of being a woman in higher education. They have supported professional development endeavors, letting me shadow and just learn as much as possible and giving me some freedom to make decisions—even if they don’t work out. I feel like I’ve learned a lot just being allowed to have a little space to breathe, and if something fails, there’s no ‘I told you so.’ It has been integral to my success.” This development as a professional includes pursuing a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and a Project Management Certificate. “I sometimes truly feel like there are not enough hours in the day,” she laughs.

Ultimately, those successes, including Sarah’s Staff Excellence Award, are a product of those who work behind the scenes at the College. Her earnest nature underscores her pride in being a team player. “I just want to acknowledge that the work I do wouldn’t be possible without the rest of the team—the Graduate Programs Office, even the Ulmer team, Marketing, Family Business, we all work so much…I appreciate the recognition, but I want to make sure everybody else gets their recognition too because we’re a really, really good team.”

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