Perseverance and Passion Fuel Successful Career for UMKC Alum

UMKC Alumni Association selects Susan B. Wilson to receive Campus-wide Alumni Award

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. UMKC is honoring Susan B. Wilson, Ph.D. (MBA ’05) with its Class of 2022 Defying the Odds Award.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Susan B. Wilson, Ph.D., has always valued education, diversity and community service. Wilson’s childhood sparked a drive to excel and give back to create opportunities for others.

Wilson went on to earn her bachelor’s, master's and doctorate degrees. She has built a successful career using her educational background and go-getter attitude to excel in fields related to diversity and inclusion and is well respected among many in her field, but her path to greatness has been filled with hurdles and obstacles, a true testament to Wilson’s character and determination.

How have your personal experiences contributed to your drive to give back and support others?

I grew up in a black community that was rich in caring although poor in resources and decent housing. I had many struggles growing up, but there were always 'angels' who appeared to help when I least expected it. I always vowed to give back — to become the 'angel' that others were for me.

My father had an 8th-grade education but was self-taught and an avid reader. He stressed the importance of education so that I would have a better life than his own. I also think my family situation contributed to my lifelong interest in diversity and inclusion. I came from a very diverse family. My father was African American and spoke fluent Yiddish. My mother was Italian. Watching my mother and father bridge their cultural gaps was quite interesting and as a result, I became someone who could see both sides of an issue or argument, striving to be a mediator and one with understanding and insight.

What motivated your decision to continue with your education in an MBA program?

As early as graduate school, my knack for 'running things' was recognized when I was chosen to be the director of the psychology training clinic. After practicing for a while, I realized that behavioral health administration was a calling. I learned the business of behavioral health on the job, after leading clinics, clinic networks, clinical operations and a large urban community mental health center. Yet there were those who said “She’s just a psychologist, what does she know about business?" My decision to attend the Bloch Executive MBA program was motivated by my wish to deepen and broaden my existing knowledge of business. The Bloch School provided me with an excellent education that has served me well in a number of endeavors, including diversity and inclusion.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Although I hold four degrees, my proudest accomplishment is motherhood. I was able to raise – by myself – a daughter and a son who are strong, smart and capable individuals that have a strong moral compass. I am also proud that I was the first person in two generations of my family to attend college. And although my work has brought me awards and recognition, I am most proud of saving lives through psychotherapy (like former Chief player Ryan O’Callaghan) and touching lives through mentoring, coaching and leadership.

What advice do you have for students who'd like to follow in your footsteps?

Keep your mind and options open. Some of us continue working within the settings and fields that call out to us when we are in school. However, many of us will find an entirely different setting or population to pour our passions into. Second, compassion fatigue is a very real thing. Don’t let your pursuits in the healing of others take you along with it. Take care of yourself. Your clients will thank you for it.

About the Alumni Awards

Join us in honoring Wilson and other Class of 2022 awardees at an in-person celebration at 6 p.m. at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center. To register, visit UMKC's Alumni Association website. If you are unable to attend the event but would like to donate to student scholarships, contributions can be made online.

Learn more about Henry W. Bloch School of Management

Published: Apr 11, 2022

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