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Vice President Susanne Conley to retire at end of the semester

Headshot of Susanne Conley
Melina Bourdeau / THE GATEPOST

By Alexandra Gomes Associate Editor

Susanne Conley, the vice president of enrollment and student development, will be retiring at the end of this semester.

In the 20 years she has worked at Framingham State, Conley has held many positions, including dean of students. However, she said the most important role she ever played was being a history major at Framingham State in 1986.

“It was difficult for me, personally,” she said. “The day I started as a student, my daughter started kindergarten. So I would arrange my schedule so I could come to campus, do my courses and get back to Natick so I could pick up my daughter.”

Despite her already hectic life, Conley wanted to be involved on campus. She became the president of the History Club, joined Adults Returning to College, a group for older students, and tutored.

Taking the initiative to become involved on campus helped her to feel part of the community. Conley said students should join extracurricular activities to better their own lives on campus, but also because groups can serve as a “training ground” for life after college.

Linda Vaden-Goad, provost and vice president for the office of academic affairs, said Conley loves FSU because it is not only where she went to school, but it is the “place where she has devoted her life. I have heard her talk so often about various courses she took as a student, or speak fondly about a professor she had, and it always is with a sense of love and recognition for how this place changes people’s lives.”

After graduating, Conley continued her education at Brandeis University.

In 1995, Conley returned to Framingham State as the director of the writing center.

After that, Conley changed job titles frequently before finally taking over her current position in 2008 when the recession struck the US economy. An increase in enrollment that year created “stressors” at the University, and Conley said this was the most challenging time in her career.

However, she said the administration rose to the challenge and maintained the quality of the University and campus life.

“We got through it,” said Conley, “and we got through it really well.”

Conley has focused on improving student life throughout her career.

“It’s very hard to ever get to the point where you can just rest on your laurels and say, ‘It’s perfect,’” she said. “I do take a lot of pride in the fact that we really actively started listening to students.”

She accompanied former President Timothy Flanagan to residence halls, where they met with both on-campus residents and commuters. These talks led to several changes at the University.

After listening to students who said they felt isolated on campus, Conley worked to connect the student transportation system with the Framingham commuter rail and the shopping centers, including the mall.

When students said they had nowhere to play music, either formally or informally, Conley worked to dedicate space in the Ecumenical Center for practice.

One project she worked on of which she feels especially proud of is North Hall’s “back yard” green. This was important to students who were worried they would have less space to play outside when construction started in the center of campus.

“I drove up Adams Road the other day just to see,” Conley said. “I was so delighted to see so many students out there doing exactly what we hoped they would do – playing Frisbee, just throwing a ball, sitting on the landscape ... and just really enjoying that area that’s nice, private and theirs.”

Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said Conley’s work at FSU “reflects her desire to enable current students to have the same positive experience that she did.”

Stoops added that through Conley’s work as Dean of Students, director of the writing center at CASA, and now vice president of enrollment and student development, her goal has been to strengthen FSU “as an institution” and to focus on student success.

Stoops described Conley as “someone who works hard, but also has fun.” She said Conley has had “very high expectations” of her staff, but Stoops has always felt supported by her.

“Vice President Conley has been an incredible mentor to me. She has supported my professional development and given me room to grow in my various roles at the University,” said Stoops.

Conley takes pride in the FSU community. One of her favorite memories is walking Edith, a 94-year-old Sodexo worker popular among students, onto the stage at a commencement ceremony that recognized people who promoted food security in society.

“I’ll never forget the moment where about 650 graduating seniors went to their feet in the most overwhelming cheer, and watching Edith walk across the stage, just sort of pumping her fist in the air,” said Conley. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s what people need to remember – It’s the life of the students on this campus.’”

President F. Javier Cevallos said, “For the last twenty years, Dr. Susanne Conley has worked to help our students succeed. She always goes above and beyond expectations to ensure we do what is best for the campus.”

In addition to her duties as vice president of enrollment and student development, Conley is a “superb event planner,” working on events such as the 175th Gala and Commencement, according to Cevallos.

He added, “Although she is retiring, I know we will count on her knowledge and experience in the future.”

In June, Conley will spend a week in Alaska to celebrate her retirement. Then, “for a few months, I’ll just chill. I’ll just put my feet up and relax.”

After that, she plans on performing consulting and special assignment work. She said she also hopes to teach writing again.

Additionally, Conley is looking forward to spending time with her family.

“I do plan to spend a lot of time being ‘grandma-in-chief’ to my three small grandchildren,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the next phase of my life.”

English Professor Lorretta Holloway, will take over for Conley while the University conducts a

nationwide search for her replacement. Conley is confident that Holloway will do well in the new position.

“I think it’s great,” Conley said. “Lorretta and I, we go way back. She has been a faculty member who’s been very engaged with the various areas that fall within my division.”

Conley thinks FSU’s administration, as a whole, is exceptional. She added that she owes her success at FSU to its community.

“You hold up Framingham State’s administrative staff next to anyone’s, and they’ll shine, and our students shine.”

Conley believes that while Framingham State students love to have fun, they also have a “serious-mindedness.”

Vaden-Goad said, “We will miss Susanne at FSU, but she has built such a foundation that I believe the university will always stand upon those many great things she has contributed.”

Conley said, “That’s the message I would leave behind. It’s not so much that things need to be fixed – things need to be respected. The place has a great legacy. I love the legacy. I love tradition, and I love change. Isn’t that odd, that you can love both at the same time? Because the tradition is to change and evolve, and get better.”



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