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Kelly Dries, Associate Director for Career Services at the University of Utah
Attends NACE’S MLI and Shares Her Experience



The MPACE Education and Research Committee annually awards one MPACE member a scholarship to attend the NACE Management Leadership Institute.  We asked Kelly Dries, the 2015 scholarship recipient, to share her experience. 


On the four hour flight back to Utah from NACE’s Management Leadership Institute in San Antonio, Texas, I began writing down the things I wanted to accomplish, which included ideas I wanted to bring back to my institution as well as areas for my own professional development and growth as a leader.  That list is four pages long, and consists of items in strategic planning, financial management, marketing & branding, personal development, and supervision techniques.


When I was asked to write this article and focus on one thing that I found most useful, I struggled because I had four pages of things that are incredibly beneficial.  In fact, some of the ideas I have brought back we have already begun to implement as an office.  So as I take a deeper look at that list of things to do, I realize that many of the useful items came from the conversations I had with folks in similar roles throughout the nation, all of us trying to be the best leaders we can in a profession that is constantly changing and morphing how we do our jobs and serve our various constituents. 


I left MLI with 60 colleagues who I did not know previously, 60 colleagues I can now call on when I need insight, 60 colleagues who I got to know pretty well throughout those 7 days in San Antonio.  I have already spoken with several on the phone and via email since I have returned, and I am energized by the potential for my new network.  In addition to 60 amazing colleagues, I had the opportunity to learn from industry leaders, and hear insights about their experiences and how they have overcome challenges in their professional lives.


Why does all of this matter?  It matters because Career Services is at a turning point in our profession, and we need to be in front of the changes that are hitting higher education and career services offices nationally.  The return on investment conversation is one that is not disappearing, and we are at a pivotal place to play an instrumental role in how higher education’s value is perceived. The more we can learn from one another about ways we are best serving our campuses and our stakeholders, the more we can ensure we are enhancing the career services profession.  MLI allowed me the opportunity to learn from some amazingly talented career services professionals, while also enhancing my leadership capabilities in order to set a strong vision for our office in this time of transformation.


In one of our morning sessions at MLI, Trudy Steinfeld, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Executive Director of the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development was talking about the words that guide her as a leader.  I wrote in bold letters next to that section in my guidebook, “What are the words that guide me as a leader?”  On the flight home, after I completed my never-ending to-do list, I started scouring the internet for words that define me as a leader.  I never thought about putting something like that down in writing, but it was a great activity for me to figure out what I believe as a leader, and how the facets of who I am influence that.


When I left for San Antonio, the spot next to my desk at work was empty.  Sitting next to my desk now there is a frame filled with a multitude of quotes that serve as my guiding words, as a reminder of the way I want to lead.  Those framed words are a reminder to me of what I took away from MLI, that I have the power in me to lead, that I have new connections who are in similar situations, and that even on my worst days, who I am and what I believe has the power to ground me. 




Kelly Dries currently serves as the Associate Director for Career Services at the University of Utah, where she supervises the counseling staff, and oversees the operations of the office and coordination of outreach with academic partners.  Previously in Career Services, Kelly served as a Program Manager for Programs & Development, as well as a career counselor for a variety of majors.  In the past, Kelly has worked in a variety of industries before finding her niche in higher education and student affairs.  Kelly is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah part-time.  She earned her MA from Towson University in Maryland, and BA and BS from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.


To learn more about the MPACE Education and Research Committee, please visit the MPACE website.  Information about the 2016 NACE MLI scholarship application process will be posted on the MPACE website when available.

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