A graduate degree and 17 years of UofL employment helped launch Phyllis Clark ’01 into her jobs today as vice president for student services at Simmons College of Kentucky and a consultant for empowering women.
Continuing her passion for helping people realize their educational dreams, Clark recalls the 1999 day that Jenny Sawyer in admissions told her she was getting what Clark described as her then-dream job of admissions counselor to recruit minority students to UofL. She discussed her growth through many UofL roles as student and staff member in a Q&A with Louisville Alumni:
Degrees: Bachelor of science in music education (1993) from University of Arkansas; master of educational psychology with an emphasis in college student personnel (2001) from University of Louisville; PhD in leadership in higher education (anticipated 2022) from Bellarmine University.
Current Occupation: Vice president for student services at Simmons College of Kentucky; owner of Phyllis Clark Consulting; owner of Essence Promotions; founder of EMERGE Institute for Women & Girls.
How has your UofL experience shaped your career or community involvement? I am thrilled to acknowledge that I served 17 years at the University of Louisville in capacities that fueled my professional growth and augmented my personal and professional development. The opportunities I received and the relationships I formed with beautiful colleagues and cohort members, (many of whom I still know and love to this day), coupled with my graduate school experiences have positioned me for the service to which I have been called at Simmons College of Kentucky, the nation’s 107th historically Black college and university.
I distinctly remember the hug Jenny Sawyer, the executive director of undergraduate admissions, shared with me on a warm August afternoon of 1999 after telling me that I was the candidate of choice for the position for which I applied and that I’d be working to also recruit minority students to the university. This was my first professional position at UofL as an admissions counselor and was my absolute dream job after concluding my service as orchestra teacher for seven schools in Jefferson County.
Although my roles changed throughout my tenure on campus, I was always afforded the opportunity to sharpen my skillset and increase my higher education knowledge base in and out of the classroom through a variety of professional development activities, educational badges, trainings, and asset-mapping and building. I’ll never forget being able to sharpen my speaking and presentation skills through sharing information about UofL through our weekly campus visit programs, open houses or representing the university at community and/or faith-based events. Being encouraged and given the space to create innovative programs and services for students through Diversity Recruitment and the Cultural Center stretched me to the max but I loved all of it. I just recently learned that many of the programs my team and I created in the early-to-mid ‘90s remain active in some form today.
What is most memorable for me is that UofL provided me the opportunity to work in critical positions that permitted me to assist in the personal and professional development and persistence of Black students. You might know them collectively as the Porter Scholars and the Martin Luther King Scholars. These scholarship student groups represent the best and the brightest from the local area, region and state. Helping young minoritized men and women realize their educational dreams remains my passion, in this, my 26th year of service to the education profession.
The graduate and professional experiences I received at UofL have shaped who I am today and I am better for it. All of my “learning moments” helped to preserve and prepare me for the service, coaching and entrepreneurial endeavors with which I am engaged today and I am eternally grateful.
To read the entire Q&A, click here.