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SPA Partner Sue May Shares Insights at 2018 Women in Higher Education Leadership and Mentoring Conference

SPA partner Sue May, Ph.D., spoke Wednesday, May 16, on the topic of “Empowering WoMen to Create Leadership Development Strategies” at the 2018 Women in Higher Education Leadership and Mentoring Conference, held at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C.A&T), the largest public HBCU in the nation. 

The conference was co-sponsored by N.C.A&T’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Project and the Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence, and its focus is to empower female administrators, faculty, and staff in areas of leadership and to cultivate a mentoring environment. 

Sue participated in a panel that led a lively discussion on four key questions: 

  • What does great mentorship look like?
  • What does great leadership look like and what steps can aspiring leaders take to advance their careers?
  • What can men do as allies to thoughtfully develop women as higher education leaders?
  • What should people in the audience be doing right now to build mentorship networks and grow as leaders? 

The panel’s topic was conceived by Jennifer Gerz-Escandón, an associate dean of The Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who also served as moderator. Sue’s fellow panelists were Tineke Battle, who was recently appointed Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs-Human Resources at Pennsylvania State University (following 15+ years of experience at Georgia State), and David A. Green, a law professor at North Carolina Central University.

Sue brought the perspective of an experienced search consultant.

“We each had different but complementary perspectives on the challenges that women commonly face when trying to move forward in academic leadership,” says Sue. The resulting discussion, she adds, focused most energetically on mentorship.

“As a panel we agreed that you need several mentors, not just one, because different people can help you in different ways. We also discussed how important it is to have a mentor who knows exactly what experience you need to get that next position and is willing to help you achieve it – whether it is supervisory experience, budgeting experience, fundraising experience, etc.”

What was the conversation’s final takeaway? 

“Sometimes a mentor needs to tell you when you are headed in an unproductive direction or have unrealistic goals,” says Sue. “A mentor needs to be honest and give you tough love.”

Since joining Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, Sue has led searches for a wide range of positions within higher education, ranging from academic affairs to student affairs, and from enrollment to technology. She also leads select presidential searches.

Previously, Sue worked for a higher education strategy consulting group and regularly presented to faculty bodies and governing boards.

Sue is also a well-known expert on alternative careers for graduate students. With Maggie Debelius she wrote the pathbreaking book, So What Are You Going to Do with That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia, which was first published in 2001 and subsequently in revised editions for the University of Chicago Press in 2007 and 2014.

Sue has written 18+ articles for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Beyond the Ivory Tower” column and given more than 40 invited lectures and workshops at universities around the country.

Storbeck/Pimentel Team Profile

Sue May, Ph.D.


Sue has successfully led searches for a wide range of positions within higher education, ranging from academic affairs to student affairs, and from enrollment to technology. She also conducts select presidential searches. Her approach is collaborative, and she works creatively and flexibly with her clients to design the best possible strategy for their particular needs.