This spring, Suzanne S. Gordon will become the first woman to serve as president of the NC State Engineering Foundation Board of Directors. She holds bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematics and a master’s degree in statistics, all from NC State. She retired from SAS Institute in 2012 as chief information officer.
What goals do you have as president?
First, I would like to continue the great tradition of good leadership and support for the College. Second, I would like to see the Oval Building* fully funded. Third, I would like to find out more about present programs like Women in Science and Engineering and where we can help them be more successful and recruit more women to engineering.
Why is it so important for you to give back to the College?
I have always been a giver. It is just so rewarding. My father taught us from an early age if you don’t give when you have a little you won’t give when you have a lot. I received a great education from NC State, and by participating on different boards, I continued to benefit and learn from others. It’s also good to have a network outside of the company you are working for. I have found that when my career had bumps the NC State people I was working with at the time helped me stay confident and motivated.
What is the board doing to get more alumni involved?
We are working to get young alumni more engaged so that it is just a continuous activity. You graduate, you serve on a young alumni group, you serve on your department board, you move to the Engineering Foundation Board. Young alumni, however, are frequently in the most intense part of their career so finding the balance between involving them and overwhelming them is the key. I would just reiterate to them how beneficial the network can be to your career and your self confidence.
You enjoy speaking to groups about building a trusting atmosphere as a leader. Why is that important?
I always felt that way that trust was key to having a successful team, trust in each other and trust in the leader. A good book I read and recommend sums it up called The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. If you have trust, there are so many other problems you don’t have to deal with, so you can get things done much quicker.
You’re a pioneering woman in a STEM field. How can we encourage more girls and young women to take an interest in STEM?
(Former NC State) Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and I decided you have to start at a very early age. If you wait until high school, you may have lost them, and they are already behind their male counterparts. So whatever we can do to expose young women to STEM early on is key. NC State Engineering has some very great summer programs. I would like to get the word out to more students like the Computer Science students about these programs.
*[Editor’s Note: The Engineering Building Oval was named Fitts-Woolard Hall on April 20, 2018.]