Featured TRUST Member
Current Organization and Position:
Susan Wiese works with the Minnesota SPAN Association educating the next generation of international researchers, promoting cross-cultural communication across borders, countries and continents.
Susan was interviewed by her long-time friend Carol Kaemmerer, with whom she recently served on the TRUST’s Website Redesign Subcommittee.
In the early 1980s, when you first joined the TRUST’s predecessor group, the Eleven-Fifteen Club, you were a health and medical reporter for KARE 11 News. Where are you now?
Currently I am the special projects coordinator of the University of Minnesota-based Minnesota SPAN Association. SPAN, the Student Project for Amity among Nations, is Minnesota’s longest-running learning abroad program; it offers undergraduates from all Minnesota colleges and universities an opportunity to travel abroad to research a topic of their choosing. Since 1947, Minnesota SPAN has sent nearly 3,000 students to 93 countries on six continents. In my role, my responsibilities include: development, alumni relations, strategic planning, financial management and external communications. I also administer SPAN’s scholarship program.
SPAN’s goal of promoting international understanding and cross-cultural communication across borders, countries and continents is dear to me. As an undergraduate I was privileged to travel with SPAN for my undergraduate honors research, exploring the role of broadcasting in creating a sense of nationhood in the then newly-independent country of Kenya.
Fascinating, Susan. You’ve held a lot of roles between when I first met you and now. Can you trace your career arc for me?
Sure. I have more than 35 years of broad-based experience in strategic corporate and employee communications and journalism. Prior to working with SPAN, I served as the communications project manager for the University of Minnesota Wellness Program; the worksite wellness program encourages the UPlan’s 35,000 members to take steps to better health.
Prior to that, I held roles as senior public affairs counselor, media relations manager and video producer for the international agrifood company, Cargill Incorporated. Reporting on the company’s business activities in England, Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey, and throughout Africa gave me a ringside seat on the global economy. I wrote about food and food ingredients from farm to table, dirt to dinner. The videos I produced took viewers to Moscow trading desks, inside Turkish corn processing plants, and into the rich farm fields of the Ukraine.
Prior to Cargill, I covered breaking health and medical news for KARE 11 Television in Minneapolis, MN. My award-winning reports explored everything from breast cancer and organ transplantation to infertility and AIDS treatments.
You’ve always been a trail blazer. How do you see yourself supporting women in their leadership journeys?
I was the first woman in the Upper Midwest to be named a television news director. The station was in Rochester, MN. I had the privilege of hiring Minnesota’s first female television news photographer at a time when the requirements for the job were not only to shoot attention-grabbing, memorable footage but also to carry 87 pounds of video and audio equipment.
Today, I am training and mentoring undergrads in research methods and techniques. I am continuing to see how international travel and field studies in faraway places can bolster the confidence of students, young women in particular.
Were you ever mentored?
Yes. When I started in the news business, broadcasting was largely a man’s world — I entered a TV station with an all-male newsroom and a mostly-male engineering staff. Consequently, it has been men (both literally and figuratively) who have opened doors for me and who have been my mentors. For this, I am grateful.
Coincidentally, in the early 1980s, it was, once again, a gentleman who urged me to join the TRUST which was called the Eleven-Fifteen Club at that time. His name was Dick Gunderson, and he was a Citizen Representative on the Metropolitan Health Planning Board, a part of the Metropolitan Council. Dick knew a couple of Health Board staff who had joined and some of the other young women who represented the physician and hospital organizations who attended the Health Board meetings, and he thought I should get in on the action.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share?
One of the most memorable stories I have written for the TRUST was based upon an interview with Jean Harris, MD, since deceased, for whom our Jean Harris Award is named. At the time of our interview, she knew she was dying, and she was beginning to collect her thoughts on what later would appear as Harris’ “10 Lessons of Life.” The lesson that speaks to me is her Lesson #2:
“No matter what you do, not everyone is going to like you. However, identifying and joining with souls of like and open minds makes progress through life measurably more enjoyable and easier.” – Jean Harris, MD
You’ve been a member since the early 1980s. Why do you value this organization?
I value the TRUST because it has given me an opportunity to learn from other TRUST members. The most recent experience, as a participant in the TRUST Website Redesign Subcommittee, was most heartening! It was a privilege to work alongside women who, collectively, have an awesome set of skills and who are dedicated to working together to deliver an improved communications product.
I also value being part of an organization where women are determined, even driven, to band together to increase opportunities for leadership and career advancement in health care. Above all, what’s been very rewarding are the lasting connections and the life-long friendships that I have made based on my early ties to the TRUST. Friend and TRUST Founder, Nancy Conlee Hart labeled the TRUST as one of her better ideas. I agree. Totally.
What’s one interesting thing TRUST members don’t know about you?
I am married to writer and essayist Robert Lacy, who has published more than 90 essays and short stories in magazines and literary journals. Read Lacy’s latest in The American Interest.
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