From scientist to leader: getting to know Chancellor Susan Elrod

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By: Connie Klimek


   Looking back on her ten years of experience in leadership, IU South Bend Chancellor Susan Elrod shares her motivations, inspirations, and advice for students in celebration of women in leadership during Women’s History Month. 

   From working as a faculty member to stepping into leadership positions, Elrod has a passion for making a difference on a daily basis. She believes her impact begins with the relationships she forms within her community. 

   “To be a leader you have to connect to the people you’re leading,” she said, remarking that leadership is an interactive activity. 

   Her bright, smiling face featured in the photograph accompanying this story may be a familiar one to the campus community, as she is present at major events like Commencement, move-in day in housing, Raclin School of the Arts’ annual Christmas concert, and regularly hosts social gatherings catered to student, staff, and faculty audiences such as Pizza with the Chancellor and Coffee with the Chancellor. 

   Having a background in science gives Chancellor Elrod insight into the importance of applying statistics pertaining to enrollment, student life, and conditions, such as weather and even finances that impact students’ experiences at IU South Bend.

   Elrod admires the resilience and persistence of IU South Bend students, as many are the traditional student age, but are not experiencing the traditional “college experience,” since many live off campus and most work a job. As Chancellor, Elrod said she feels a responsibility to improve systems, processes, and access for students in her campus community. Her passion to help students find a path through higher education is undeniable. 

   This passion stems back to Elrod’s past, primarily influenced by her grandmother. Elrod’s grandmother was never educated beyond grade four, but always found a way to pursue her passions, such as writing phonetically as her spelling was limited, and even opening up a restaurant.

   Familial support sculpted Elrod’s perseverance in moving into leadership roles, especially in fields dominated by men. Elrod said she comes from a long line of tenacious individuals, like her grandfather who was a principal and her father who was a CEO. These positive relationships with multiple men in leadership supported the early part of Elrod’s career, as she was able to develop confidence in settings where her gender was underrepresented, which motivated her to bridge gender gaps and create more inclusive environments.  

   When feeling daunted, Elrod shared her go-to strategy: if you put yourself in the perspective of others by breaking down their needs and motivations, they become less intimidating. Additionally, it is easier for you to work with them, as you can help them meet their needs.

Following Elrod’s style of engagement, she hopes to encourage students to gain confidence in their skills and step into settings where they may be underrepresented.

   Elrod also offered this advice: preparation is a big secret to being successful. There’s value in taking a pause and waiting if the timing for an opportunity is not right, but remember your goals.

   The goal is for all students to feel supported at IU South Bend, and Elrod encourages students to advocate for themselves, as she would not be where she is without having done so.  

   “If you feel called to lead, you should feel empowered to do it. Don’t be afraid to bring your identity to your leadership” Elrod said. “Nobody will support you like you.”

Photo // Nathan Albert

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