Alumni Perspective with Susan Gillum

Alumna and Omaha, Neb. native Susan Gillum is living proof that it’s never too late to start over. After 26 years of working in various management positions in the corporate world, she took her career into an entirely new direction and couldn’t be happier because of it.

Where did you work prior to enrolling at Clarkson College?

My first job was as a courtesy clerk at Hy-Vee. I continued to work at Hy-Vee as a shift manager while attending Creighton University. After graduating with an Accounting/Finance degree, I decided to go full-time with Hy-Vee. During my career with Hy- Vee, I moved to Kansas City, Kan., Lincoln Neb. and finally returned to Omaha to be close to family. During this time, I helped open many stores for Hy-Vee. I worked for Hy-Vee for 26 years in various management positions, working my way up to store director.

At what point in your career did you begin to consider changing your profession?

After having my second child, Sara, I took some time off to be with my family. During this time, I did some soul searching. I wanted a career that would allow me to spend time with family and also give back to my community.

How did you decide on physical therapy and the physical therapist assistant (PTA) program?

Another parent in my oldest child’s kindergarten class was a graduate from Clarkson College and informed me about the PTA program. After doing some research, I found that Clarkson College was known for its PTA program. I went to a physical therapist for a back problem and was very impressed with the process. I figured this would be a great way to make a difference and decided to apply to the program.

What reservations did you have about returning to school?

I knew this would be a big life changer. I had two young children, and I was also pregnant with my third child. I was inspired by my mom, who went back to school when I was a young child and had seven children. I wanted to follow my dream and was passionate about meeting my goals. My husband was very supportive about me going back to school.

What types of challenges did you face balancing motherhood and school?

I recall being nine months pregnant when I attended New Student Orientation. I was one of the older students in my class and received a lot of support from the other students and faculty. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed my newborn baby and would have my notes ready to study as I rocked her. My older kids became my volunteers for me to practice what I was learning in school.

Overall, how would you describe your "going back to school" experience?

I had an excellent experience. I was honored to be elected President of the Clarkson College PTA Student Association. This was a very fulfilling experience. We also gave back to the community by volunteering for different events, such as the Special Olympics, Healthy Kids and MS Forward. I felt like Clarkson College did an excellent job preparing me to be a successful PTA. After graduating and passing my boards, I started out doing home health and accepted a full-time job with Hillcrest Health and Rehab, where I have been working since March 2015.

Does your current career path fill any voids that your former one did not?

I am very excited about being a PTA at Hillcrest. It has been very fulfilling, and I have an excellent team that I work with in the therapy department. Hillcrest has the work culture that I was looking for and has been very supportive of my family life. The company also provides many opportunities to continue my education in my field.

Is it ever too late to go back to school?

I feel very fortunate that I’ve had this opportunity to have a second career and would recommend it to anyone who has the passion to make a life change. It has been fulfilling going home each day knowing I made a difference in my patients’ lives.