By Kathryn Flippin
Broadway posters, world-famous sites and historic pictures adorn the office walls of Susan Hopper, director of the Office of Academic Advocacy. While her main goal may be to help students filtering through her office daily, she also strives to help counsel any student needing direction or guidance.
From kindergarten to the end of high school, Hopper lived in Dyer, Tenn., a rare occasion for a Baptist minister’s child constantly on the move. After high school graduation, she attended Union University, where she studied English and business while also participating in many activities, such as Greek life and cheerleading. She held various odd jobs after graduation, including singing for a year with the traveling Christian singing group “Sound of Joy.” She then came back to complete her master’s degree in arts and teaching from the University of Memphis.
After teaching 10th- and 12th-grade English for several years at Old Hickory, now University School of Jackson, Hopper returned to Union, where she has worked for 21 years. She and her husband, Don, whom she met at a Union basketball game, have been married for 16 years and are actively involved in Meridian Baptist Church. Hopper serves as the women’s director and sings in the choir.
Question: What are your job responsibilities?
Answer: I am the academic advocate, which means I am a liaison between the students and academic services. I do the graduation audits for the schools of nursing, business and Christian studies. I advise freshmen undecided majors. One of my biggest jobs is to evaluate transcripts to see if courses from other schools will transfer and evaluate transcripts for those wanting to enter Union’s nursing program. You could say I am a busy woman.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?
A: I feel as though my calling is to minister to college students. To be able to help them figure out what they want to do in life is the most rewarding part about my job.
Q: What do you think is the most difficult thing about your job?
A: Sometimes there are seasons when a lot of things hit at once and it is hard to balance (it all). I also find it hard to see students not be able to graduate because of bad decisions when I know they really are good people who just made bad choices.
Q: What are some things you enjoy when you are not working?
A: I love to attend off-Broadway and Broadway shows. I will go up to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville or the Orpheum in Memphis. My favorite is “Les Misérables,” which I have probably seen eight or nine times. I also am an avid reader. I love books from the academic world, such as “The Scarlett Letter,” or a good John Grisham novel like “The Pelican Brief.” I also love doing Zumba with students at Union on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Q: Where is one place in the world you have always wanted to visit?
A: I would love to go to Greece. It is beautiful, and especially after being involved in the Greek system, I have always wanted to know more about Greek history.
Q: Union has a set mission statement that talks about having excellence-driven, people-focused, Christ-centered and future-directed students and faculty. How do you feel you portray this in your daily job?
A: In everything I do, especially when dealing with students, I strive to be Christ-centered. I want to be a good example they can look to. I always want to be able to give students a good answer, even when I have to say “no” to certain things.
Q: What is one thing you think students should know or experience in college?
A: My four years at Union were some of the best in my life. I worked hard and got very involved. Getting involved and finding people you can count on is the key. It helps later in life in dealing with people and relationships.