Staff Profile

Heather Connor

Who had the greatest influence on your education and/or career path?

In college I had a professor who became my mentor. I was very interested in interdisciplinary studies, but it was a new field back then. My mentor encouraged me to apply to an interdisciplinary master’s program in humanities at the University of Chicago. Attending that program was a key turning point in my life, academically, professionally, and personally. Not only did it mold me into a keen critical thinker, but it also exposed me to so many new ways of approaching academic challenges. In Chicago I also discovered my love of big cities and I met my husband. The professor who pushed me to pursue that interdisciplinary master’s degree probably had no idea that his encouragement would have a domino effect and lead to so many other positive outcomes!

What drew you to a career in higher education administration?

I was really active in my master’s program. I was the chair of the social committee and someone that the program administrators knew they could ask for help (I would have been a student ambassador if my program had had student ambassadors!). I really enjoyed meeting with prospective students and using my own experience to provide guidance to them. Before I graduated, one of the program administrators asked me if I’d like to work for the program while I figured out my next steps, and I was thrilled! Working for my program was so much fun for me, it hardly felt like work at all. A couple years later my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to LA so he could pursue a PhD, and I got a job working with PhD students at USC. That’s when my work in higher ed administration evolved from a job to a career.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

My favorite thing about my work is and always has been helping students. I love the feeling of being able to brighten a student’s day when I work with them to solve an issue that they had been worried about. DSAN students in particular are smart, kind, funny, and fun, and I really enjoy the days when my work is a little slow so I can chat with our students in the DSAN suite. They always have interesting things to say and they make me laugh!

What’s the first piece of advice you would give to a DSAN student?

I always say don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I was in graduate school, I was too intimidated to go to professors’ office hours, and later I regretted not taking advantage of being able to learn the most I could from those brilliant people. When we tell students that we are always here to help, we genuinely mean it! We have such caring faculty and staff, and each one is happy to take the time to help out our students. Whether you need academic, emotional, mental, professional, or personal help, don’t be afraid to reach out! You’ll be glad you did.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I very briefly played bass in a rock band when I lived in Chicago about a hundred years ago. The internet didn’t exist then so don’t bother Googling it.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My mom told me that it’s OK to say no. I’m a Type A personality who also tends to be a people pleaser, and sometimes that can be overwhelming. When my mom told me it’s OK to say no sometimes, it was like a whole new world opened up to me. I realized I don’t have to be everywhere and everything to everyone all the time. It’s OK to take a step back and take a breather.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

My superpower would be the ability to be in two places at once, and be fully cognizant and present in both places, with clear memories of both experiences. I am a busy working mom and often feel I’m being pulled in two directions. This superpower would solve that!

What 3 things would you want with you on a deserted island?

Assuming this is a vacation and not a plane-crashed-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean situation, I’d choose my family (husband, child, dog, two cats), a phone with unlimited battery power, and a Kindle with a fully loaded library.