Filling the Opportunity Gap

Susan Colby loves NC State University. She loves supporting and guiding students, too.

Simply put, those passions meet in her job — and in her desire to give back financially to the university.

For 10 years, Colby has served as student services coordinator for the PGA Golf Management Program within the College of Natural Resources’ Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. An NC State alumna, she also is a former chair of both the NC State Staff Senate and the UNC Staff Assembly. Having made gifts to CNR, the Alumni Association and the Wolfpack Club, she hopes to continue increasing her giving because she sees a clear need for private funding in areas such as scholarships and professional development.

Donors put opportunity in front of people. If everyone can give a little, somebody is going to take away a lot of opportunity. I hate to see potential go to waste – whether it’s students or staff and faculty.

“The state hasn’t given us a lot of raises in the past few years, so it can be hard to see beyond that box,” Colby added. “But what if everybody gave $5 a month? What if two-thirds gave $10 a month? Think how much of a difference we could make.”

Colby grew up in Montgomery County, where she was active in 4-H. Her family included many enthusiastic fans of UNC-Chapel Hill’s athletics teams, but watching the NC State men’s basketball team make its run to the 1974 national championship captivated an 11-year-old Susan.

A few months later, she visited the NC State campus for the first time to attend a statewide 4-H event, and enjoyed every minute.

“I remember standing there in Lee [Residence Hall], a country kid come to the city basically,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is where I’m coming to college.’ I never changed my mind, even though my dad would ask me if I had a backup plan. My middle school and my high school both had red in their colors, so I sort of took that as a sign that the stars were aligned.”

Indeed, Colby graduated from NC State in 1985 with bachelor’s degrees in speech communications and recreational resources administration. Over the next several years, she worked in health and wellness, resort management and related fields in New Jersey and greater Philadelphia. She was thrilled, though, by the opportunity to return to the university in 2000. Professors including Beth Wilson, Phil Ray and Carol Love, and staff members such as administrative coordinator Reggie Powell, had made a profound impact on Colby and her friends.

She hoped to return the favor to a new generation.

“I want to be a combination of that group of people,” said Colby, who worked for five years in the music department before accepting her position as student services coordinator.

NC State is among 19 institutions nationwide with an accredited PGA Golf Management Program, which prepares students for jobs in the golf industry. Graduates’ careers include teaching professionals, sales or marketing representatives, course managers and golf fitness coaches.

Susan Colby discusses the PGA Golf Management Program with a prospective student.
Susan Colby discusses the PGA Golf Management Program with a prospective student.

As student services coordinator, Colby worked with prospective students and their families, and the program’s roughly 100 current enrollees. Her responsibilities spanned visit coordination, student scheduling and alumni relations, as well as assisting program director Robb Wade with reports and communications required by the PGA, formally the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

Colby particularly enjoyed advising several student organizations, including a Women in PGA Golf Management chapter, and teaching a noncredit class on topics such as networking, leadership development and proper dress to students preparing for program-required internships.

“And sometimes I’m just playing the role of mom away from home,” she said.

“Mama Sue,” as students nicknamed her, describes herself as thriving with a crowded calendar. She completed her master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management in 2012. Shortly before that, she began serving in the NC State Staff Senate, replacing an energetic colleague who inspired her to serve. That led to a term as chair of the Staff Senate and a recently completed term as chair of the UNC Staff Assembly, a voice for 27,000 employees across 17 campuses.

Colby takes pride in efforts to channel teamwork into proactively addressing challenges. For example, the Staff Assembly initiated a Chancellors’ Cup golf tournament that has raised $100,000 in four years to support a scholarship fund for staff professional development.

Helping people meet their potential is at the heart of giving, she said. To complete the golf management program, each student needs about $5,700 beyond regular NC State expenses for PGA testing and other fees. Additional private funding could lower that barrier. As she sees friends’ children enroll at the university and remembers the 4-H scholarship support she received, Colby thinks more about providing opportunity. Colby was recently named associate director of the NC 4-H Development Fund.

We spend so much time in contact with students. We’re there daily. We have a chance to form a different type of relationship sometimes than faculty. They become our kids. I would like other staff members to say, ‘Hey, I want to support my kids.’ Whatever we do can make a long-lasting impact.


Gifts from faculty and staff play a significant role in moving NC State from good to great. Employees can direct their gifts to the college, campus or program of their choice, including the recently launched NC State Employee Dependent’s Tuition Scholarship, which provides partial financial support to dependents of full-time employees. For more information, please visit our faculty and staff page.