California State University, Long Beach
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Leigh New AVP For Enrollment Services

Published: January 23, 2017

Susan Leigh
Susan Leigh

Susan Leigh, CSULB’s new assistant vice president for Enrollment Services since January, brings a commitment to student retention fueled by her experience as her family’s first-ever university graduate.

Leigh’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Scotland and, though they had a strong belief in education, the need to work took priority. She was the first in her family to earn a Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Rhode Island College and then a Master of Fine Arts from Temple University. That launched a career in teaching, coaching and administration that took her to the University of California San Diego and the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse. Leigh’s father, after his retirement and inspired by the example of his daughter’s first-generation college success, became the oldest person ever to graduate from the University of Rhode Island.

“There are 37 million Americans with some college but no degree,” said Leigh. “I could have been one of those students. What made a difference in my career was finding an advisor who said ‘I will help you.’ I have a soft spot in my heart for first-generation students, diversity and advising. It is important to me to create access for students who would not otherwise be a part of higher education. Then we have to make sure they have a good experience. That has been my passion as an administrator.”

Leigh spent 22 years at DePaul University in Chicago as an associate professor and Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing. While at DePaul, she made significant contributions to improving the student experience and increasing retention by raising institutional service standards through restructuring, reorganizing workflows and retraining staff.

Leigh is an expert in customer-centric business process redesign, helping staff partner with students. She built DePaul Central, a one-stop resource for students, by creating streamlined, paperless processes and integrating services from the registrar’s office, financial aid and student financial accounts. She also created the DePaul Central Contact Center that serves students by phone, email, chat and CRM (customer relationship management) channels.

Since leaving DePaul University in 2014, Leigh has been a consultant with colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada, helping to improve service excellence as a strategic retention effort. Her success relies on analysis and data-driven decision-making for efficient staffing and streamlined service delivery. Leigh is the author of a special curriculum titled Re-Envision Customer Service: Certification Training for Higher Education Staff Professionals. She is published in ACCRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) and other journals, and has held full-time positions at UC San Diego, Ohio State University and Webster University.

Leigh’s professional goal at CSULB is creating a culture of service excellence to improve retention.

“I want to make students feel like valued customers,” she explained. “I want to empower them to step up and be responsible for their own success and make sure they have the tools to do it. After moving to Long Beach for its diversity and urban hospitality last year, I was happily consulting in the U.S. and Canada when a recruitment email arrived about this challenging position. Joining CSULB was meant to be. And it’s a privilege to be here.

“I have a very strong teamwork ethic,” she added. “I come from theater which is a collaborative art. My CV includes more than 100 productions, each one a collaboration among many artists. I don’t know any way other than working with everyone around the table. If the team is talented, I can lead and coordinate. There is an extremely talented, dedicated staff here at CSULB. We are a destination campus. We need to help our students navigate seamless pathways to academic success once they arrive.”