Lori Sisk, MEd, earned her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration and completed her Master of Education (MEd) with an emphasis in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University. After working in Student Affairs and building the department from the ground up, Sisk was promoted to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) effective January 2021.
Sisk’s 13-years career progression of increased responsibilities and roles, immersion into the work and research of Student Affairs, and leadership opportunities have influenced students’ institutional services at RMUoHP. Since joining RMUoHP in 2014, Sisk has created departmental assessments and metrics-driven data, along with institutional data, to expand the offerings and impact of Student Affairs, embracing the University’s core theme of being evidence-based.
As the University continues to grow, Sisk explained that “Student Affairs will remain committed to increasing support, services, and education on mental health through consistent university messaging, services, and added programming, specific to the University’s graduate, health student populations. Our focus is on overall student experience and development, including student leadership, milestone events, health and wellness coaching, external counseling services, disability services, student food scarcity needs, student associations, and services projects.”
Sisk’s own professional journey into higher education and student affairs provides motivation for helping students in their personal and professional lives.
After finishing her undergraduate studies, Sisk was offered a position as a Student Services Advisor at Steven-Henager College in Provo, Utah. “The Dean provided mentorship in the profession of Student Services,” said Sisk. Within a year she was promoted to the Student Services Director, where she built a Student Services Department with expanded services and personnel for the student population.
While working in Student Services, Sisk worked simultaneously as Interim Registrar, as well as serving with IPED reporting, the Program Advisory Committee (PAC), the President’s Cabinet, and more. “From these positions I gained valuable insight into aspects of the student lifespan and higher education institutions,” said Sisk. After six years, Sisk left Steven-Henager to support her family, but in the years that followed she had many new opportunities and experiences.
In 2014, Sisk returned to her professional aspirations at RMUoHP, where Enrollment Management was hiring for a Support Specialist/Student Services Coordinator. Despite some technical issues that occured during her interview, Sisk got the job.
When talking about some of the struggles of both moving forward in her career and getting back into the workforce, Sisk described the importance of having a “Growth Mindset.” “Embracing a Growth Mindset is knowing that failure is not truly a failure if used correctly; failure is a continual teacher that keeps refining who you are,” said Sisk. “To learn this, you must lean into the discomfort and push away cultural definitions and norms relating to failure.”
For Sisk, it was never easy to balance her “commitment as a mother, navigating the dual roles of mother and father, dedication to my career, and pursuit of a master’s degree.” But it is important, added Sisk, to find motivation in the impossible.
“Whenever someone tells me something is impossible, it motivates me. I find myself internally smiling and saying, ‘watch me,’” said Sisk.
Sisk also pursues and finds success through lifelong learning and self-reflection. “I am a lifelong learner who continuously ‘sharpens my saw’ through professional development and networking with national organizations,” said Sisk. She understands the value of staying up-to-date on trends and research in the educational field.
And growth doesn’t just come from professional development. “I have weekly self-reflection, ownership of mistakes, and ensure I give proper credit to staff for their accomplishments and outcomes,” said Sisk.
Working at RMUoHP has been a learning experience for Sisk. “Working at RMUoHP, my view on students, in general, is how vital it is to remain mindful that each student is at a different stage within their overall development,” said Sisk. “My work has taught me that it is imperative to meet students where they are at, to foster trust, and to create a safe space that allows us to work toward supporting their individual needs.”
Successful student outreach occurs through working together with faculty and administration to reach out to the students and do the university’s best to meet students’ needs.
Sisk shares one of her favorite moments when everyone at the university came together for a student. When Sisk was serving as Student Affairs Coordinator and in the midst of planning the White Coat Ceremony for a cohort of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, a student approached Sisk with a unique request.
“The student told me her father was terminally ill and did not have long to live. It was so important to her, her father, and her family that he experienced this milestone event in her life,” said Sisk. Without the authority to change the event, Sisk approached the executive leadership at RMUoHP, which resulted in the decision to hold an earlier, private White Coat Ceremony just for the student and her family.
“The University leadership, DPT faculty and staff, and I had the privilege of hosting a private White Coat Ceremony for her and her family. I will never forget this: the students’ overwhelming appreciation and the fact that RMUoHP supported this for her. A few weeks following the private White Coat Ceremony, the students’ father peacefully passed away,” said Sisk.
For Sisk, she focuses her job on helping all students find success along their journeys. “As the University continues to focus on overall student health and wellness and seeing the student as a whole, our aim is that students will have the tools to properly navigate the challenges and obstacles that they face throughout their entire lives. We want our students to develop into transformational healthcare leaders–to see their patients as individuals, not numbers. Students learn this from RMUoHP faculty and staff, inside and outside the classroom; these valuable lessons and skills are taught in everyday interactions.”
She adds, “I hope the RMUoHP community remains committed and mindful of their abilities to change students’ lives, one student interaction at a time.” Now as Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Sisk continues, with the university community, to make a difference for students as they embark and progress through their graduate journeys.