Suzette Grillot's Advice for Young Women Entering the Workforce

Dec 20, 2015

Dean Grillot helps cut ribbon opening new College of International Studies building
Credit OU College of International Studies

Suzette Grillot has many jobs at the University of Oklahoma. She is the dean of the College of International Studies, one of only three female deans at OU. She is also OU’s Vice Provost for International Programs and the William J. Crowe, Jr. Chair in Geopolitics. KGOU listeners know her best as the host of World Views, where she interviews visiting scholars and newsmakers about global events, history, and politics.

World Views is my favorite!" Grillot said. “It serves the purpose of reaching out to the community and increasing international awareness through public radio which is one of my favorite things on the planet."

Although she doesn’t see herself as a professional journalist, she is curious and passionate about international issues and has been for a long time. She was born in Kansas and raised in Oklahoma, without access to a large international community, but became interested in global politics when the Berlin Wall fell while she was pursuing her Bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma State University.

“I started taking courses in Russian history and Soviet politics,” Grillot said. “I just found it to be very fascinating and that's really when I developed my interest in and passion for international Issues.”

When Grillot became interim dean of OU's College of International Studies in 2012 she was the only female dean on campus. Since then she has been joined by two other women, but is still aware of being in the minority. She says she has become comfortable working with mostly men because even when she was in school all her professors but one were male. She says even now she grapples with "imposter syndrome," the feeling you aren’t good enough to be where you are.

“I've never felt like I'm the smartest person in the room,” Grillot said. “I've always had to work hard to be as smart or to compete with my classmates, in particular my male counterparts, but I was always the hardest-working person. We as women often feel like we have to go over and above in order to demonstrate that we are worthy.”

That hard work means there are days where Grillot gets to campus early in the morning, and attends important events in the evening. She moves from activity to activity and sometimes even eats standing up. The demands of the job can make it hard for her to have a life outside of OU.

“That's a hard thing to do when you have a high-pressure, high-stress position that doesn't last just from eight to five,” Grillot said. “But I do make time to spend with friends and family and to have some hobbies and if you don't do those things you're not going to be as productive - but I don't necessarily always practice what I'm preaching.”

For Grillot, her assistant dean and World Views collaborator Rebecca Cruise is someone she can count on for support both in and out of the college.

“She's the one go-to person - I think everyone needs to have this, particularly people in high-pressure jobs,” Grillot said. “You’ve got to have somebody who is your confidant and she's that person for me.”

When Cruise was pursuing her Ph.D at OU, she asked Grillot to serve as her advisor and guide her in her research.

“This is really critical, particularly for women I think who are earning advanced degrees,” Grillot said. “Find somebody to work with and if you can, find a woman that can mentor you and guide you through your education and through your career.”

They began doing research together and their research led to international travel together.

“I think we've lost count, we've been to dozens of countries together doing research,” Grillot said. “Once she graduated we became close friends and now I would say Rebecca's like family to me. So I'm really lucky to have her as my colleague and my friend.”

Grillot’s advice to college-aged women is to “be passionate,” “never doubt yourself,” and find a mentor like Cruise found her.

“Find a role model,” Grillot said. “Women, quite frankly, are not terribly good at this because women don't necessarily always support each other and I think that's the other thing, for young women, remember to support each other.”

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