Five Questions with Susie Smith

Susie Smith is a database-builder who raises chickens on the side.


Susie Smith offers a treat to her favorite chicken, Lolo. (Contributed photo)

Susie offers a treat to her favorite chicken, Lolo. (Contributed photo)

Name: Susie Smith
Position: Stewardship and donor relations manager, Advancement
Years at Gillings: Three (I’ve been at UNC for seven years though, and worked in the chemistry, pharmacy and orthopaedics departments.)


What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I don’t have a good elevator speech for my job because I do so many things. Usually, I just say that I have the really cool job of thanking people. Generally speaking, I offer customer service to alumni and donors of the Gillings School.

Our alumni are stellar individuals. I haven’t met one yet who wasn’t engaging and a pleasure to spend time with. Also, working with alumni and helping with fundraising efforts makes me feel like an integral part of the School’s mission. I may not be a researcher, but I can help our work happen.


I have unusual pets: My family kept chickens when I was growing up. A while ago, I decided I wanted to start raising them again. When I was house hunting, I kept an eye out for places with a good set-up. Eventually, my partner and I toured a home that already had a coop in the backyard with 10 chicken residents, and the owner ended up including five of them in the sale of the house! She left us a letter with all their names, their favorite snacks, that kind of thing. We don’t just keep them for eggs – they’re actually really fun animals. One of them, named Lolo, will hop onto my forearm if I tell her, “Up!”


I’m also a graduate student: In January, I started classes with the School of Information and Library Science at UNC. Right now, I’m learning about information organization and databases. I explained it to my parents as “library school” – basically, I’ll become an expert at cataloging and indexing data so they’re easier for people to find. I’m all about access to information. I’d love to one day create digital archives so students in small towns like the one I grew up in could research all kinds of topics more deeply.


I was raised in: A rural part of Maine. The joke when I was growing up was that “Maine is five years behind the rest of the country.” This was before the Internet, of course, so things like fashion trends took a little longer to get to us. And it does get really cold there. When I was in college, a neighbor once called my phone because she was frozen inside her apartment. She ended up climbing out a window, and we had to spend a while pouring hot water over the door handle to melt the ice.


When I’m not at work, I like to: Lately, my two favorite things are building a new chicken coop and working on database projects for a class I’m taking. For homework, I’m creating a database that offers all sorts of functionality to an interior design company. Some people aren’t sure how databases differ from Excel files, so – being an advocate – I’ll tell you: multiple people can access databases at one time, they don’t get mangled when you sort through them and they’re so much more user-friendly. Imagine if the insane amount of information held in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) was stored in one Excel file!