Meet the NYUAA Board: Kelly Otter (STEINHARDT ’02)
The NYU Alumni Association (NYUAA) represents all NYU alumni, from every NYU school and department—a community more than half-a-million strong. The diverse and active NYUAA Board of Directors is made up of alumni volunteers who steer the Association in their mission to engage and support alumni. Kelly Otter (STEINHARDT ’02), who earned her PhD in Arts and Humanities Education from NYU Steinhardt, is a third year board member and serves on the By-Laws and Recent Alumni and Student Programs committees.
Currently Dean at the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University, Kelly is a leader in higher education, having served in academic dean roles at private and state-supported colleges and research universities. Her areas of expertise include academic program and curriculum development, organization development, technology-mediated education, strategic enrollment management, and custom and corporate education for domestic and global partners. She has held academic leadership positions at Georgetown University, Northeastern University, the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, and the College of New Rochelle. Kelly has also developed academic and student support programs for undergraduate and graduate students, specializing in adult liberal and professionally oriented programs, as well as veteran students.
In addition to her service on the New York University Alumni Association Board, Kelly is a board member of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and has served as organization’s conference planning chair. She has taught in the areas of speech, media studies, journalism and interdisciplinary research at the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, and Northeastern University.
What is your favorite
I prescribe to the theory that chocolate is good for you and I enjoy it at every opportunity, starting with chocolate babka or croissant with my morning coffee. During especially stressful times, my colleagues have learned to bring me chocolate, and things go better for everyone from that point forward.
I lament that so much of my reading the past several years has been almost exclusively for work (a habit I started during the research and writing of my dissertation during my years at Steinhardt), though I love reading fiction. However, last summer I read a beautifully crafted fictional novel titled Dreams of Sally Hemings written by Stephen O'Connor. While we know very little about Sally Hemings, a slave of Thomas Jefferson and mother to several of his children, the story suggests what could have been the experiences and thoughts of a girl/young woman trapped and struggling to survive in the milieu of the powerful political elite in the 1770s. The book encouraged me to reflect more deeply than ever on the experience of American slavery and to identify in so many ways with this historical figure who is so well known, yet not known to us at all.
- TV Show and/or Movie?
I should not admit that I watch a good bit of television. But I did earn a PhD in Arts and Humanities Education and focused on media analysis and criticism, which I also teach when I have the time. I am intrigued by film and television. I watch news constantly and rarely miss 60 Minutes. I watch everything from historical and contemporary films to reality TV, dramas and Netflix series such as Orange is the New Black and The Fall. Recently, I truly enjoyed Moonlight and Ladybird.
- Song and/or Musical Artist?
So many! Having come of age in the ‘80s, I love rock, though I appreciate many genres. My playlist right now is very eclectic, with songs by Blondie, Clairy Browne, Beyonce, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses, Motown, as well as Alice Cooper, Foo Fighters, and some my kids introduced me to: Lykke Lee and Lipstick. I also love classical music and musicals. My favorite musical is Les Miserables.
- Way to spend a Saturday?
Now that my son is about to graduate from Georgetown and my daughter is a teenager, my time with them is increasingly precious. If I can get them to go to lunch and/or a movie, their company affords me hours of laughter and thoughtful conversation. My kids, both born while I was a doctoral student at NYU, are incredibly entertaining! We will often go to mall just to walk around sipping coffee and talking. And we love to catch a movie at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, MD where we live, and get dinner at a favorite local restaurant.
- Place to travel?
I travel quite frequently for work to amazing places such as the Middle East, where I work with some of the warmest and most generous people I have ever met. I also love visiting Latin America and Asia. Last fall I was able to take my teenage daughter to Japan with me and we had the time of our lives. Tokyo, especially the Shibuya area, was beautiful, friendly, lively, and just a delight in very way. Several years ago my son joined me on a trip to Northern Ireland where we had the opportunity to meet former members of the IRA and of the Loyalist paramilitary, allowing us to learn so much history and politics, and to see up close how fragile the peace-making (and keeping) process is. I want to explore western and northern Europe next.
- Place on the NYU campus?
Washington Square Park! I had countless meaningful conversations, lunches, and coffee with faculty, colleagues, friends, and students on the benches there. I get nostalgic each time I visit campus and walk through the park; not to mention of course just hanging out in Washington Square Park on a beautiful fall or spring day.
What is your favorite memory from your time at NYU?
One of my very favorite memories is time with students in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication when I was both a TA and mentor to international students. I made friends for a lifetime by helping them with their written English and teaching them about American culture and politics. On my recent trip to Japan, I reconnected with one of these students, Yuki Aoyagi, who has since become an infectious disease physician. We picked up right where left off almost 20 years ago as though only moments had passed.
Why do you give back to NYU?
I will never be able to repay NYU for the riches it has provided me: intellectual and career guidance; professional opportunity; a vast, supportive network; a spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and friendship. NYU showed me the right academic, professional, and life path to pursue and I am forever grateful. There is no place like it.