In the past year, UVU professor Susan Madsen has traveled to Greece, India, Nepal, Slovania, Croatia, Argentina, Austria and Germany sharing research and motivation regarding women’s roles in education, leadership, politics and economics.
“I couldn’t have done this while I was raising four small children,” says this Highland mother and grandmother. “This stage in life gives me flexibility to do the work I feel called to do.”
Before Susan became a mom, she taught junior high. She then stayed home to teach her toddlers to walk, and then she took her own steps to further her education — starting her doctorate when her youngest was 3 and her oldest was 11.
Now one of her research and presentation passions is on the importance of women finishing their education.
“Earning a degree prepares you to make an impact — whether through paid work or by improving society in other ways,” Susan says. “At UVU, we are the lowest in the state for women finishing their degrees. Education changes the way we think and it pushes us to be better at writing, speaking and leadership.”
Susan has several women in her business classes who have returned to school during or after raising children.
“I love it,” she says. “This is the time of our lives when we can make the biggest difference. We can continue to impact our family and church, but the more educated we are, the more we can impact beyond those roles. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can go back to college and change your life forever.”
In addition to her mind, Susan keeps her body active.
“I hike, golf, and play racquetball,” she says. “I had to give up soccer a few years ago — and skiing takes too much time. But when you get in your 50s, physical fitness also needs to be a priority so we can continue to contribute the way we want to.”
Susan’s mind has become a go-to media resource inside and outside the state with topics related to women. Some of her recently released research includes “Cosmetic surgery and body image among Utah women,” “The status of women in Utah politics,” and “Unpaid care work among Utah women.”
Susan’s Utah Women & Leadership Project also includes events where prominent women and men discuss problems, solutions, statistics and anecdotal evidence of the status of women in our state.
To keep up with demands as a professor, researcher, mother and musician (yep, she also writes and sings music), Susan is known for returning emails at 4 a.m.
“I have to use my time wisely because I am fascinated by my topics and things are coming at me quickly,” she says.
Satisfaction comes in the form of feedback. On her last trip to Greece, she spoke to 200 businesswomen for an hour. Afterward, nobody left the room for another 90 minutes.
“They were energized and had not had a researcher motivate as well as inform them. We had created a space for them to continue the conversation,” she says.
Susan loves the unexpected variety she’s finding at age 56.
“All of my experiences up to this point — as a mother and a church member — have prepared me for the opportunities I have now,” she says. “Education swings doors open for women. I’ll never get tired of talking about that.”