As Kelli Palmer sees it, knowledge is a way to merge her personal interests with her career. She pursued a Ph.D. in higher education administration focusing on underrepresented groups because her grandmother was prevented from completing her doctorate because she was African American. As assistant to former UVA president John Casteen III, she was charged with supporting the President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity and implementing its recommendations. “My education gave me the opportunity to do something about injustices that can occur in a place that is supposed to be equalizing,” she says.
During her eight years in the Office of the President, Palmer also organized the Virginia Voyages program, a series of short trips for alumni and friends led by the president to places around the world where UVA had a presence. “I had only been out of the country twice at that point,” she says. “I came over to the School of Continuing and Professional Studies to learn how to run this program from their educational travel planners—and in the process I realized that they do neat things here. It’s a school for grown-ups!”
Palmer began to look at the School as her personal educational resource. Asked to oversee process documentation in the president’s office, she completed courses in process mapping, modeling, and analysis. Assigned to plan and execute UVA Final Exercises, she finished courses in Meeting and Event Planning. Invited to serve on the boards of area nonprofits, she completed courses in nonprofit management. “It was a great experience to formally learn things I had been doing by instinct.”
Palmer credits her coursework at the School and her experience as an event planner for helping her secure a position as a global event manager at the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute. More recently, Palmer was promoted to CFA's Director of Organizational Environment, Social, and Governance. “How fun is it to be a learner for the sake of learning—and then to build that knowledge into your life and career? ” she asks. “SCPS makes that possible.”