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Article Published December 19, 2018
Bethany Zemba Takes a New Job in an Old Role at Quinnipiac University
Nathan Hughart

Bethany Zemba has experienced a lot of new roles in her life, including mother, coach, and educational professional. Now, after 15 years at Yale University, Bethany has another new role: vice president and chief of staff at Quinnipiac University.

“It’s a little bit scary to be at a place for a long time and then start on a new journey, but I think that it’s something that I’m really excited about,” she says.

The position of chief of staff is a new one for Quinnipiac University, but not for Bethany. She served in that position at two separate departments at Yale.

“I had two roles as chief of staff, so this is a role that is familiar to me,” she says. “I hope that some of the skills that I learned there will be transferable and so far I think they will be.”

Bethany’s path to academic administration began when she was pursuing her undergraduate degree from the University of Rhode Island (URI), though it was not her course of study.

While working as a student tour guide at URI, Bethany found a role model in the admissions department.

“She kind of got me interested in higher education, but I was doing a science major,” says Bethany, who was working on her degree in environmental science. “After that first experience as a tour guide, I never really left education.”

She returned to URI for a master’s in public administration, working in the admissions department for her assistantship.

A position at Yale in the School of Forestry & Environmental Sciences was a logical next step. Eventually, she moved into a similar position with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to round out her time at Yale.

“My strengths are that I like to create systems,” Bethany says. “For whatever reason, I have inhabited the first of many roles. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, when I joined it, had only been around for a very short time.”

When she started work at Quinnipiac on Dec. 4, she again found herself in a role with little prior history.

“I helped build the systems and then when I left [Yale], I hoped that the systems will continue beyond the person,” she says. “I went back yesterday, just for a check-in…and everything is still standing, which I think is a good sign.”

Bethany says that being a chief of staff is about “taking the pulse of what’s already on the ground” and assessing what needs to be built to improve and grow.

Even as her work took her further from her B.S. in environmental science, Bethany’s original interests return as she takes a position in a more rural setting.

“I still am an environmentalist at heart. I enjoy the outdoors,” Bethany says. “I’m looking forward to when Sleeping Giant reopens.”

The decision to come to her new job at Quinnipiac came in part from her conversations with the university’s president, Judy Olian.

“Her view of higher education aligns with my view,” Bethany says. “She’s very inclusive in her thinking about it. She talks about contributing to the social good, which I think is really important.”

As chief of staff and vice president of the university, Bethany will be involved with strategic planning regarding the growth of Quinnipiac. She’ll be working directly with Olian to set her plans in action.

Bethany will also be tasked with liaising primarily with North Haven, another quality she feels the president honors.

“I think that she is someone…who is going to value the town and gown relationship, the connection to North Haven,” she says.

This feeling was magnified by her residence in North Haven, where she has lived for the last five years.

“I had a full day of interviews and everybody that I spoke to spoke of the university in a way that made me feel connected to it immediately,” Bethany says. “I had known Quinnipiac a bit from a distance.”

Recently, she’s been assistant coaching the local soccer recreation leagues where her son, Ty, and daughter, Isla, are athletes.

“I learned the rules from coaching the kids,” she says. “It’s something I found extremely fun and I get into it.”

Being a soccer coach is something that is new for Bethany. She originated with field hockey as an athlete, a sport she says is very different from soccer, though the two have their similarities.

Even her new experiences with soccer may have an effect on her new job at Quinnipiac, as she hopes to attend more games.

“I want to be a big cheerleader for the university,” she says.

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.