In honor of Women’s History Month, we sat down with Rose State Vice President Isabelle Billen and asked her five questions to learn more about her and how she has gotten to where she is now. We hope these answers inspire you to never give up on your dreams.
Isabelle Billen - Vice President of Academic Affairs
I started working at Rose State when I was 21, fresh out of college, and I didn't know much. I was afraid to speak up in meetings because I was very timid. So, a big thing I would tell younger women is to step out of their comfort zones. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn by asking questions to the right people.
The fact that I've been able to start out at a beginning level, right out of college. Rose State gave me a chance to prove myself and I was able to continue here and be recognized for my contributions and move up. As a woman, sometimes you feel like you must prove yourself a little more. I'm just really happy and proud that I've been given the opportunities here at Rose State to expand my career path.
Well, I've raised a good son. That's one of my greatest achievements. He's 25 now, on his own with a great career and his own house. I’m also proud of becoming a vice president because that's not an easy thing to do.
When I started out here, I was 21 so I really had to prove that I knew what I was doing and I had to learn a lot of new tasks in this job, that's probably the biggest obstacle in every position that I've held. In my former role, as the Director of Institutional Effectiveness, I also had to learn quickly, meet people and build the department. So, it's really just the learning curve of each job. I've had really good mentors and bosses that have helped me overcome those obstacles by being myself, expanding and letting me try new ideas.
I was also always afraid of speaking in public. The prior president recognized that, and he said, “I am going to make you speak in public every chance I get so that you'll feel more comfortable.” I’ve learned that you're always going to be nervous about it, but I feel so much more confident about speaking in public now. That's probably the hardest thing I've had to overcome – the fear of being in front of a crowd.
I think a female leader must be able to be strong. Always ready to walk up to a stranger and just start talking – good at making conversation. Female leaders are kind to their people and let the team know that they can trust her, and she will always have their backs.