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Episode 121: From Admissions Rep to DeVry’s first woman CEO – Elise Awaad

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Hey family! I’m thrilled to share with you a remarkable conversation I had with Elise Awaad, the President and CEO of DeVry University. Listen as I take you through Elise’s inspiring journey from an admissions representative to becoming the first female President and CEO of DeVry University, her dedication to education, and her vision for bridging the opportunity gap in the tech industry.

Breaking Barriers in Higher Education

During Women’s Month, it’s particularly poignant to reflect on the strides made by women in leadership roles. Elise Awaad is a testament to breaking barriers and leading cultural transformations in higher education. Her innovative leadership and commitment to supporting career advancement for all learners are what make her stand out as a beacon of progress.

An Unexpected Entrepreneurial Spirit

In our conversation, Elise revealed a personal tidbit that many don’t know: she grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. This background instilled in her a drive that would eventually lead her to helm DeVry University. Despite initially envisioning a future as a business owner, Elise’s career trajectory took a turn towards education—a field where she could exercise her entrepreneurial spirit in a different but equally impactful way.

Why Education?

When I asked Elise about her unwavering devotion to education, her answer was rooted in personal values and the transformative power of learning. She believes education is an enduring possession that, once earned, can never be taken away. This philosophy drove her to start her career at DeVry in 2004, where she found her passion in student advising. The gratitude and success stories of students fueled her dedication and led her to where she is today.

DeVry’s First Women CEO: A Milestone for Women in Leadership

Elise’s ascent to the role of President and CEO is not just a personal achievement but a milestone for women in leadership positions. With women holding a mere 10% of CEO roles in the Fortune 500, Elise’s success is both humbling and a call to action. She emphasizes the importance of “lifting as you climb,” a principle that has guided her to give back and mentor others on their paths to success.

Transformative Career Moments

Reflecting on her career, Elise shared a pivotal moment in 2013 when she took on a challenging assignment that others were reluctant to accept. This decision to lead a significant transformation of a large operation was a turning point that showcased her ability to thrive in adversity and her readiness to embrace opportunities for growth.

The Future of Education and Mentorship

Our discussion also delved into the current education ecosystem and the critical role of mentorship. Programs like the Women in Tech Scholars program at DeVry University are making a tangible impact by supporting women in fields where they are traditionally underrepresented.

The Takeaway

Elise Awaad’s story is one of courage, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to education. Her journey from an admissions representative to the CEO of DeVry University is a powerful reminder of the impact one can have when they align their career with their values and seize opportunities for growth. As we wrapped up our conversation, it was clear that Elise’s leadership is not just about reaching the top—it’s about lifting others as you rise.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. If you or someone you know are working with youth, please sign up for my free Success on Your Own Terms for Youth program and lets work together to empower the next generation.

And if our content has been a blessing or has inspired you in any way and you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation or shopping our online store. Again, thank you and until next time be informed, be empowered and be accountable.

James Rosseau Sr., AKA Trig


The introduction (00:00:10) James introduces the episode’s topics, including Elise Awaad’s journey and the discussion of faith, youth learning loss, and the education ecosystem.

Elise’s Entrepreneurial Aspirations (00:01:59) Elise shares her family’s entrepreneurial background and her initial aspirations to start her own business.

Devotion to Education (00:03:36) Elise discusses her passion for education, her career at DeVry University, and the impact of student stories on her career choice.

Becoming the First Female President and CEO (00:06:25) Elise reflects on the significance of being the first female President and CEO of DeVry University and the responsibility it entails.

Transformative Career Moments (00:09:33) Elise shares pivotal moments in her career, including taking on challenging assignments and leading a significant transformation.

Closing the Opportunity Gap in Tech (00:14:02) Elise discusses the opportunity gap in tech, the Women in Tech Scholars program at DeVry University, and the importance of mentorship.

Current Education Ecosystem (00:21:47) Elise describes the current education ecosystem, highlighting technological integration, accessibility, and the evolving nature of learning modalities.

Accessibility and Inclusivity in Education (00:23:01) Discussion on the importance of technology and digital resources in making education more accessible and inclusive globally.

The Future of Education (00:23:56) Examining the evolving nature of education, personalized and integrated with technology, and the value of lifelong learning opportunities.

The Value of Formal Education (00:26:26) Exploring the incremental value of formal education in standing out in a competitive job market and the importance of community and feedback.

Accountability and Support in Education (00:28:15) Highlighting the role of accountability and the ecosystem of support in formal education, emphasizing the benefits of being part of a learning community.

Using Education to Help on the Journey (00:29:29) Embracing education as a challenge, acquiring new skills, and standing out in a competitive environment through education.

Reasons for Allowing Suffering (00:31:26) Discussion on the five reasons why God may allow suffering, including discipline, choices and actions, testing and refining, allegiance to Jesus, and suffering for others.

Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss (00:35:06) Seven tips to prevent summer learning loss, including prioritizing reading and math, engaging in educational games, turning trips into learning experiences, baking learning into activities, choosing STEM camps, and creating educational experiences.

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