April 2007

Spotlight on Staff: Helen Cannaday Saulny

By Jill Lindstrom

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Helen Cannaday Saulny, assistant vice president for student academic support services, started her career at the University in 1983 in undergraduate admissions. Since then, she has held positions as special assistant to Senior Vice President Robert Chernak and as director for the Multicultural Student Services Center and the International Services Office.
After getting married and having her first child, she worked for a short time at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 1997 but returned to GW after 11 months.

Q: What do you like the best about your job?

A: Engaging in the lives of students and problem solving with colleagues. I like the fact that there are opportunities and the flexibility to be creative, think outside the box, and affect the quality of student experiences.

I derive great satisfaction from seeing students grow. I leave every day feeling happy and satisfied with the work I’ve done.

Q: How has the University changed since you started 24 years ago?

A: During my first few years, the public didn’t know much about GW, its strengths, and the opportunities for partnership. But the Trachtenberg years have elevated GW in so many positive ways—it feels very good to say that I work for GW.

Q: What takes up the most time of your day?

A: My portfolio consists of licensing and trademarks, the Marvin Center and University conferences, the Multicultural Student Services Center, and
the Student Activities Center.

I also oversee the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholars. Issues involving one or more of these areas can take up the lion’s share of my day. We have very bright, creative, entrepreneurial, passionate, and ingenious students at GW, and they keep me busy!

Q: What is the most unusual thing that ever happened at work?

A: I once went on a helicopter ride over Washington. In the early 1990s, we were doing a shoot for a new admissions publication and flew all over the city. It was beautiful!

Q: What did you want to be growing up?

A: It’s funny, but I don’t remember declaring a profession at an early age. My mother, who was an amazing woman, encouraged me to play the piano, which I did for years. Perhaps, at one time, I thought I might be the next Margaret Bonds. I do remember thoughts of becoming a pediatrician or owning my own nursery school. I enjoyed babysitting and working with children. My father is a physician, and he has been extremely inspirational in my life.

Q: When you have guests in town, which restaurants do you take them to?

A: Oceanaire, they serve wonderful seafood; Carolina Kitchen for soul food; and Ben’s Chili Bowl for great hot dogs.

I also enjoy Acadiana, which serves southern Louisiana-style food.

My husband is from New Orleans so we like going there.

Q: When did you last laugh really hard?

A: At the 2006 GW Colonials Weekend Jerry Seinfeld concert. I thought he was hilarious! And with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter—she is so funny. She has such a personality, and she puts me in stitches with her expressions.

Q: What are three things everyone should do in life?

A: First, do a good deed daily. Second, travel to broaden your world and your experiences. And third … take a risk! I think it’s important to move outside of your comfort zone; you can learn a lot from it.

Q: Do you own an iPod?

A: I do. I have John Legend, Alicia Keyes, Ella Fitzgerald, and several Motown artists on there. The last song I added was “Icebox” by Omarion. This was my 10-year-old son’s choice, as we share the iPod.

Q: What is your last thought before falling asleep?

A: I have a full schedule with work, family, and also organizational and social commitments, so normally I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. But on those occasions when I don’t, I think about what I need to do tomorrow and how I can continue to make a difference in the communities in which I travel.

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