Curb Spotlight: Susanna Harpold
Curb Scholar Susanna Harpold keeps herself busy with various leadership roles with The Music Room, MentorADore, and RUF, while also juggling creative pursuits and sports. Writing Fellow Becca Kantor caught up with Susanna before she jets off to study abroad to talk about how she balances her packed schedule, the value of storytelling, and what community means to her.
Becca Kantor: You’re an HOD major with minors in Economics and Business. What interests or aspects of your background drew you to those majors, and how does it align with your other non-academic interests?
Susanna Harpold: Growing up, I absolutely loved shows like Shark Tank and podcasts like How I Built This. As I was looking for a college and major, I knew I wanted to study business but loved the idea of approaching business from a very human perspective. I enjoy many different areas of business and am excited to explore more specific roles through my internships and capstone at Vanderbilt.
BK: You juggle several different leadership roles at Vanderbilt, such as serving as Talent Manager for The Music Room, a mentor for MentorADore, and leadership for RUF. What do you enjoy about these various opportunities and positions you have, and how do you think they’ve helped you grow?
SH: Being at Vanderbilt has really shown me the value of community. Coming into freshman year, I remember feeling like I was surrounded by strangers, but I quickly found a home in RUF. As I now serve on leadership for RUF and as a mentor in MentorADore, I hope to be a resource and friend within the Vanderbilt community to help others find their people that make Vanderbilt feel like home. In my current position as talent manager for The Music Room, I have found myself in an entirely new community and have loved the challenge of helping artists find their fit and role within the organization.
BK: You’re planning to study abroad both in Cape Town, South Africa, and Rome, Italy, next semester. What do you hope to do while in those countries? What are you most looking forward to about traveling abroad?
SH: I have always wanted to go abroad and am so excited to be going to Cape Town and Rome. While in Cape Town, I am participating in service-learning and studying social justice and transformational leadership. In Rome, I plan to study international finance and take architecture classes just for fun! Outside of academics, I am excited to be immersed in cultures very different from my own and participate in activities that take me out of my comfort zone. I have heard of students going bungee jumping, cage diving with sharks, and am excited to do similar activities and ones I have yet to discover.
BK: You have a love of storytelling. Do you feel that storytelling, or aspects of it, help you in your pursuits? How do you tap into your creativity? Also, any favorite stories you’ve heard recently?
SH: I think my love of storytelling comes from the way I grew up. I am from a small town in Texas where I was neighbors with my closest friends and was surrounded by the same characters and family my whole life. As I grew up, I became fascinated with podcasts and memoirs and by high school, I was working at a movie theater watching almost every movie that came through our screens. I loved stories of people and places different from my own and constantly found myself searching for more stories to engage with. Through my time at Vanderbilt, I have been able to recognize the value in my own story and have loved engaging with different mediums and spaces to share it. Storytelling is powerful. A good story can stir up emotion, action, and even change, and I believe that becoming a good storyteller can help me in any path I may choose. Recently, I have loved hearing stories of great ideas and movements that have gone wrong. For anyone who is interested in podcasts about this, I have recently enjoyed The Dropout, which follows Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, and The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, which follows the creation of a megachurch and the resulting fall of its leader Mark Driscoll.
BK: How has being a Curb Scholar shaped your experience at Vanderbilt?
SH: As a Curb Scholar, I feel like I am constantly exposed to and, in turn, blown away by the artistic and creative efforts happening in the community of Nashville. My perspective has shifted from thinking about the limits of creativity in selected fields to a view that sees the impact of creative thought all around me. Never one to describe myself as a “creative type,” I now embrace the term. To me, identifying as creative is believing there are infinite possibilities for how I can think, act, and create, and I am not afraid to explore them. Curb has freed me up to explore new things, learn alongside new people, and to not be afraid to fail. I owe some of my closest friendships to the Curb Program and have loved meeting mentors, friends, and even employers through our workshops and panels.
BK: What else should we know to an understanding of who you are as a student and individual?
SH: One thing those who know me well understand is that I love to be busy but am hesitant to fill all of my time with one activity. In high school, I played cross country, basketball, volleyball, tennis, and pole vault for my high school while working at my local movie theater on nights I did not compete. Still curious about what else I could try my junior year, I applied to be a part of a PBS documentary, and by senior year I was in the school play. I believe the reason I was able to juggle these activities was because I truly adored the community that came with each group I joined. As I entered college, I approached life with this same spirit. Currently, outside of classes at Vanderbilt, I serve as a mentor for MentorADore, leadership in RUF, talent manager for The Music Room, a Peabody, and Curb Scholar, and am an undergraduate research assistant in the Peabody School of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations. I find myself excited for every day because it has something new and exciting to offer. I also must continually extend myself and those around me grace as I continue to navigate new spaces and places where we can fail, learn, and grow.