Extension Educator, Community and Economic Development
University of Illinois Extension
912 S Commercial Street
Harrisburg, IL 62946
Susan began her career with the University of Illinois Extension in 2005 as an Academic Hourly Professional in Unit 27 (Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski & Union). In 2006, she accepted a full-time position as a Community Economic Development Program Coordinator. In 2011, Susan transitioned into a new role as an Extension Educator in Community Economic Development. In this role, Susan serves as an academic professional with primary responsibility for development, delivery, and evaluation of educational programs supporting the mission of the University of Illinois Extension. Susan’s current service area includes the southeastern counties included in Unit 24 (Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Pope, Saline & White).
Susan graduated Summa Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the College of Business and Administration and a Bachelor of Science (BS) from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts with a Minor in Marketing from the College of Business and Administration.
In 2009, Susan received certification as a Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) from the Community Development Council. PCED certification is available to professional community developers engaged in a purposeful effort to enlist individuals in the community to collaboratively work to shape and guide the development and economic prosperity of their community.
While with Extension, Susan has created opportunities to contribute to the University of Illinois Extension CED knowledge base by participation in professional development activities and trainings including completion of Years One, Two and Three of the Midwest Community Development Institute (CDI) and continued participation in the professional development track specifically designed for CDI Alumni.
In addition to CDI, Susan has received extensive training in the concept of Economic Gardening and has worked to educate local officials and community leaders on the benefits of “growing your own” as a sustainable economic development strategy.
In 2012, Susan received certification as a NCTI Real Colors® Facilitator. Real Colors® is an in-depth examination of personality types and communication that brings temperament theory into real life applications to increase understanding, empathy, and communication in the workplace.
Susan is a 2015 graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy, a year-long leadership development program that prepares regional leaders to collaborate and address the most-pressing issues facing the 252 counties and parishes in the eight-state Delta Region. In addition to the program certificate, Odum graduated with industry-recognized certifications in the following VitalSmarts® programs: Crucial Conversations®, Crucial Accountability®, and Influencer: Proven Strategies to Lead Behavior Change®.
As a member of a state-wide team, Susan provided training and technical assistance to two regional groups of community leaders engaged in Stronger Economies Together (SET), a USDA Rural Development program designed to strengthen the capacity of communities/counties in rural America to work together in developing and implementing a High Quality Regional Economic Development Plan for their multi-county regions.
In 2016, Susan participated in the Michigan State University Facilitative Leadership Workshop, a program designed to enable graduates to improve their skills to more effectively engage participants in learning how to manage conflict, communicate with purpose, and collaborate on solving complex issues to move communities forward.
During her time with Extension, Susan has worked closely with city and county governments, community leaders, and community development organizations to facilitate community and economic development efforts in the region. In the fall of 2012, Susan completed a Retail MarketPlace Profile Study of the southernmost sixteen counties of Illinois. In addition to presenting the results of the Study to community leaders, elected officials, and local stakeholders throughout the region, Susan translated research on rural economics into programming, in turn, empowering residents of small, rural communities with information and the opportunity to make informed decisions. As a result, attitudes and behaviors are changing in support of regional thinking and ecosystems that recognize the importance of small business and entrepreneurs as drivers of rural economies.
Susan has also engaged key stakeholder groups in a variety of community and economic development topics including: asset utilization; tourism development; small business development; business retention and expansion; downtown redevelopment; tax increment finance (TIF); youth entrepreneurship; and buy local campaigns.
Susan’s community development outreach efforts were recognized by the University of Illinois Extension at the 2015 Annual Conference Awards Ceremony, where she was honored with the award for Outstanding Extension Professional with 12 or fewer years of experience. In October of 2017, Susan received notification of her promotion to Level II Educator.
When challenged by Dr. Kidwell, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) to complete the statement - What We Do and Why It Matters – Susan responded “My Community Development Education programs provide rural residents with the knowledge needed to break the cycle of decline impacting many of Illinois’ small, rural communities. As a result, small business, entrepreneurship, and innovation will be the key drivers ensuring a financial future for rural Illinois.”