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Women in Business 2021: Kate Pendergast, University of Hartford

Kate Pendergast Employer: University of Hartford Title: Vice President of Institutional Advancement See all Women in Business 2021 honorees
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Kate Pendergast is vice president of Institutional Advancement at the University of Hartford, where she is responsible for leading all aspects of the university’s development and engagement efforts, including major scholarship and capital campaigns, annual and planned giving programs and alumni and corporate relations initiatives. Prior to joining the university in 2010, Pendergast served as executive director of the American Heart Association’s New Hampshire Chapter. She holds a BA in English/journalism from the University of Delaware, where she was also a four-year member of the Women’s Soccer Team, and a master’s in sport management from the University of Connecticut.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far?

Recruitment, retention and elevation of colleagues on my team. Each time we are able to promote someone internally, or create a new opportunity for growth, I am overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment that comes with having been part of that person’s development and professional journey in some way.

What’s the next big goal you want to accomplish professionally?

My big goal is to get my team through this pandemic even better positioned for future success. We are learning so much about our work and reconsidering things that have always been best practices. It’s exciting to embrace some of this change and to implement new ideas and approaches.

What’s one of the biggest professional challenges you’ve overcome?

The unwinnable balancing act that comes with the effort of advancing a career while simultaneously raising a young family. I knew I wanted a career and a family, but experienced tremendous guilt, exhaustion, stress and anxiety as I often questioned if I was doing the right thing.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic forced you to adapt as a leader?

The pandemic has forced me to become more comfortable with delegating work. The remote environment has encouraged me to step back and make space for my colleagues to work more autonomously. The pandemic has also reminded me to lead with heightened levels of empathy and flexibility.

What are your keys to maintaining business success?

My success is greatly linked to my ability to hire great people and to understand what makes them feel motivated and valued. In my industry, top performers have limitless opportunities to work elsewhere. I spend time thinking about that daily. It helps guide discussions around office culture, retention, work-life balance, etc.

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