Published on March 24, 2021 by Ashley Smith  
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On March 8, International Women’s Day, Joe Hopkins, dean of the School of the Arts and Julie Boyd, director of giving visited Samford alumna Jill Robinson in Nashville to honor her as the School of the Arts Woman of the Year.

Jill has had a very successful career in the Nashville area and now serves as the Director of External Relations and Executive Learning Networks at Jack C. Massey College of Business, Belmont University. 

“How appropriate that Jill Robinson should be the first Woman of the Year named after the founding of this award with Jenna Casesse,” said Hopkins. “Mrs. Casesse has been a pioneer in business who helped shape the landscape of hospital management. We see in Jill Robinson that same charisma and leadership as she influences and innovates the future of higher education.”

Named the 2013 Young Leader of the Year by Young Leaders Council, Robinson has worked at Belmont since 2005, primarily in program oversight and marketing with the university's Center for Executive Education. In her current role, she secures and manages corporate and CEO relationships in the greater Nashville business community, resulting in both an expansion of Executive Learning Network and a coordinated outreach effort to all key business school relationships and partners. A graduate of Samford University with a B.A. degree in graphic design and of Trevecca University with both a M.B.A degree and a M.A. degree in organizational management, Robinson offers more than 18 years of experience in leadership program management, community relations, volunteer management and organization partnerships.

When asked how her arts education played a role in her career path, “Today in the business world, creativity and innovation are vital to one’s success. Having an arts education allows you to be open to new ideas, solving problems in unique ways, and seeing different avenues to business solutions. I’ve always felt that those with creative skills that can apply those practically in the real world, often excel. So having an arts background, plus knowledge on translating those concepts to real world solutions can propel one’s career forward, regardless of what industry you’re interested in,” Robinson replied.

“When I was at Samford, we learned both ‘old school graphic design’ when everything was drawn by hand prior to moving onto the computer, which was foundational in laying the groundwork for success in the graphic design computer programs we were to learn. I have always appreciated knowing how to do both by hand and by computer. I believe it set me up for success when working with marketing teams and graphic designers in my future work life,” said Robinson.

She credits Samford for setting her up for success in many ways. “Samford gave me the ability to flourish in a challenging and safe environment, to explore where I was naturally gifted, and to push me to find new avenues of interest. Both curricular and co-curricular opportunities were given to me that changed me for the better,” said Robinson. “The arts gave me a new way of thinking, sorority life gave me lifelong friends that bring me fulfillment in life today, three months abroad to Australia through campus ministries program gave me a gusto for traveling to different countries and a love for exploration and serving on the leadership team in admissions gave me a sense for my leadership style. All of these early young adult experiences built hope and resilience for my life to come, and I often reflect on what they have led to in my career path: leadership in the nonprofit community in Nashville, developing international MBA student travel programs, fostering friendships near and far, and a passion for life-long learning. More than one big takeaway, I believe it is more an extension of life, and allowing those opportunities at Samford to grow into passions I enjoy in my work and life today.”

Robinson will join the School of the Arts Advisory Board that supports programs in the School of the Arts. She noted that “giving back” was part of her family’s culture and she enjoys supporting causes that have made a difference in her life. 

“I’m so honored to be asked to serve on the Advisory Board,” said Robinson.  While a student at Samford, she worked in the Dean’s office. “From student worker to Advisory Board – what a fun full circle moment for me! It will be meaningful and bring much joy to my life to serve in this capacity, and I’m looking forward to coming alongside and encouraging the good work that has already been done, looking for new opportunities that align with the School of Arts strategic mission.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.