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Lessons from a New Hampshire lottery leader

Students hung on to the edge of their seats as Kelley-Jaye Cleland, whose past professions include being a professional ice skater, a massage therapist, a bartender, a meat marketer and even a terror-fighter, discussed her employment adversities and adventures in a lecture at the Memorial Union Building (MUB) on the night of Thursday, Feb. 16. Her talk was a segment of the Lesson in Leadership series put on by the MUB.

Cleland, who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UNH in 2003 and 2005, is currently in the lottery ticket creation business where she establishes the price structure for many of New Hampshire’s lottery tickets. During the lecture, she elaborated on her struggles with sudden unemployment and how she overcame the hardships of the competitive job market.           

“It opened up the opportunity for me to really reach out and to be open and vulnerable to people,” she said. “At first it’s scary because people can judge and that’s scary, but they really opened up.”

  According to Cleland, she maintains a sense of community in her group by simply listening to what her coworkers have to say in terms of both work and their personal lives.

“No matter how busy I am or how much I have on my plate, if I don’t take the time to listen to someone and be an active listener – not just, ‘yeah gotcha,’ – it doesn’t mean a thing,” Cleland said. “I’m only as good as my team and I want them to feel empowered and strong and knowledgeable.”

According to Cleland, if it takes five minutes, or 30 minutes, or even an hour to have a conversation with them, then that’s what she needs to do, as she believes that everybody wants their voice to be heard.

Cleland elaborated on this dynamic by providing a past situation when she found out from a worker she oversees that he was attending a meeting where he would pitch his creative ideas for lottery tickets without her knowledge.

She said it took three years for her to find out he was doing this.

“If you don’t know that it happened and people don’t tell you, how are you supposed to know?” Cleland said.

Questions arose from the audience about academic excellence in college, to which she responded by encouraging students go to office hours, to ask questions and be naturally curious.

“The office hours become intimate in not a weird way, but in a way where the wall is taken down a little bit so you’re able to have a nice conversation and get to know [your professors],” Cleland said. “They’re human too.”

Cleland also brought up how she traveled after high school to countries around the world to compete in professional ice skating. She said she wasn’t a good high school student and needed to excel at something for a while.

“Even the most frustrating circumstances are enriching,” Cleland said. “If it happens in Nepal, how cool is it to be in Nepal and figure something out without your phone or the security line. It’s raw life.”


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