Forty Under 40: Norisha Kirts

Norisha Kirts0025.vuNORISHA KIRTS, 33
Director of development, E. J. Ourso
College of Business, LSU Foundation

Norisha Kirts’ fundraising talents have made possible some of Baton Rouge’s biggest projects, including the Business Education Complex at LSU and the launching of THRIVE, a charter boarding school on whose board of directors she now serves as president. She’s also involved in the Junior League and Star Hill Baptist Church’s College Bound Program, and has been accepted into Leadership Baton Rouge’s 2015 class.

Inspiring book: Lean In
The book by Sheryl Sandberg was exactly what I needed at the time I read it. It was recognition of what women do to limit their own careers, and I see it happen every day in the workplace. While every chapter did not apply to me, where the words of advice did, I continue to apply it to my life and share with other professionals.

Major professional accomplishments: Securing gifts for the LSU Business Education Complex; assisting with launching a charter boarding school in Baton Rouge; fundraising to support two charter schools in Washington, D.C. and Baton Rouge.

Volunteer and community involvement: President of the board of directors, Thrive; Junior League; co-leader of the Star Hill College Bound Program; Leadership Baton Rouge Class of 2015

PROFESSIONAL

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be Oprah Winfrey or Katie Couric. I woke up each morning, watched the Today show and attempted to make my school outfit look like Katie’s. 

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? My first job was a cashier at Taco Bell. While I did not recognize it then, I learned about segmented marketing (families arrive on Sunday after church, a different group orders 150 tacos before an NFL football game starts, and teenagers are the worst in your drive-thru on a Friday/Saturday night).

The old saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Specifically, what are you “being” to make Baton Rouge better? I have been fortunate enough to have teachers, managers and colleagues who imparted lessons upon me. For that reason, I strongly believe in paying it forward and sharing what you know. I am often drawn to first generation students, who like myself, had limited idea of what existed in the world for college and job opportunities. I present resume workshops, assist with editing resumes, speak to parents about helping their child choose the right college for them, and volunteer with organizations that supports education efforts. I don’t give nearly as much time as I would like to give.

How many times will you try something before admitting it doesn’t work? Twice, just in case the first one was a fluke.

What did you learn the hard way? Everyone who is on your team, is not on “your” team. 

What does your job entail that would shock customers or clients if they knew about it? A lot of people assume because I fundraise for LSU that I must also go to all the football games or have tickets. I do not own season tickets, and it is common for me to visit people’s tailgates and then head home to watch the game on TV.

TECHNOLOGY

Mac or PC? PC

What’s your preferred mode of communication: text or phone call? Phone call

How low will you allow your remaining battery life to get (in %) before you have an anxiety attack? 10-19%; There is no need to fret if a charger is near.

How many unread messages are in your inbox right now? Four, but that drives me crazy. I like to leave with no unread messages for each day.

What app gets you through the day? Our Daily Bread. It’s a devotional I read in the morning if I am not reading Girlfriends in God.

Are you quick to adapt to new tech, or did you hang on to that flip phone way after it became obsolete? I am not an early adopter but am comfortable using technology. I adopt it much quicker in my professional life than I do my personal life.

PERSONALITY

How many times do you hit the snooze button? 2 to 4 times

Breakfast at home? Breakfast on the go? Breakfast at your desk? No breakfast at all? All of the above. Nothing compares to a Chick-fil-a chicken biscuit in the morning.

Is the glass half empty or half full? What’s in the glass? The glass is half full.

If you could build a statue downtown, who or what would it represent? A red stick that hangs about 15 feet in the air. I would want people to try to jump and touch it. It would represent that the city we want is just within our reach.

What’s your motto? Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to show people who you are really are. It’s the only way to be happy.

When did you realize you had grown up? I am from Tioga, LA, was the first one in my family to graduate from college and move out of state. I moved to Washington, D.C. after I got my master’s degree. While commuting to work commuting to work or attending events, I would have these moments when I would think, ‘I did it. I made it. I’m a grown up, in a big city and doing big city things.’

Which living person do you most admire? Michelle Obama. She is a sharp, professional woman who carries herself with poise and grace, has a sense of humor, and embraces the challenge of raising children who are in the spotlight.

What trend do you really wish would come back? Landlines. I hate that everyone is always on their cellphones, texting and talking, always reachable. Because people are always connected they often forget how to connect in the moment without the cell/computer beeping at their fingertips.

What is your favorite journey? Africa. My dream trip was to visit the continent one day. Last November, I traveled to Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. The trip was a combination of seeing poverty through my own eyes (as opposed through a TV commercial) and seeing how much further developed many of the countries are (also not shown on television). I went on a safari and can’t wait to return. I do intent to set up a tent in the middle of a park and watch the great migration (and hope the lions don’t notice me).

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I wish I had a poker face. By not having a poker face, people don’t question where they stand with me. However, when I don’t like an idea, I wish people couldn’t always read it on my face.

What do you most value in your friends? Their support and honesty in everything that I do.

What do you miss most about the ’90s? N’Sync. I like Justin Timberlake, but he should have never broke up the group.

If you had to be a teacher of something, what would you teach? History.

Who would play you in a movie? Kerry Washington.

If you could go back in time 20 years, what advice would you give yourself? Look for colleges out of state; take out loans to travel internationally during college.

What useless piece of information will you never forget? You can’t outrun an ostrich over long distance. If you are being chased by one, they typically kick out and are less effective at kicking down so you should lay on the ground on your stomach. It will still hurt like hell but you have a better chance of surviving. I watch a lot of animal planet and could go on for days.

What makes you laugh every time you think about it? This video of a lady telling a joke called “Two Nacho Chips”.

Who’s the most famous celebrity you’ve ever met? Suze Orman. I’m such a nerd.

LOOKING AHEAD

Three things on your bucket list: I want to visit the Galapagos Islands; I want to visit all 50 states before I am 35; I want to visit all 70 continents before I am 40.

What would be your advice for future Forty Under 40 honorees? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too young to accomplish a particular task. I have found that most people who have said this were disappointed that they did not accomplish it at that age.

Have you peaked, or do you think you’ll still have it when we launch our hypothetical “Forty Over 40” awards years from now? I absolutely have not peaked. I am just hitting my stride. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

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