Eight years ago, Emily (Frank) Kleps was planning to pursue her masters degree at Gannon University in Erie when she heard about an opening in the school's Admissions Office. Kleps, a native of St. Marys, still refers to the incident as "a happy accident."
"I felt that would be a good move for me at the time, and working there while taking classes seemed like a natural fit. And it must have been, because eight years later I am still here," Kleps said.
While she has remained employed by Gannon since that time, Kleps noted that she has had a wide variety of job duties and responsibilities. She started out as an enrollment advisor who traveled to college fairs throughout the Diocese of Erie to talk to prospective students about what Gannon University has to offer and advising them about the school's programs of study, application processes, and financial aid options. Since that time, she has been promoted to the Assistant Director of Admissions.
"I still do get to work with our prospective student population, but on a much broader level. I now only maintain a very small recruitment territory - the four Catholic Diocesan high schools in the Dioceses of Erie: Elk, DuBois, Kennedy and Venango. In addition to working with these students, I also supervise Gannon's Campus Visit program, where I am responsible for the planning, promotion and execution of all on-campus events such as open houses, academic major specific program days, scholarship competitions and overnight visit programs," Kleps said.
Through this position, she also supervises 12 student tour guides, whom she noted really help keep her connected to what is going on at the university. She also serves on various academic committees at the university, and has most recently been working on a Middle States review committee.
"[This committee] has presented me with a new challenge of looking at what Gannon currently does and how we can improve upon that," Kleps said.
While Kleps' job sees her performing a variety of tasks, she indicated that, for her, one of the best aspects is the interaction she is able to have with prospective students and their families.
"I get to meet students from all walks of life and from all different life circumstances," Kleps said. "The challenge is finding a way to work with each and every student as an individual and being able to personalize their Gannon experience to what suits them best. There is not a cookie-cutter answer to any of the questions and situations that I approach each day."
Kleps also remarked that originally being from St. Marys has allowed her to bring a unique perspective to the job.
"It's not often that you find someone that has heard of places like Emporium, much less someone who can not only find it on a map, but also drive there without using a GPS. Being that my first territory was my home turf - the 13 counties of the Diocese of Erie - I had a blast traveling all over places like Elk and Cameron County. No one else in my office would dare eat lunch at a Uni-Mart, but those were pretty much my early days - meeting with students at high school in Smethport and then trying to hit up a Uni-Mart for lunch somewhere on Route 6 before heading to Johnsonburg for a night college fair," Kleps said.
She also credited this familiarity with the area to allowing her to be more successful with her job.
"I had a connection to these students that none of my co-workers were able to find in their territories. For these students, finding out that I was from St. Marys, and better yet, that my dad works at Straub Brewery, was like an instant 'in' for me," Kleps said.
Even though her territory has since been reduced to only the four Catholic high schools within the Diocese, she indicated that she was happy to still be able to interact with students from Elk County Catholic, which is her alma mater.
"I am so happy that I still get to have interaction with ECC. I get to go back there every year and every time I do, I get to see the immense changes that are happening there. I haven't been gone all that long, and in that period they have built a second gym, a beautiful new chapel, and added countless classes to their curriculum. Both ECC and SMAHS are graduating some very high-quality academic students, and I get to see these accomplishments firsthand. St. Marys has many students to be proud of," Kleps said.
Emily is the daughter of "Goona" and MaryEllen Frank and the granddaughter of Paul and Babe Horchen and Betty Frank. She also has two older brothers: Charlie Frank, who currently lives in Port Deposit, Md. with his wife, Julie, and their two children, Jazmine and Andrew, and is employed as a project engineer with Whiting-Turner Construction; and Corey Frank, who lives in Baltimore, Md. with his wife, Kristine, and is employed as an Investment Analyst for Abel Financial Management Company.
Frank is a graduate of Elk County Christian High School, Class of 2007.
Growing up in the area, she delivered flowers for Lynn-Clare Flower Shop and Greenhouse while attending high school, and also was later employed as a server/bartender at the St. Marys Country Club during college breaks.
While attending Gannon University, she earned a bachelor of science degree in Advertising Communications and her masters degree in Public Administration.
She now resides in Erie with her husband, Damon, and their 18-month-old son, Jackson.
Even though she now resides a few hours from where she grew up, Kleps noted that living in Erie "is almost like living in a super-sized St. Marys." She added that she often meets people there who are originally from Elk County.
"Even though it's on a larger scale, Erie definitely has a sense of community. It's not uncommon to be in the grocery store or at the mall and run into someone that my husband knows from grade school. Somehow everyone here is just interconnected--much like St. Marys," Kleps said.
Living only a few hours away also allows Kleps to return home frequently to visit friends and family.
"I like to get home as much as possible," Kleps said. "With most of my family still living in the area, it's just nice to be close enough to see them whenever I want."