Susan Alden: Teacher, photographer, and your neighborhood sales rep

Jan-3-Notable-Neighbor-SBy Sadie Williams

Owners of businesses in Shelburne may be familiar with a few of the faces that will appear in the Shelburne News in the forthcoming weeks. More specifically, the faces of Wind Ridge Publishing’s sales team. As a free community newspaper, this imprint relies on the revenue from advertising to continue publication. It is thanks to the continued support of our community businesses, and the dedicated sales team that they work with, that you are reading this paper right now.

Susan Alden joined Wind Ridge Publishing in July 2014. As a part time employee, she spends three half days and one full day in the office taking calls, securing ads, and assisting her clients in any way she can.

Although currently a resident of Burlington, Alden was born and raised in Arlington, Va., where she attended H-B Woodlawn Secondary School, an alternative public school that “[provides] students with more control over their education than traditional comprehensive schools permit,” according to the Woodlawn website. Upon graduation, Alden left Arlington for the San Francisco Art Institute. She wasn’t there long before she realized it wasn’t the right fit. “I went to school to make my mom happy,” Alden says, so after a year she decided to part ways with academics in favor of “bumming around,” as she puts it.

While that may sound less than ambitious, in reality the move enabled Alden to gain experience in a variety of fields. She has worked in banking, housekeeping, numerous realty positions, and as a self-described “map girl” for Jimapco in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It was only eight years ago that Alden picked up and resettled in Vermont. At the time she was in a relationship; she and her boyfriend moved to Grand Isle. As she describes it, he had seen a picture of Lake Champlain in National Geographic as a child and, being from a desert area, decided that it was exotic and he wanted to live there someday.

While their relationship didn’t last, her decision to settle here did. After they broke up she moved to Burlington. While she was working a retail job, she saw a poster for Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) counseling. “I didn’t know what [VSAC] was, but I went in.” After reading her resume, the counselor suggested classes at Champlain College.

Alden still speaks with vast appreciation for Champlain’s practice of accepting credits from past educational experience. It was that special feature that allowed her to complete an undergraduate degree in graphic design in three years. In her senior year, Champlain introduced the Masters in Fine Arts in Emergent Media. “I figured they started it for me,” Alden joked, “so I stayed.” After five years, she emerged with two degrees and a job offer from the college. She began working as a mentor for the graphic design studio, which a year later turned into an offer to teach.

It was while she was teaching introductory InDesign and graphic design for non-designers that Alden began looking elsewhere for more work. Although she had no experience selling ads, she was immediately hired by Wind Ridge Publishing to round out the sales team. When she describes her experience thus far, Alden expresses surprise that she didn’t have more competition. “It’s an easy job, and it’s fun. You get to talk to people, and everyone’s nice. And you get to know the community, and figure out how the newspaper can help them.”

As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, during the interview Alden revealed that she intends to resume photography. She enjoys capturing “phenomena,” extraordinary images, whether natural or human, that make her stop in her tracks. She recently encountered such a moment: while driving by the lake, she was arrested by the sight of steam rising off its frozen surface. Unfortunately she didn’t have time to stop. “I would have been late to work. It’s important to make sure everyone gets their ads,” Alden said, laughing.