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Kristen Nielsen Donnelly, PhD

Kristen Nielsen Donnelly, PhD

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Hello! I'm a TEDx speaker, international empathy educator, and researcher with two decades of experience in helping people understand the beauty in difference, and the power in inclusivity. I'm one of The Good Doctors of Abbey Research, COO of their parent company, and an unapologetic nerd for stories of change. I live outside of Philadelphia with her husband, where we are surrounded by piles of books and several video game consoles.

I'm currently working on writing my second TEDx talk, spreading the news about our new podcast, and engaging my curiosity to continue to strengthen my empathetic posture.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I'm a member of Ellevate because from the very first time I went to a networking event, I felt wanted, welcomed, and at home. That feeling has never gone away, no matter what chapter I pop into in my travels.

How would you define your professional mission?

To change the world through helping others cultivate their curiosity, in service of developing a posture of empathetic understanding.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Curiosity, keeping an open mind, and minding your own energy. I spend a lot of my days learning about some of the ugliest parts of humanity so that I can help others understand them and that can be really draining. I don't believe that balance is a thing that can be achieved, but instead is a perpetual journey and the key to it is energy management. If I'm feeling overwhelmed by the ugly, I find something to spark joy. It's difficult but simple.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

I'm writing this in July of 2021, and I'm preparing to take my second TEDx stage in the span of five months. In October, I'll be part of the speaking cohort for TEDxChicago, talking about the need to reframe trauma in order to pursue individual and communal healing.

Who are your role models?

My parents definitely are, but also Dr. Brene Brown (for the incredible ways she's shown how public scholarship can look), Abby Wambach (for being a fierce advocate and authentic human being), Lin-Manuel Miranda (for how he creates genius, but also credits his tribe all the time).

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

I really love Clubhouse. The ability to have conversations with people all over the world about a variety of topics is just so lovely. Additionally, it's a really low-key way to network intentionally. I don't have to calculate travel time into networking - I can do it on my couch, or on my commute.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

The ability to take complex topics and explain them without jargon in ways that everyone can understand.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

In terms of being a professional speaker, the best advice I can give is to read and listen widely. Build your vocabulary, learn how words feel in your mouth, practice using different ones to get your ideas across. Engage with ideas that you disagree with to sharpen your own. Read and listen voraciously, that's my best advice.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." Dr. Maya Angelou


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.