Here is the latest installment of "Where are they Now" Wednesdays presented by the VCU Athletics Department. Every two weeks, VCU Athletics will present a release in which we catch up with a former VCU student-athlete.
Today's feature is with former VCU Women's Basketball team member Susie Dee. The Pocahontas, Iowa, native played for the Rams from 1998-2002 under then head coach David Glass. During that span the Black & Gold posted a 55-59 overall record and a 33-33 mark in CAA play. The Rams best finish came during Dee's senior season, in which VCU finished third in the conference with an 11-7 record in CAA play.
Dee, now Susie Fife, resides in Richmond with her husband John and two children. Fife started her own business in 2005, called Red Orange Design, which is a graphic design company that serves people and businesses around the world.
Below is the interview between Susie and VCU Athletic Communications Assistant Jon Nolan.
JN: You are originally from Iowa, what was it about VCU that really drove you to come here?
SD: I was looking for a place where I had the chance to play Division I Basketball, but also had a really good art school. It came down to VCU and another program a good art school, but I chose VCU because it had a more competitive basketball program. I also really liked that it was in an urban environment, especially after coming from a small town in Iowa.
JN: You were a three sport athlete in high school (basketball, track and volleyball), what made you decide to continue basketball at the collegiate level?
SD: Realistically basketball was the right decision for me, but I would have also loved to have played volleyball in college. It wasn't that I wasn't good enough to play volleyball, I think basketball was something that my family really wanted me to go for, and I wanted to as well. Track was something I never really considered continuing, because it was just something I did to stay in shape for basketball.
JN: Did you find it to be a difficult transition from high school to the collegiate level?
SD: Oh sure, especially just from coming from a small town in Iowa. There were a lot of adjustments, not just on the basketball side. Any time you move from the high school level to the collegiate level in any sport there are bound to be some struggles. It was definitely difficult, but I didn't have any program with the work ethic; I could run a lot faster than some of our guard. The big thing was learning how to develop that chemistry on the court with my teammates and figuring out how to play against players that were quicker, bigger or stronger than I was.
JN: Off of the court, did you find similar struggles in adjusting to college life?
SD: In a way, but what it made it not as difficult as it could have been, was that I had great teammates. Being a part of the VCU Women's Basketball program offered me the chance to develop friendships with my teammates quickly, and it also had that family feel to it. The challenge of living 1,500 miles away from my family for the first time was difficult, but it was also exciting for me. I graduated from a high school of 60 people, so Richmond was a big city. As an arts majors, I loved being able to see everything that Richmond had to offer. So for me, all those factors really outweighed any negative feelings I may have had.
JN: Was there a person on the team that you immediately clicked with?
SD: My freshman roommate Becky Pelletier; she is now Aunt Becky to my kids and we were in each other's weddings. I wouldn't say we were a lot alike when we both got to VCU, but we developed a friendship right away.
JN: At what age did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
SD: I knew from a very young age that art was my natural gift. About four years ago, my art teacher from first grade gave my sister a bunch of my old projects. She had kept them for over 20 years to show examples to her students. When I was 11, I was given an art desk; it's something I used throughout college and still have in my design office today.
JN: Were there any professors in the art program that you felt have made a major impact on your professional career?
SD: There are probably two professors that had the biggest influence on me. One is Bob McGank. He was a really great professor of mine and really helped me make some gains in my work, which really appreciated. The other is Alex Bostick, who I didn't have for any classes, but he was sort of a mentor of mine. He has since moved on from VCU, but we stay in touch and he has helped me throughout my professional career.
JN: What was it like playing under then your head coach at the time, David Glass?
SD: He was hard to connect with for most of us during our playing days, but for a number of us we were able to build a relationship with him after we were done playing basketball. He is a great person and I consider him to be a really great family friend, even now.
JN: Was there a particular game that really stands out to you to this day?
SD: This was one game that my dad always mentions, and it was at the University of Georgia my senior year. My dad had flown in to watch, and I hadn't been playing much, but I told Coach Glass that I really wanted to play that day. He put me in the game and I ended up scoring 10 points in a few minutes before the half. I ended up having a good game overall, which was especially great coming against some good players from the SEC. That's probably the game I remember the most, and it helped that my dad was really proud of my performance.
JN: Was there a road trip during your four years as a student-athlete that stands out?
SD: Definitely, we played in a tournament out in Hawaii my sophomore year which was a lot of fun. We ended up losing all three games, but it was still a great experience being with the team out there. My parents also made the trip, which made for it to be a pretty great memory.
JN: Did you ever find it difficult to balance being a student and being student-athlete?
SD: Certainly, especially being an art major. The art classes at VCU are scheduled differently than the regular classes on campus; we would have five hour studios, which would take up a huge block of time. But I had really good teachers and coaches that were flexible. I would end up usually have to stay up late working on projects, which is probably what fueled my fascination with coffee.
JN: You started your company in 2005, Red Orange Design, can you tell me what type of work you do for your clients?
SD: We do print and web design, plus we started doing custom wedding invitations a few years ago, which is doing very well. I have a strong relationship with VCU, with started out of college when I did some work for the athletic department. Anything from media guide covers to billboard designs. I have kept up that relationship, and recently completed designing the new VCU Health Sciences website. I really love doing work with VCU and other universities; I have worked with the University of Nebraska, Virginia Union, Elizabeth City State and a number of others. We also do a lot of work with a number of not-for-profit organizations and businesses.
I normally have one or two interns from the Graphic Design Department each semester. I like to stay involved with the university and it helps to keep my design skills fresh.
JN: Final question, what was it like for you as former VCU student-athlete during last year's run through the NCAA Tournament for the Men's Basketball team?
SD: It was awesome. It's kind of funny, I am so into my family and my career, that most people would think I would have never played a sport. I don't watch basketball that often, but I try to make it over the Siegel Center each year for one men's game and one women's game. When I saw we made it into the tournament, I just got really into it, almost as if a switch had been turned on. I really enjoyed the run and it brought back a lot of memories for me.