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Mary Kay Rizzolo: Monthly Staff Spotlight

CQL is excited to present our Monthly Staff Spotlight series. This offers an opportunity for you to get to know our team even better! We’ve asked the staff member a series of questions about their history, background, experiences with CQL, as well as some information about them personally. In June 2022, we’re featuring Mary Kay Rizzolo, CQL’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

What is your position at CQL and what does that role encompass?

President and CEO. In my work at CQL, I am responsible for the overall operations of CQL, including strategic planning and working closely with the board of directors. I am fortunate to have a top-notch team working with me, so while we get an incredible amount of work done, we have a lot of fun while doing it. I truly enjoy working on operations and with numbers, as well as collaborating with staff on research and training that we feel will benefit our partners. I also enjoy participating in activities on the ground and try to participate in accreditations at least quarterly.

Why did you decide to get involved in the human services field?

I fell into human services when I was in college (go Heels!!) and worked in a special education classroom with an autistic teenager. After graduation I worked at a temp agency while I looked for more permanent employment. The agency sent me to an organization that worked with older adults through a contract with the local Area Agency on Aging. They ended up hiring me to oversee 19 senior centers and meal delivery programs across 3 counties. It was a great job and I learned a lot! After that, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree. While in school I did my internship at Murdoch Center (a large state ICF) but I also volunteered at The Arc of Orange County. The difference between the two models was so striking to me! I ended up taking a permanent job at Murdoch, where I was a Q in a “behaviorally advanced residential treatment” unit. I absolutely loved that work and would’ve stayed had I not decided to (once again) go back to school – this time in Chicago at UIC, where I got my doctorate in public health.

What is your professional history, background, and experience?

I started over 30 years ago on my journey – from a special education classroom to a psychology unit at a large state ICF, to a Q at the same ICF, to a university conducting research. While working on my PhD, I was lucky to work with Dr. David Braddock on the State of the States in DD project. Not everyone likes numbers, but it worked for me! I worked on that project for almost 20 years. I also was the Associate Director of the UCEDD in Illinois under Dr. Tamar Heller, worked on the LEND project, and taught some classes on community integration and Disability Studies. My favorite part of the job was working with grad students – I met a lot of great and memorable people at UIC!

What are three skills you have that help you in your work?

  1. Perseverance
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Empathy

Is there anything you would like to share about yourself personally?

I live in Indiana with my husband Roddy who I have been married to for 20 years. We have a 13-year-old daughter Bella and two rescue dogs (Grant aged 16ish, and Sadie aged 8ish). I have 4 older brothers, and my dad and 3 of my brothers live in NC. My mom was the youngest of 12 so I have tons of cousins and second cousins and now third cousins. Roddy’s side of the family is also in NC, so we try to get there at least once or twice a year. I love to cook and bake though Roddy does almost all the grilling (and most of the cooking I admit). I like to read but find myself binging on Netflix lately more than novels. I can get lost for hours on YouTube watching music videos and any dog video. I love true crime (both documentaries and podcasts). I have zero athletic ability and hate to shop. But I can do a LOT of damage on Amazon.

CQL Lightning Round!

What is your favorite hobby?

Reading when my eyes are cooperating

What is your favorite book?

Hmm. Anything by Ken Follett?

What is your favorite TV show?

Ted Lasso

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

To travel back in time

What instruments can you play?

Not a one. Not even the recorder.

What is the first concert that you ever attended?

Billy Joel, in Chapel Hill 1987 or 88?

What is your go-to karaoke song?

Me and Bobby McGee

What is one trick you use to stay productive?

Caffeine… LOTS of caffeine

What is one item you can’t leave home without?

Dog hair

What is one city that you would like to visit?


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A nun or a truck driver

What was your first job?

Christmas holiday extra help position wrapping presents at World Bazaar. I had to wrap 60 boxes an hour (seriously).

What is one song that you are kind of embarrassed that you like?

Anything by the Bee Gees or Abba

What is your favorite food?

So many… maybe Thai?

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About CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership

Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.