University’s values-based, executive education demonstrates how giving back to communities can lead to a profitable business

May 6, 2015

Lisle, Illinois ~ Not only do the world’s most successful companies employ workers with desired skill sets, but also those who have a desire to change the world for the better.

This thought process has moved past surface-level, feel-good stories for positive, corporate press spin and now represents a shifting paradigm toward joint-ownership in doing what’s right for others and the world, which in turn can lead to sustainable profits.

Such concepts lie at the heart of the executive doctoral degrees offered through Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership (CVDL). Lee DeRemer, a retired military officer who worked as a high-level consultant while earning his Ph.D. in Values-Driven Leadership in 2014, said his Benedictine education inspired a new career.

An avid cyclist, Lee founded Lifecycles, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization which helps teenage boys from challenging backgrounds develop educational, physical and personal skills through cycling.

The faith-based program provides at-risk youths with structure and positive influences to help improve their futures.

“Right now, we are focused on boys,” DeRemer said. “But a year from now, we hope to have a girls chapter in place. What we are doing with the teens is trying to use a model with three main points: help them with their spiritual growth and values formation; practical life skills through mentoring; and physical outlet through bicycling.”

The teens ride together for a few nights per week while being mentored by community leaders and volunteers. A longer, cross-state ride is planned during the summer months, when the training and bonds built earlier will be cemented.

“We don’t just invite them to dream – we dare them to dream,” DeRemer said. “Our bumper sticker is ‘We change futures one ride at a time.’ They are going to see different opportunities and see there is a better situation. We want them to change their future to become thriving, flourishing adults.

“We are challenging the second or third generation of fatherlessness for these kids,” he added. “The boys I am dealing with are almost entirely from single-parent homes where the single parent is a mom living at or just above the poverty line. They have no consistent positive male influence and only have experienced broken promises, abandonment and neglect.”

Through partnerships with community missions and churches, DeRemer’s organization is able to identify and encourage at-risk youth to take positive steps toward becoming successful global citizens who are able to survive their tough circumstances and eventually contribute to the greater good. All expenses and equipment costs are paid.

“This is not a drill sergeant program,” DeRemer said. “We offer them a commitment until they are either employed or complete college or trade school, and one year after that moving forward. We spend time listening and building relationships, and give them a chance to trust us and trust themselves.”

Another Benedictine graduate who felt compelled to do something more with her education is Denise Lackey, founder of Step of Faith Comprehensive Health and Wellness. Step of Faith is a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that provides health and wellness programs regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.

Lackey, who earned a Ph.D. in Values-Driven Leadership from Benedictine in 2014, has put many principles of the Ph.D. program to work in founding her business.

“Many of our clients are plagued with stress and fear, rejection and hopelessness,” Lackey said. “These emotions breed physical sickness and disease. Therefore, a huge part of our interventions provide programs to promote emotional resilience, reduce stress and build a repertoire designed to equip them to handle stressful events.

“Our clients receive emotional resilience training and a nursing assessment, and are referred to health care providers as necessary,” she said.

Through efforts like its Boys to Men of Valor Mentoring and Leadership program, Step of Faith provides leadership training and kickboxing classes to teach youth the importance of fitness and how to conduct themselves and discuss personal concerns.

“Our biggest success stories are aligned with the expression of hope that is so frequently verbalized by our clients,” Lackey said. “I have many success stories around lifestyle changes – clients who didn't know how to access fitness facilities without feeling overwhelmed, or those needing counseling related to proper nutrition or diabetic counseling.

“My greatest success story was helping a client learn how to teach other diabetics about their disease, how to manage glucose monitoring equipment and how to give themselves insulin injections, and most importantly how to interpret critical lab results that require referral to a doctor.

“Beginning Step of Faith has encouraged me to consider providing home care services which are in great demand,” she said.

The post-degree choices of Lackey and DeRemer are indicative of Benedictine’s focus on graduating students who become successful values-based leaders and responsible citizens.

“My experience in the Values-Driven Leadership program was truly a highlight in my career,” Lackey said. “The authenticity of the program and emphasis on living in your values and passion gave me the opportunity to align my Christian faith with my executive leadership experience.”

Lackey said a lecture on the principles of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) facilitated by CVDL founder James Ludema, Ph.D., was a revelation. AI is a model for analysis, decision-making and the creation of strategic change within an organization or corporation.

“The objective of the exercise was to stretch and expand our mental capacity and dream big,” she said. “What would we add to the global field? How would we impact our homes, communities and this nation? What did it look like? What steps or tactics would we use to achieve this nationally impacting objective?

“This program has challenged me to dream big, expect the unpredictable and walk into the unimaginable. Though our resources are slim and currently do not meet all of the needs of our clients, I will hold onto the beliefs that through God and dreaming big, all things are possible to those who believe and are called for His purpose.”

Established in 2008, the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University offers research, education and outreach opportunities to help business leaders forge new paths to profitability. It is a gathering place where top executives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders come together to innovate at the forefront of values-driven business practice.

For more information about the center, please call (630) 829-6225, visit cvdl.org or contact Amber Johnson at amberjohnson@ben.edu.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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