Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Big Blue Planet

As a French foreign exchange high school student living in Decatur in the 1980s, Florence “Flo” Galy Lebois found herself a frequent visitor to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, as host families, friends and neighbors eagerly showcased the best of the Midwest. Too grateful for their kindness, the 17-year-old could never bring herself to say how very familiar she had become with the view from the top of that silvery slice of skyline.

“I’ve been up in the arch in St. Louis more than 20 times ... People were just so happy to show it to me, I didn’t want to disappoint them,” recalls Lebois. “People are very, very nice here, and you always remember that.” It is exactly that kind of warm hospitality – not to mention the bird’s-eye view – Lebois hopes to bring to her new role as Millikin’s director of international recruitment and global strategy. She began the new position, which centers on global recruiting, in July 2012.


“Decatur and Millikin are very special to me. The people are wonderful, and I really enjoy the community here,” says Lebois, who also completed an internship at Millikin in 1992. Still, she had no idea she would return to Decatur to become a catalyst for increasing diversity on Millikin’s campus – a twist of fate that reflects one of her favorite life lessons: “You never know.” Her fate took this unexpected turn when she returned to Decatur in 2010 for her 20th class reunion at St. Teresa High School. During that visit, she crossed paths with Barry Pearson, vice president of academic affairs, right around the time he and Interim President Rich Dunsworth, then vice president of enrollment, were discussing the need for a more strategic approach to international recruiting. Over the years, different staff members have been responsible for various aspects of international recruiting at Millikin. But because it was not the primary duty for any one person, it seldom received the attention it deserved, Dunsworth says.

“To see improvement in international enrollment numbers, it needs to be somebody’s sole focus,” Dunsworth says. “We knew what we wanted, but we didn’t think we could find it all in one person.” But that’s exactly what they found in Lebois, he says. As an associate dean, Lebois had helped grow international enrollment at Centre d’Etudes Franco-Americain de Management (CEFAM) in Lyon, France, an international business school and one of Millikin’s partner universities. “Florence has the academic and curriculum experience, partnership-building experience and she understands young people,” Dunsworth says. “This was a case where the need and the opportunity arose at the same time, as if the stars had aligned.”

It’s now Lebois’ job to link all activities related to global recruiting and apply a unified strategy to guide those activities. “She understands the living, learning and language issues involved with international recruiting,” says Pearson. “She can help us think with a 360-degree view about what we need to do to be competitive in drawing international students.” In a somewhat unusual dual reporting arrangement, Lebois reports directly to two vice presidents – the vice president for academic affairs and the vice president for enrollment. “This reporting relationship is symbolically significant – it acknowledges that enrollment strategy has to take root in academics,” says Pearson. “It breaks apart any notion of silos.”


As Lebois reacquaints herself with the Midwest, she works to boost the number of international students on Millikin’s campus from its current number of 35. “For many years, it’s been our objective to have 100 international students on campus,” Dunsworth says. The hope is for Millikin to achieve that goal by fall 2015 and specifically to see greater numbers of four-year international students. The longer term goal five to seven years from now would be to double that number to 200. Lebois is realistic about the need to pace that growth. “We can’t go too fast – we need to be ready,” says Lebois. That means addressing practical issues ranging from housing to healthcare, while navigating social, religious and cultural differences with respect. “If we want to grow, we have to be very, very organized. We have to make it easier to think globally.” Still, “in many ways, we are prepared,” Dunsworth says.

“Our training and development for administrators, faculty and other students is ahead of the curve. The Center for International Education does wonderful training to educate and celebrate our differences.” Based on feedback from previous international students, Millikin may be a strong contender in the international arena. “We have a high rate of satisfaction among our international students,” Pearson says. “They love the close-knit campus community and the fact that they can eat, sleep and socialize in one square block.” Florence galy lebois, mu’s international recruiter Perhaps that’s because the concept of a campus is foreign to many international students, who frequently takes classes at their home institute, but live, work and play elsewhere.

“Millikin is a nice-sized campus where it’s easy to see the enrichment of having international students,” says Lebois, who believes Millikin’s emphasis on performance learning helps in her recruiting efforts. “Millikin is a wonderful place for international students. There are so many opportunities for students; business students in particular. It makes sense.” For Lebois, the first order of business was to ensure that all online program information and applications were presented in a simple, consistent way. “Students need to know what resources we have, and how and where to find them,” she says. “We have to make it very simple.”


As Lebois paves the way for progress with these types of tactical steps, she is charged with overseeing an overarching international recruiting strategy that points the way on pivotal issues, including geographical regions of focus, academic programs best suited for international study, marketing needs, campus issues such as housing and healthcare, and sources of funding for international study. “I’ll be looking at how we can make Millikin more global in general and how we can build a curriculum with a global touch,” she says, noting that she is building a foundation of universities in Europe, Asia, South America, India and China, where Millikin has existing partnerships. “The relationships Millikin has built are great,” she says. “We want to grow these relationships and see what we can do together.” Lebois also plans to leverage Millikin’s connection to Education USA, a government agency that provides resources for foreign students seeking to apply to U.S. universities. Foreign embassies representing countries of interest are also hearing from Lebois.


The creation of Lebois’ position adds fuel and strategy to Millikin’s ongoing efforts to go global – efforts that have ebbed and flowed since the early 1990s. “This position is an outgrowth of something faculty have been doing for years,” says Dunsworth, “we’re just adding more human capital to support those efforts.” As the latest addition to Millikin’s international team, Lebois will work closely with the Center for International Education (CIE) and the English Language Center (ELC). The CIE, led by Director Carmen Aravena, provides support for international students already on campus, while also working with faculty and staff to develop immersion courses and export Millikin students abroad. From banking to visa issues, the CIE advises students on virtually every aspect of their international experience.

“The CIE is a full-service, one-stop shop for students going abroad and coming from abroad,” says Pearson. “The Center also helps incoming students understand our classroom expectations and how to participate in the Socratic method of teaching and learning.” As an offshoot of the CIE’s efforts, Millikin’s English Language Center opened its doors in 2011. Offering a four-level transition program that lasts one to three semesters, depending on the student’s needs, the Center helps international students boost their English language skills before beginning a Millikin degree program. For some of these gifted students, English is not a second language, but a third, fourth or even fifth. “We realized three years ago that we had some exceptional applicants – very bright young people who happened to have challenges with English,” Dunsworth says. “The English Language Center will allow Florence to look at partnering with some countries where language is a barrier, so we can grow the number of degree-seeking international students.”

Beyond English, the ELC also focuses on writing, speaking and presentation skills and provides a cultural component to help prepare students for the Millikin classroom experience. For example, South Korean students may hesitate to speak up in class, as that can be considered a sign of disrespect in their home country. They need to know that their Millikin professors not only encourage engagement in their classrooms, but expect it. The first intake of ELC students in 2011, including a group of Saudi Arabian students with specific religious and dietary needs, tested Millikin’s readiness for a more diverse student population. “We had a conversation with them and asked them what we needed to do,” Pearson says. “We worked hard to understand their needs and made modifications to parts of campus to address those needs.”

At the same time, Pearson points out that “students want to feel like students and be part of campus life. They didn’t want to be singled out in a big way. They’re not here wanting to represent the international student population.” His advice in navigating cultural differences is simple: “Be observant and don’t make assumptions.” “Everything Millikin is already doing is very positive. People are very receptive toward international efforts,” says Lebois. “I’m adding some structure and trying to help those who are already doing things.”


No longer an optional area of engagement, global education is critical to the success of Millikin students and to the institution itself. “Every single university in the world knows they have to think globally,” says Lebois. “If we want to stay in the game and be part of this big world of education, we have to think globally, too.” Beyond that, an international focus helps students gain the confidence and cultural awareness they need to land jobs and succeed in a global economy. “You can’t stay in your little bubble and not see the world. It’s important to be open to this world,” says Lebois. “Even if you work at Caterpillar here in Decatur, you’ll be working with people from all over the world.”

Even Millikin students who don’t study abroad – and according to Lebois, only 1 percent of American students do – will benefit from a greater international presence on campus. “They will experience another culture through the students we have welcomed to campus,” says Lebois. “It will give them a more global vision of the world, and that’s important for students, faculty, the campus and the community – everyone.” By focusing on building a more diverse student population, Millikin is committing resources in line with its mission. “Everything we’re doing is driven by our commitment to Millikin’s mission – this is who we are,” Pearson says. “This world is interconnected, and every part of our economy is affected by the global economy. Helping students acquire the skills and confidence to succeed in a global environment is the most important thing we can do for them.”

In fact, global learning speaks directly to Millikin’s three-pronged mission, which aims to prepare students for professional success; a personal life of meaning and value; and democratic citizenship in a global environment. “Our students are going to work in a global environment, far more than any previous generation has,” says Dunsworth. “For them to understand the role of democracy – and the freedoms we have as a nation – they need to understand the world around them.” One of the true powers of an international education lies in its ability to unmask assumptions masquerading as knowledge – to transform tolerance into understanding and perhaps move fear into friendship, he feels. And when that happens, the ripple effects could be beyond measure.

Celeste Huttes '88 is a freelance writer specializing in corporate communications. She studied business and philosophy at Millikin and holds a master’s degree in human resource management.

The Business of Learning

This cautionary note has echoed through the ears of college students from time immemorial. The eye rolls it tends to elicit, however, are particularly well deserved these days because the “real” world has arrived at Millikin. Thanks to Millikin’s thriving learning laboratories – experiments in entrepreneurship – more and more students are gaining real-world experience in running a business long before they don cap and gown. As a publishing entrepreneur himself, Dr. Randy Brooks, dean of the college of arts and sciences/professor of English, has spent more than 30 years as an editor and publisher of haiku poetry. In the past, he would share this publishing experience by asking one or two students each semester to intern with his company, Brooks Books. Over in the art department, his friend and colleague, Ed Walker ’85, associate professor of art, was doing much the same thing as he published catalogs to accompany art exhibitions at Millikin.

The two joined forces to launch a sustainable, student-operated publishing company. And thus Bronze Man Books was born in 2006 – and continues to bring classroom theory to life today. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we bring this together and create a course and a student-run publishing business?’” says Brooks, who guides the writing and publishing side of the business, while Walker directs the graphic design. Since then, the “Art of Publishing,” a course co-taught by Brooks and Walker, has become a Millikin mainstay. Each semester, those enrolled in the course become members of the Bronze Man Books staff for that semester. Students make all managerial and operational decisions and are organized into three teams: editorial, design and marketing. Each team has a leader who serves on the company’s management team.

“Students can take the class as many times as they want,” says Brooks, always eager to see familiar faces return. “We joke that if someone does really well, they don’t get to move on.” Day-to-day operations give student staffers hands-on experience in the business of publishing and the art of bringing a book to market. “They learn all of the things required to move a book from the submission process into production – and then market it,” Brooks says. “We examine the story line and the editing of words, then get into the illustrations. We critique everything. Students have to think about how the book looks and feels to the reader and create a graphic design that grabs people.” Though organized as a nonprofit, this is a real business that offers students valuable life skills, Brooks says.

“Students develop professionalism and expertise in a given area – and some step into roles of leadership with positions like marketing director and lead editor,” says Brooks. The company’s current marketing director, Jackson Lewis, a senior English major, first learned about the company as a budding author. “Winter Hearts,” a collection of Lewis’ tanka poetry, was published in 2012 by Bronze Man Books. “I first saw Bronze Man Books from the author’s side. The editorial staff really helped me, and I was pleased with the experience,” says Lewis. After the positive experience he had with Bronze Man Books as a client, Lewis was inspired to enroll in the Art of Publishing class to gain more publishing experience.

As marketing director, Lewis and his team help spread the word about new books through advertising, news releases, press kits and public events. The leadership role has honed Lewis’ skills in managing time, resources and people. Through experience, he has learned the fine art of delegating and navigating issues with printers or authors. “I’ve learned great lessons in professionalism,” says Lewis. As an author himself, he has a special appreciation for the delicate nature of the relationship between publisher and writer. “Authors are very attached to their work. You have to be very careful how you handle their baby,” says Lewis. That being said, “every author you work with is different, so flexibility is key.” And so is patience. Student staffers at Bronze Man Books quickly learn that the world of publishing tends to move at a snail’s pace measured in years, rather than weeks or months. “Publishing involves a painstaking attention to detail. It’s not fast and quick, and the reality of that is always surprising to students,” says Brooks. “It’s a long-term process, and it takes a lot of collaboration and cooperation if you’re really after quality.”

And to assume that a student-run business might skimp on quality would be a mistake. In fact, quality is at the core of the Bronze Man Books company mission: to publish books that integrate high-quality design and meaningful content. Their mission is illustrated in the company’s four major lines of publishing: art exhibition catalogs; chapbooks, small collections of poetry or drama by a single author; trade paperbacks; and children’s books. Last November, the publishing house released its fourth children’s book: “Am I Like My Daddy?” by Marcy Wood Blesy ’94 and illustrated by Amy Kuhl Cox ’98 (see related article). “It’s about grieving and dealing with the loss of a parent,” says Brooks. “We’re very excited about this book. It took two years to develop.” Bronze Man Books caters to first-time authors like Blesy; most have some kind of connection to Millikin as students, faculty or alumni.

Bronze Man Books’ most recent author, Claudia Nichols Quigg ’75, is director of Baby TALK, columnist for the Decatur Herald & Review newspaper and an adjunct MU faculty member for early childhood education. In March, the company released a new paperback compilation of Quigg’s columns: “Let’s Talk Kids: Becoming a Family” (see related article). The book – the first of a series of three – targets couples who are contemplating becoming parents. With the help of student editors at Bronze Man Books, the book series incorporates Quigg’s columns on parenting with student photography to create a product designed to encourage parental reflection. The team at Bronze Man Books chooses projects carefully, always with an eye on the market. “All of our books are profitable or breakeven,” says Brooks. “I think profit should be a part of a student-run enterprise. We’ve been in the black because we’re very careful. We only publish books we believe will sell.” Their biggest seller to date is the “Millikin University Haiku Anthology,” featuring the best of a decade of poetry by Millikin students. As faculty advisers, Walker and Brooks help set goals and deadlines, while providing guidance and continuity as staff members change from semester to semester.

Whenever possible, Bronze Man Books capitalizes on the Millikin network by partnering with other student-run ventures. For example, an audio version of its first children’s book, “Ants in the Bandroom,” written and illustrated by Laura Podeschi ’06, was produced in collaboration with First Step Records, Millikin’s oldest student-run business. The CD features an original score by Randall Reyman, Millikin’s director of jazz activities, and the story is read by Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts. In addition, books published by Bronze Man Books, as well as products from other student-run businesses, are sold in Blue Connection, Millikin’s student-run art gallery. Public readings and other events are often held there, as well. “We try to support each other,” says Brooks. Bronze Man Books is just one of many opportunities students have to engage in performance learning, which has become a hallmark of a Millikin education.

Millikin’s Center for Entrepreneurship, launched in 1998, is the driving force behind most Big Blue student-run businesses. It was followed by the debut of its Arts & Entrepreneurship program, an initiative that includes a series of classes and hands-on learning opportunities in student-run businesses. The journey begins with the Art of Entrepreneurship class, where students are tasked with starting their own mini-business. Students must first develop a business model and pitch their idea to “lenders” for a start-up loan of up to $50. They then must sell their product – such as T-shirt designs, hair accessories, jewelry or music lessons – and pay back their lenders. “It helps students learn how to recognize opportunities and marshal the resources they need,” says William “B.J.” Warren ’07/MBA ’10, Arts and Entrepreneurship lecturer and manager of Blue Connection. “It’s becoming very clear that students are going to have to create careers for themselves. This class gives students the opportunity to explore self-employment as a viable career option.” Unlike other universities, Millikin has committed to a campus-wide emphasis on entrepreneurial education, casting its net far beyond the Tabor School of Business. The Arts & Entrepreneurship program attracts students from diverse disciplines, from music to management. This boundary-breaking approach helps teach the value of teamwork. “Some students may be brilliant illustrators, but not great writers,” says Brooks. “A multidisciplinary approach helps students appreciate what different people bring to the table.” The follow-up Art of Entrepreneurship class emphasizes business growth by placing students in one of Millikin’s several student-run businesses:


Studentscreate limited edition letterpress poetry broadsides by hand, using a printing process developed centuries ago.


Millikin students operate a retail art gallery showcasing paintings, ceramics, photography, jewelry and other affordable artwork by students, faculty, alumni and friends of Millikin.


Millikin’s student-run record label and music publishing company features traditional and contemporary music by students, faculty or alumni. Blue Box Records features music by off-campus performers.


Launched as a student-run business in 2010, Pipe Dreams is a theatre company producing 21st century works by Millikin students, faculty, alumni and others.


Makingits debut in 2009 at the carriage house on the grounds of the historic James Millikin Homestead, Carriage House Press features Decatur’s only fine-art printing press. This student-run venture produces hand-pulled, limited edition monoprints, etchings and relief prints on a unique hand-built German etching press.

All of Millikin’s student-run ventures are grounded in an academic discipline, with a profit and mission-driven focus. Faculty serve as coaches and mentors, but students are the decision-makers. As such, they are held accountable for meeting the financial and business goals that they set. “We ask a lot of students and hold them accountable,” says Warren. “They’ll have a stronger learning experience when they act and reflect on their own decisions and mistakes.” The surprising level of responsibility is not always welcomed by students accustomed to a traditional classroom environment, where expectations are explicit and the path from Point A to Point B is clearly marked. “Students don’t always embrace the responsibility at first – the level of risk makes it hard for them,” says Warren. “In the case of student-run ventures, there is no right answer and they’re dealing with ambiguity – it’s uncomfortable.” In contrast to the approach used at many universities, each of Millikin’s student-run ventures is strategically built as a course. That means that “learning outcomes are assessed by a faculty mentor,” says Warren. “It adds to the education in an intentional way.”

These learning laboratories embody the university’s brand of performance learning by allowing students to put theoretical concepts into practice in a real business setting or even start their careers before they leave Millikin. “Students learn the discipline by doing it. At Bronze Man Books, students are learning to be critical now – it’s not something they have to learn after graduation,” says Brooks. “They are making a book better than it was when it came to them. They’re not just performing for the teacher anymore; they’re performing for the public. The stakes are higher.” The stakes may be higher, but so is the payoff. “Millikin is all about learning by doing – and it’s been phenomenal for me,” says Jackson Lewis. “The safety net is there in case you need it, so it doesn’t feel it has quite the pressure of work, but the commitment to quality is still there.” Still, in a competitive world economy, Millikin’s student-run businesses don’t coddle budding entrepreneurs.

“We put our students up against professionals in their field,” says Warren, who points to the retail space at Blue Connection as an example. There, student artwork is up against the work of national and international artists next door at the Madden Arts Center in downtown Decatur. Performance learning is even more critical considering how information and education are evolving. “The traditional model where you come to a higher institution to gain knowledge is very quickly disappearing,” Warren says. “It’s no longer good enough for us to bring on students and impart knowledge. Our emphasis has to be much more on practice.” This unique model of student ownership has earned Millikin a reputation as a leader in entrepreneurial education. Warren fields weekly inquiries from schools across the nation interested in learning how the Millikin model works. Institutions such as Hiram College, UNC Greensboro and Santa Fe Community College have already adapted Millikin’s model for their own student ventures.

In addition, the Arts & Entrepreneurship program was awarded Outstanding Specialty Entrepreneurship Program by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in January. In response to the growing level of interest, Millikin’s Center for Entrepreneurship has developed a two-day Entrepreneurship Across the Campus symposium featuring guest speakers and meetings with students from each of Millikin’s student-run ventures. The workshop also allows time for visiting faculty to develop their own courses and practice laboratories with guidance from Center for Entrepreneurship faculty and Entrepreneurship Fellows. The next symposium will take place on the Millikin campus during the next school year.

Following a visit to campus, Dr. David Cutler, artist, author and director of music entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina, said: “I had the opportunity to visit Millikin University ... I was delighted to learn about their unique and (as far as I know) unprecedented approach to arts entrepreneurship.” It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by Fred Thompson on Inside Business, which filmed and aired a news story on Blue Connection, and John Eger of the Huffington Post who included Millikin’s Arts & Entrepreneurship Program in a listing of just four schools offering truly integrated arts degrees. With growing opportunities to get in the driver’s seat of a business, students are living James Millikin’s timeless vision to “embrace the practical side of learning along with the literary and classical.” And perhaps the most practical thing they learn is to believe in themselves. “This is not just a class but valuable job experience,” Lewis says. “I have the confidence to say in an interview, ‘I’ve done this before ... I can handle this.’ I feel very well prepared.”

Celeste Huttes '88 is a freelance writer specializing in corporate communications. She studied business and philosophy at millikin and holds a master’s degree in human resource management.

Boundless Work

Shortly before her untimely death from cancer at age 39, the late Dr. Joanna Ploeger ’89 (at left) of Berkeley, Calif., was focused on two major life events. A professor of rhetoric and communication at California State University (Stanislaus), Ploeger was pregnant with her first child and also wrapping up the final touches on her first book. Her son, Thomas, was born June 8, 2006, and sadly, Ploeger died a month later, leaving behind her baby boy and the book she had worked on for more than seven years.

Her book’s focus was the study of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., known as Fermilab for short (at right). Ploeger’s manuscript, “The Boundaries of the New Frontier: Rhetoric and Communication at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory,” specifically assessed the communication practices within the high-energy physics lab and how they might impact the scientific outcomes of the institution. Reflective of her expertise in the field of communications, the book is written in an engaging style that invites comparisons to a good novel on the bestseller list. In all likelihood, her book would have remained unpublished if not for her former colleagues at the University of Iowa, where she had worked for seven years prior to accepting the tenure-track position at CSU. David Depew, professor emeritus and Ploeger’s colleague at the University of Iowa, led the efforts to complete the book as a lasting legacy to his late friend, completing the bibliography and footnotes – all that remained to finish the book.

Published in 2009, the book was praised by Catherine Westfall of Project MUSE, a humanities and social science journal, as a “a must-read for all those interested in exploring a new view of the social and political interplay that drives the development of expensive government-funded science and technology.” “Above all, the book is offered in the name of Joanna’s students,” said Depew in the book’s foreword. “Undergraduates and graduate students alike appreciated the clarity and vigor of her teaching style as well as her fierce support of their individual aspirations.”

“When David called to tell me what they were going to do, I was elated,” says Ploeger’s mother, Betty Farley Ploeger, a 1951 Millikin graduate. “I felt this was the greatest tribute they could have given her.” According to Betty, Joanna had traveled extensively to other national physics labs to conduct research in the process of writing the book, all while teaching full time. Betty was very disheartened when it appeared that her daughter’s hard work would result in an unfinished manuscript and never see publication. “Joanna didn’t want to talk about the book when she was in the hospital toward the end,” Betty says. “It was so close to being done, and she was too ill to finish it.” Instead, the two talked about her students and how proud Joanna was of the work they were doing. “Four of her students actually worked with the faculty to help finish the book,” Betty says.

A communications major at Millikin, Joanna was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and received the outstanding communication student award before graduating. After graduation, she completed her master’s degree at Illinois State University and her doctorate at University of Georgia.

Deb Hale Kirchner is senior director of communications for the Alumni and Development Office and editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine.

A Grand Career

Certain her future was in piano performance, Susan Wrincik Lutz ’86 enrolled at Millikin. “All I ever wanted to do was play,” the Sherman, Ill., resident recalls. “I knew I wasn’t cut out to be a school teacher, so I majored in performance. Aldo Mancinelli was my piano teacher.” However, when she met fellow Springfield, Ill., resident Jude Ludwig Malzone ’76 in a music class, Lutz found a friend who inadvertently opened the door to a new career.

“When Jude decided not to return to teaching piano after her baby was born, I wound up spending part of my senior year teaching her students at her husband’s music store – Byerly Music in Springfield,” Lutz says. When Lutz first started teaching at Byerly, a customer told store owner Gerry Malzone, “You ought to put her on the sales floor.” Malzone did just that, and with no formal sales training and not a single business or marketing class on her resume, Lutz turned her passion for music and pianos into a successful sales career.

Now working as director of institutional sales for Steinway Piano Gallery, Lutz’s territory covers most of Illinois and half of Missouri. Last April, that territory was expanded to include Millikin. “I’m so happy and excited to be able to take care of my alma mater,” she says. “It’s wonderful to come back to campus and work with [School of Music Director] Steve Widenhofer, [adjunct piano instructor] Judy Mancinelli and others I know so well.” On the road most weekdays, she sets her own visit schedule for the 65 public and private schools in her territory. “I think of myself as an advocate for music programs,” Lutz says. “I’ve discovered that most music departments are so busy that they just don’t have time to take on a huge project like buying 50 pianos. They don’t know where to start.”

That’s where Lutz comes in. After meeting with music professors and instructors to discuss a department’s needs, she likes to meet with the school’s president or chancellor and develop a plan to help the school buy the necessary equipment. If the institution in question seeks to become an All-Steinway School, which Millikin has been since 1999, at least 90 percent of the institution’s piano inventory must be Steinways or Steinway products. For her exemplary sales skills as a one-person department, Lutz earned a special designation from Steinway & Sons in December 2010 – the Partners in Performance Award. Given each year to only one institutional sales department in the country, the award recognizes outstanding performance in areas such as product knowledge and customer service.

In addition to her busy career and family life, Lutz enjoys serving as director of music at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sherman. “As a piano performance major, I also took organ and choral conducting so I could work in churches to supplement my income,” Lutz says. “Now that I’m a church musician, it’s amazing how I’ve had to draw on all of that learning so many years later. Steve Widenhofer was my organ teacher, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he thought I’d never learn to use my feet on the organ pedals!”

Margaret Allen Friend, associate editor of Millikin Quarterly magazine, dreams of owning a Steinway someday. She has contributed to Quarterly since 2004 and joined the alumni and development team in 2010 as class notes editor for the magazine.

Starting Over

After graduating from Millikin in 1979, I earned my law degree and proceeded to work in Chicago, continuing to live in Oak Park, Ill., where I had grown up. I led a steady life. I worked at a law firm for a number of years and then decided to go solo. I certainly believed I would spend the rest of my career and life in the Chicago area except when I needed a Winery burger fix and returned to Millikin for Homecoming.

Change came around 2007 when the famines started outweighing the feasts as far as my practice was concerned. I started looking for more steady work and decided to consider the federal government. I still expected to remain in Chicago. In April 2008, I interviewed with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. They offered me a position, and I accepted. Needless to say, I experienced a whole range of emotions. Until then, I had lived my entire life in Illinois, and now I was moving to a whole new part of the country. I gave myself 90 days to move everything from Chicago to Washington, D.C., thinking it would be enough time. It was, barely. The movers had already left when I drove off with a packed car, including two cats who moved with me under protest.

My new job involves helping veteran law judges review internal department administrative appeals when veterans are denied or otherwise unhappy with the determination by a regional office. We review the regional office’s actions to ensure they did everything correct procedurally, confirm that the veteran had every chance to prove his or her claim and determine if the regional office made the right call. After my level, the regular courts become involved. I quickly discovered I had made the right move in accepting the job. I find the work interesting, and everyone I work with by russell veldenz ’79 is very friendly. Of course, it is also nice that we have a common mission – serving the veterans who served our country. As the department mission statement says (taken from President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address), we “care for those who have borne the battle, and their widows and their orphans.”

Years ago, I had said that if there was any city I could move to easily, it would be Washington, D.C. It turns out I was right. When I first started, I worked off a corner of Lafayette Park. I could see the White House from our conference room. They have moved us out of the building to renovate it, and for the foreseeable future, I am working in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area, known as a “hot area.” I have not, after four years here, become jaded. I still get a thrill when I see some of the well-known buildings such as the White House or when I am held up by a presidential motorcade. (Why does that never happen when I am on time or early?)

I am also enjoying what this city has to offer. In addition to the Smithsonian museums, National Archives and Library of Congress, I have visited many great private museums and been to the National Geographic Museum several times to view the special exhibits. The diversity of ethnic restaurants is amazing. At one small shopping center near where I live, you can find Italian, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Middle Eastern and something called Subway. Korean, Salvadoran, Peruvian and Ethiopian food is not hard to find, either. In a way, I was given the unexpected gift of being able to start my life over, and I am trying to make the most of it. And I am still able to travel back to Illinois for my Winery burger fix.

Russell Veldenz '79 of Alexandria, VA, graduated from John Marshall Law School in 1982 and is admitted to practice in Illinois and all federal court levels.

Sudden Journey

When an unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime, golden opportunity comes around, go for it. I know, because that’s exactly what I did. A 2011 Millikin graduate, I work for the AmeriCorps VISTA program and am stationed at my alma mater for this academic year. In my job, I help lead and coordinate service opportunities for Millikin students, helping them commit to making community service an ongoing part of their lives, just as I have. I live in campus housing as part of my job, eating with students in the cafeteria and mixing with them at various campus events. I’m deliberately not paid much, in part so I can relate better to the poverty-stricken individuals in this area that we try to help.

This January, less than two days before the inauguration weekend of President Barack Obama, I was notified that I was one of only 250 nationwide VISTA members chosen to serve at the National Day of Service event in Washington D.C., held that Saturday. At the event, nearly 100 service organizations were on hand to encourage more than 30,000 inaugural attendees to make a commitment to community service for the year. Obama started the National Day of Service at his 2009 inauguration and has said he hopes it will become a continuing inaugural tradition. I had to get to our nation’s Capitol immediately in order to take part. With the moral and financial support of Millikin’s Career Center and Office of Student Development, I booked a flight and left for Washington the next day. I actually shouted with excitement when I realized that everything was falling into place.

Since my late selection meant I had been unable to attend the mandatory in-person training required by the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), I was invited to attend alternative training the same evening I arrived. The training was led by former White House intern and PIC member Kate Cummings, who outlined the day’s details and our roles as volunteers. She explained that nearly 55,000 people had requested to volunteer for the National Day of Service, but we were among only 15,000 honored with selection. “Tomorrow, your last name is Obama,” Cummings said. “Act as though he were beside you and practice integrity as you are now representing, not only your own organizations, but the United States as a whole.” At the event, I was an ambassador for national service, distributing hundreds of “Pledge to Serve” forms to the inaugural attendees and encouraging them to make a long-term commitment to serve. Along with signing pledge forms, attendees could check out the dozens of agencies on hand, including the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and the Department of Veterans Affairs. People all across the nation were performing acts of community service that day, including the Obamas, who helped with improvements at a school in northeast D.C.

Throughout the day, I also had the chance to meet several celebrities, including actress Angela Bassett, “The Voice” contestant Nicholas David, and political activist Dr. Martin Luther King III, son of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was even able to catch a glimpse of the inauguration ceremony before flying home that afternoon. On my flight home that Monday, reflecting on my brief and unexpected experience, I realized that being a part of this historic event had opened my eyes to a world outside my own. If you are thinking twice about taking a chance on something unexpected, I offer these three tips to consider:

  • Never pass up a good opportunity.
  • Don't be afraid to experience new things.
  • Make the most of the events that come your way now.

    That weekend gave me a renewed sense of purpose and commitment for helping others. I’m glad I didn’t hesitate.

  • Cassandra “Cassie” Monfiston ’11 graduated from Millikin as a Long-Vanderburg Scholar with a bachelor’s degree in communication and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She found her way back to the “Milli-Bubble” through serving a one-year term as service and civic engagement coordinator for the AmeriCorps VISTA program on campus. After completing her term with VISTA, she plans to attend law school to become a defense attorney. As a student, Cassie took a mission trip to Haiti to assist with earthquake relief, an experience that led to her desire to work for VISTA.
    Biking in to Occupy Chicago

    The day began bright and beautiful, although the expected high was 90 degrees. I threw my mountain bike into the cargo area of my Honda CRV and headed into Chicago on May 12, 2012. The big attraction was the Occupy Chicago bandstand speeches being given all morning in Grant Park, followed by an afternoon March Against NATO.

    I had some previous acquaintance with Occupy movements. Last year, my wife, Karen, and I had briefly driven by the tent city Occupy Wall Street in New York City. However, my intentions this Sunday were entirely different. I wanted my encounters to be close and up front. I wanted to feel the passion of these protesters. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote that “reading Hegel is like reading to a starving man from a cook book.” Enough virtual reality – I wanted to be there.

    Of course, getting to downtown Chicago was a challenge. No parking, numerous road blocks and hundreds of police, to say nothing of thousands of antinomian street walkers making for difficult travel. But I avoided those headaches by parking my car on the shores of Lake Michigan and riding six miles along the famed Lake Shore bike path.

    When I arrived at the east endentrance to Grant Park, I hesitated. The media had reported that on the previous day three protesters had been arrested for terrorism activities, and a number of Occupiers had been arrested for skirmishes with police. Plus, surveying the crowd, I didn’t spot any other 76-year-old, gray- haired men wearing biking gear. I became apprehensive. I asked a few police officers if they thought it would be all right if I tried to interview some Occupiers. They smiled sardonically and replied, “We don’t care, but it ain’t gonna work!”

    I decided to identify myself and my intentions before attempting interviews. I introduced myself as a mostly retired philosophy professor from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. My agenda was to talk with them about their reasons for making the trek to Chicago at considerable expense and discomfort. Only a few churches and local residents offered lodging, so the majority of protesters spent their nights outdoors, attempting to sleep on park benches, grassy knolls and other locations. Food was on their own, and for most of them, bathing was an unavailable luxury.

    The first activist I met was a pleasant, non-threatening woman who called herself Occupied Kate from Cincinnati. She was an advertising journalist and had an ex-husband and a son who was studying to become a photographic journalist. She lived a comfortable lifestyle. Her mission was to protest against the proposed Trans-Canadian-Keystone XL Pipeline which she claimed would increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 550,000 to 4,000,000 auto emissions. This excess would increase global warming to an unsustainable limit and usher in an apocalyptic event, she said, stepping away to blast her warning over the Grant Park stage microphone.

    I thanked her and moved on. Next at the microphone was a man who was a dead ringer for former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He was vilifying NATO, the United Nations, the U.S. and Zionist Israel for shameful wars against Palestine, Iran, Syria, and Libya, all in the name of imperial capitalism. My take was that very few protesters were listening. I exchanged greetings with him as he hurried away.

    My next conversation was with Wes. He was a mild-appearing individual, 40-ish, looking a bit bewildered at the hyperactivity around him. Until a few weeks earlier, he had held a good job as a mechanical engineer for a local company, but he had been fired in a cost-saving move. What irked him was that the company was ostensibly quite profitable, and no one at the top of the pay scale lost their jobs nor were they willing to take a salary reduction so he could keep his. He felt abused and fearful of his financial future. After expressing my concern for him, I decided it was time to take some risks. I infiltrated a group dressed in black clothes and wearing red bandanas, the colors of the anarchists, confessing my hesitancy about approaching their group. But when I told them that they didn’t look particularly vicious nor revolutionary, they laughed.

    Od Rachkem, surely an Occupier name, was the group’s spokesperson.“There are many kinds of anarchists,” he instructed me. “The word ‘anarchy’ comes from the Greek meaning, ‘not having a leader or ruler.’ We don’t believe in hierarchies. We don’t follow others. We are apolitical. No one is better than anyone else, and every person has to develop his or her own philosophy of life.” Od was a handsome, exceptionally articulate, college-educated young man. So what was his philosophy of life? He said he was a “primitivist” and an “anti-civ” (as in “civilization”) devotee. His mission at Occupy Chicago was to persuade individuals to return to their roots as gatherers and hunters, at least metaphorically. Primitivists acquire just enough each day to satisfy their needs and the needs of members of their community. No one keeps leftovers for themselves.

    “Od,” I offered, “that sounds like you are advocating socialism or communism to me!” “Not at all,” he argued. “Economic systems are artificial constructs and depend on hierarchical agencies to enforce their policies. We are anarchists. Our task is to inform society that each and every person has the right to basic survival needs, including health care, and then to voluntarily share whatever we have with those who don’t ... then utopia would become a possibility.” Just before I exited the anarchist group, we were joined by a young man named Lindsay, who looked like a choir boy from a local church. Lindsay described himself as a “Jesus anarchist.” He suggested that Jesus was one of the original anarchists, interpreting the Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem as a protest march and Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as the original Occupy the City event. “Jesus did not,” he continued, “intend to start a religion. Instead, he asked each person to seek the economic well-being of everyone else. ‘If you have two coats, give one away.’” Lindsay then proceeded to make it clear that you didn’t need to be religious nor believe in God to do those things.

    About this time, a voice from the stage alerted us that the March Against NATO would begin shortly. Almost everyone left Grant Park for the two-hour trek to McCormick Place. They were encircled by hundreds of helmeted police. Dozens of large, colorful banners trumpeted causes as diverse as “Freedom for Puerto Rico” to “Same-Sex Couples have the Right to Marry.” The Yasser Arafat lookalike spotted me and insisted I accompany him to the front of the parade so a picture could be taken of us with a green-and-white Palestinian flag. “Help us make Palestine our own independent country,” he implored. I briefly walked behind the flag carried by him and another man; both marched with pride and enthusiasm.

    The March Against NATO had one focus: Stop the war in Afghanistan now! Over and over, I heard the mantra that the sole purpose of the NATO organization was to gain control by war. I walked a short distance with the marchers before making my egress, feeling I had completed my mission for the day. However, while walking my bike back to Grant Park, I was just in time to witness a final, ominous sight. A group of Black Bloc anarchists had gathered to join the march. Dressed totally in black, they had either painted their faces or wore masks to conceal their identities. They walked behind a banner filled with expletives defining their four principles. The first warned, “No one dares to mess with us!” The second was, “We obey no orders.” As I recall, the other two told of their endorsement of violence. Two of them gave me copies of their newspaper recommending the violent overthrow of capitalism in America. I learned later that the police made 35 arrests during the march. I felt pretty sure that most, if not all, involved the Black Bloc members.

    A strong wind off the lake was at my back as I cycled the six miles north to my car and reflected on the events of the day. The Grant Park occupiers with whom Ishared ideas were far different from what my prejudices had expected. Almost all were intelligent, bright, articulate, polite, passionate and appropriately opinionated, and yet they tolerated contrary opinions without fuss. But a lingering vexatious feeling persisted. On the one hand, I wondered if they were simply wasting everyone’s time. Were they not merely naïve idealists out of touch with the ways things really are? On the other hand, in many ways I found them remarkably similar to some of my Millikin philosophy students – individuals who were willing to define themselves and their values with integrity, regardless of how unconventional others might perceive them.

    Back in 1970, I began my teaching career at Millikin. During the first semester, I taught a seminar on philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. We studied his book, “The Adventure of Ideas,” in which the author maintained that some ideas are “Eternal Ideals” which ultimately shall prevail and shape our world: truth, beauty, freedom, peace and adventure. Our role, Whitehead wrote, is not to create them, but to announce them and to pursue them in our own lives. Eventually, he said, they shall triumph.

    This is precisely what the Occupiers I met were saying and why they came to Chicago: sharing on the basis of needing and caring; promoting peace instead of war; eliminating oppressive hierarchies and hegemony by privilege; affirming the inherent sacred worth of each individual; placing the sustainability of the earth above the desire for profit. These Eternal Ideals are ones that most of us would share and hope will inevitably succeed, whether we are Occupiers, anarchists or something altogether different.

    Dr. Arvid Adell, professor emeritus of philosophy, taught full-time at Millikin from 1970-2001 and continues to teach ethics for Millikin’s MBA program. Adell, who also holds a degree in divinity, has performed the marriage ceremonies of more than 200 Millikin alumni.

    The Miller Years: Our 9th President Recalls His Time at MU

    Although he says he never planned to be a university president, Dr. J. Roger Miller ended up serving 20 years in that role – the longest presidential tenure in Millikin history – during a time of great growth and changes at the Big Blue.“When I first came to Millikin, I had no idea I would spend the rest of my career there,” Miller says

    Miller came to Millikin in 1959 as head of the music education program and director of the marching band. One of his fondest Millikin memories happened during his first year.

    At the time, marching band interest was at an all-time low, with only 40 members. Miller wanted to create excitement about the band, sohe considered the possibility of having the band perform at halftime of a Chicago Bears game. The team originated in Decatur as the Staley Bears, so Miller contacted August Staley, then president of Decatur’s Staley Manufacturing Company and son of the Staley Bears’ founder. That conversation led to a guaranteed spot in a Bears halftime show.

    “I can’t believe I had the nerve to put such a small band together that quickly and perform at a Bears game — sometimes when you’re young you have more guts than common sense,” Miller says, looking back on that first year at Millikin.In 1960, Miller was named dean of the School of Music, followed by a promotion to vice president of academic affairs in 1966. Shortly thereafter, then-president Dr. Paul McKay became ill with terminal cancer, and Miller served as executive vice president during McKay’s illness. When McKay died in 1971 Miller was named Millikin’s ninth president.

    As president, Miller became known for hisplanning, creating a strategic plan for the ’70s and ’80s with a goal to carry Millikin through to the 21st century. In his planning, he says he left room for dreaming but still maintained realistic goals. He was dedicated to providing students with a liberal arts education as well as practical professional skills for careers, true to the model set by university founder James Millikin.Before retiring, Miller was interviewedfor the summer 1991 Quarterly, saying: “I told faculty on numerous occasions that I wasn’t interested in being second best, that we weren’t, and it was time to quit talking as if we were.”Miller maintained that attitude throughout his presidency and regularly worked to complete items from the strategic plan. As a result, Staley Library was built, along with a new student center and four new residence halls, and a $6 million renovation of Shilling Hall was completed. The James Millikin Scholars and the Presidential Scholars programs were created under Miller and also doubled in size during his tenure as president.“I was convinced that when all the pieces fell together, Millikin could become a truly outstanding small university,” Miller said in that 1991 interview. “As we began to realize that dream, I think each year my commitment to Millikin grew that much more.”

    Miller had a reputation for being a very involved president, and he and his family were active on campus. His wife, Arlene, completed a second bachelor’s degree at Millikin, and led a life of hosting and attending events with her husband. She was also involved in the “Millikin Dames,” a former group of women faculty and wives who hosted social events and the annual holiday Cookie Party, still a tradition today.After his 1991 retirement, Miller remembers that his first action was to go out “for a nice steak dinner!” He notes that he retired a little earlier than he had intended but felt it was time. “I wanted to slow down the pace of my life and have time to be able to do relaxing things,” he says.“I was going to improve my golf game, but that never happened.”

    The couple moved to Venice, Fla., and later settled in Durham, N.C., where they live today. Miller has been an active member of hiscommunity, serving as the chairman of the board of the Durham American Heart Association, as well as president of their retirement community. He also served on the board of directors for the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement, where he both taught a course and completed several courses. The Millers also had the opportunityto travel to Argentina with their four children: Gregory ’72, Deborrah ’75, John and Charles ’84. They also have nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

    When asked how Millikin changed during his tenure, Miller asks, “How many days do you have?” He said that over the course of his total 32 years at the university, he was proud of the students and young faculty he watched develop and grow over the years. “I was proud to see the impact that Millikin has on people during their college years and the impact that it has on the Decatur community,” he says. “The quality of Millikin is always growing.”

    One of the ways he demonstrated his pride and appreciation for Millikin was by creating an endowed award in his name given out at Honors Convocation each year. The award goes to a deserving senior with high scholarship who is involved on campus; the most recent recipient was Julia Smith ’12 from Chicago. Additionally, his legacy lives on with the couple’s creation of the Dr. and Mrs. J. Roger Miller Centennial Quad in the center of campus.Miller was most recently on campus in 2009 and plans to attend his granddaughter’s commencement in May. During that 2009 visit and seeing how campus had changed, he said, “I think that Millikin is a fabulous place. I’m thrilled with the things I see happening.”

    Alexandra Miller '13 is a double major in Spanish and communication with a minor in international and global studies. A member of Pi Beta Phi and the senior class committee, she also works at the campus bookstore. Last fall, she interned for the alumni and development office and hopes to find a job in fundraising and development after graduation. Alex values her family ties to Millikin, has enjoyed her experience and knows that she is receiving a valuable education that will prepare her for a successful future.

    Be Proactive For Your Health

    Each night, you plan the next day full of good intentions. “I’ll get up early, take a long walk, eat a healthy breakfast and avoid too much caffeine,” you tell yourself as you climb into bed. However, by mid-morning, you’ve slept through the alarm, skipped the walk, inhaled two donuts and washed them down with a large coffee loaded with sugar and cream. As you wipe the powdered sugar off your shirt, you wonder: “Why can’t I make healthy lifestyle changes? I know what I need to do; I just can’t seem to do it!”

    Good question. Why are some people more proactive than others about safeguarding their health? Various theories attempt to explain why some individuals regularly engage in healthy behaviors and others in harmful ones.

    The late Irwin M. Rosenstock, a professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan, studied these differences in lifestyle behaviors. In 1966, he developed his internationally recognized Health Belief Model to explain why some people indulge in unhealthy actions despite being educated on how those behaviors endanger their health. His model, still in use today, notes that individuals are more likely to change an unhealthy behavior only if they believe they are more susceptible to a serious disease and perceive that the benefits of changing the negative behavior outweigh any barriers they must overcome.

    The benefits that drive healthier behaviors can include reducing the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Barriers to making healthy lifestyle changes can include feeling pressured to fit exercise into an already busy lifestyle, changing ingrained eating habits and/or wondering if making changes is really worth the effort. Although the connection between choosing poor lifestyle behaviors and increased health risks over time is certainly not debatable, many individuals still say they are simply too busy or do not have the time or money to join a gym and buy healthier foods.

    Unfortunately, even having a family history of a serious disease and/or abnormal levels of glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure are not enough to make most people feel susceptible to the dangers related to unhealthy behaviors. For those individuals, only the diagnosis of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes may bring awareness. Ironically, many of the recommendations to manage or control these diseases are the exact recommendations to prevent or lower risk of that same disease.

    There are three levels of prevention. Review them below for information about making lifestyle choices that help you to be more proactive versus reactive in your health.

    PRIMARY PREVENTION refers to the actions an individual takes to promote overall health and wellness.

    1. Eat a healthy diet

      Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber.
    • Choose lean cuts of meat (filet, round, sirloin, 97 percent lean hamburger); limit red meat to three times a week.
    • Choose foods that have 5 percent or less daily value of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium listed on the label.
    • Visit to learn additional tips about healthy eating.

    2. Be physically active

    Being physically active does not mean that you have to join an expensive gym or work out for hours. If you are not physically active, it is never too late to start.

    • A goal of 150 total minutes or 30 minutes, five days a week, is recommended. The 30-minute recommendation can be divided into three 10-minute sessions.

    3. Manage Stress

    Stress can manifest itself in many ways including insomnia, upset stomach, headache and anxiety. Unhealthy stress management includes the use of alcohol, tobacco, excess over-the-counter analgesics or sleep aids, and/or emotional or stress eating to cope.

    • Deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga or exercise in general can help you manage and minimize your stress.
    • Talk to someone to gain perspective instead of allowing a problem to become overwhelming.

    4. Get adequate sleep

    Inadequate amounts of sleep can affect memory, cognition, concentration and increase the risk of injury. Sleep deprivation can result in increases in ghrelin (an appetite stimulant hormone) and subsequent decreases in leptin (appetite suppressant hormone) that could result in obesity.

    • Keep a regular sleep schedule by setting a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time every day.

    SECONDARY PREVENTION refers to the different types of screenings to find abnormalities early so that they can be treated promptly, potentially cured or prevented from worsening. Examples include self-exams (breast and testicular), blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, lipid panels, mammogram/ PSA, Pap test, blood glucose levels and any other age-related tests or vaccinations.

    TERTIARY PREVENTION refers to the measures taken once a diagnosis of disease has occurred in order to slow the progression of the disease or to prevent complications related to lack of control. Examples include the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and the prevention of complications associated with poor control, including heart disease, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease and amputation.

    Don’t wait for a life-changing diagnosis to scare you into becoming more proactive in your health. Skim over the three levels of prevention again to determine where you can make healthier choices and lower your health risk of serious disease. Think proactive, not reactive. The time to act is now.

    Dr. Tina Cloney is a health and nutrition professor in the College of Professional Studies, division of exercise science and sport. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and board certified specialist in sports dietetics. Her passion is communicating the role of nutrition in sport performance and nutrition and exercise in disease prevention and management.

    Expect the Unexpected: The Changing World of Work

    Let's face it: The work world has changed dramatically in the past few years and will continue to change, probably at an even more accelerated pace than now. What’s driving this rapid metamorphosis?

    Rapidly evolving technology is changing, not only how we work and communicate, but also where we work. The data age has caused an explosion of flexibility. Working virtually or telecommuting has become increasingly common, with people working from the airport, the local coffee house or even from home in pajamas. Studies show that employers who allow for flexibility have a happier and more productive workforce, making it a smart business strategy and a win-win proposition for employees and employers. Experts predict that workplace flexibility will continue to grow at a rapid pace, with an estimated 63 million Americans working completely virtually by 2016.

    Technology blurs the boundary between our personal and professional lives. Although the ability to be instantly and constantly connected to work can have it advantages, it is also challenging to manage. We must find our personal “work-life balance” – a term your grandparents probably never heard but a priority for those of us wanting to succeed professionally and personally.

    Advances in technology have also elevated the importance of personal branding, including our online identity. Our virtual reputation must be cultivated through careful promotion and management since it can make or break a job search or career. Your personal brand can be one of your greatest assets, or it can be your downfall if not carefully managed. Social media has madeit infinitely easier to connect with and be noticed by those with the power to give us opportunities to advance our careers.

    Another factor greatly influencing today’s workplace is economic uncertainty. The days of working for one employer for more than 40 years have been gone for some time. The uncertainty of the global economy has altered attitudes about job tenure. For instance, it is no longer always considered a red flag to “job hop” from one opportunity to another. This is part of the new normal, assuming you can effectively articulate to the next hiring manager how your last job helped you learn and grow professionally.

    You can also expect to see a growing variety of work alternatives as the traditional employee-employer relationship undergoes significant changes. According to a 2002 Kelly Services workforce study, millions of Americans now work as independent “free agents,” with predictions that 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will consist of independent contractors by 2019. Those who can think outside the box about their career will likely reap the rewards and be able to withstand the challenges of an uncertain economy.

    The best way to adapt to this ever-changing work world is to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset to meet these challenges head-on instead of depending on a company. Those who do recognize their unique positions in today’s marketplace and are confident about their prospects for work. They have taken ownership of their careers and are self-reliant, constantly scanning and monitoring workplace trends and positioning themselves for success. Spurred by constant change in the workplace, today’s savvy workers are more resilient, adaptable and motivated than ever before and thriving in the face of adversity and unexpected challenges. Are you one of them?

    Pam Folger is director of Millikin’s Career Center. She has more than 24 years of experience in career and employment services, with more than 14 of those years at Millikin University.

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    Millikin University - Decatur, IL
    Millikin University - Decatur, IL
    Millikin University - Decatur, IL
    Millikin University - Decatur, IL
    Millikin University - Decatur, IL
    Millikin University - Decatur, IL