A Ph.D. student responds to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing portable hand-washing stations to the homeless in Atlanta

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Terence Lester saw a need. He anticipated that the coronavirus could rage among the homeless population because of the lack of handwashing facilities.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

Lecrae and Terence deliver portable hand washing station.

His idea was to put portable handwashing stations throughout Atlanta, but he only had the resources for one. That’s when Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae called and asked how he could help. Together they have put 15 sinks throughout the Atlanta area where the homeless are concentrated.

Lester, working towards his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Policy & Social Change, is also a minister and draws a parallel between washing hands and Jesus’s actions of washing feet. “We have a responsibility to help others with dignity and humility. Jesus said, ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’”

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Homeless man uses new portable hand washing station

Lester and his wife Cecilia founded Love Beyond Walls in Atlanta in 2013 to advocate for the invisible and voiceless. “Our vision is to provide dignity to the homeless and poor by providing a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency.”

The nonprofit provides many services.

The Lester Family

The Lester Family

“We provide mobile makeovers to the underserved, temporary shelter, groceries for 300 to 500 families a month, clothing for the community and students, free laundry services, free water bins for those who don’t have running water, awareness campaigns to educate the community, a leadership program, and we work with other organizations in other countries to solve problems.”

His advocacy for the poor was highlighted in the Coca-Cola “History Shakers” Black History Month campaign.

He also launched the “Dignity Museum,” this past January. The museum is housed in a shipping container with the flexibility to be a traveling exhibit. The interactive experience immerses the visitor in the feeling of being trapped in poverty. Lester hopes the museum dispels stereotypes of homelessness and galvanizes people to action. One visitor explained that she lives paycheck to paycheck and could see how homelessness could happen to the average person.

Lester, a scholar practitioner, chose Union to pursue his doctorate on a recommendation. “I was teaching a class on the evil of poverty for Morehouse professor Dr. Vicki Crawford. I had chosen another university for my Ph.D. when Dr. Crawford encouraged me to check out Union,” said Lester. “I was so impressed with Union and its social justice mission and the opportunity to supplement the Public Policy & Social Change major with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization.”

Also important was the opportunity to take courses online.

“Union offers distance learning which greatly appealed to me because of my responsibilities and my need to work fulltime. That, coupled with two residencies and similar-minded students, made Union the perfect choice for me.”

He is fulfilling a lifetime dream by pursuing his Ph.D.

“Education saved my life. I was a high school dropout. I know education changes lives because it changed mine.”

Lester is also an activist, speaker, and author of four books. His most recent is “I See You.”

But he describes himself as a husband and father first.

“I credit my wife Cecilia and our two children, Zion Joy and Terence II, for their continuing support. Together we continually raise awareness and mobilize an army of people who dare to get involved in breaking down barriers and dreaming up new solutions.”

Let us know what you are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic by emailing Teresa Wilkins at

Dr. Shekhar Mitra

Pay it 1964WARD: Why I give back: Shekhar and Anu Mitra Honoring my parents’ spirit by supporting the next generation of leaders

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Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships go directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.

Read how Dr. Shekhar Mitra and Union professor Dr. Anu Mitra established the M.K. and Kamala Mitra Scholarship Fund to honor the memory of his parents.

Dr. Shekhar MitraQ: We are launching the Pay it 1964Ward campaign to raise $1,964,000 to support our students achieve their dreams. You have been a longtime giver. Can you tell us why you give to Union? Why do you choose to invest in Union’s students?

A: Union fills a unique need for motivated adults who not only want to advance their careers but also are deeply passionate about serving their global communities. Both Union faculty and students are focused on understanding the world from an interdisciplinary standpoint; to explore new ways in which to engage the inquiry and experiential processes. Union represents a distinctive learning model where future generations of leaders practice open inquiry, inclusion, and dialogue to make an impact in the real world. We strongly believe in investing in Union and its students.

Q: Tell us about your parents and what inspired you to link the scholarship fund at Union to their memory.

Both my parents were an inspiration to Anu and I. They met as refugees from the partition of Bengal in India in the late 1940s as the British ended its colonial rule in India. My parents escaped the ravages of the riots as they fled from their home in Dacca to Calcutta. They had no permanent home for years and were sheltered by distant cousins who supported their livelihood and education. This allowed my father, M.K., to fulfill his career dream. He became one of the Indian government’s top economist and revenue officer.

However, my parents never forgot their roots and chose to support numerous refugee families and young adults to get their education in high schools and colleges. Anu and I wanted to honor their spirit by inspiring the entrepreneurial instincts of our Union students.

Q: Union is known for its commitment to social justice. Does that aspect of the university influence your decision to invest in Union and its students? If so, how?

I knew Union was the right university to establish the fund. Union’s commitment to social justice parallels our background and upbringing. We believe that the values of social justice, pluralism, and inclusion are important ground rules in our democratic society. We want to promote these ideas in our support of organizations and institutions. As an innovation leader of a major multinational for many decades, I have seen how diverse perspectives, multicultural teams, and globally diverse consumer inputs are able to shape breakthrough designs and drive the development of innovative products and services to meet customers’ needs. Anu believes that social justice principles are a central vision of human-centered learning. This, coupled with one’s desire to manifest into action what one knows, is the basis of a good life.

Q: Union’s goal is to transform lives and communities. You recently had an opportunity to meet a few students who have been awarded scholarships. Can you share your response to them after listening to their stories?

A: I was so impressed with the scholarship recipients. What is extraordinary is how they interweave their life’s experiences with the construction of hypotheses in their scholarly work. They lead as they learn, focusing on the practical ramifications of their scholarly work to touch and improve lives in the real world.

I would urge all stakeholders to consider their own way of supporting our deserving students and the unique place of learning at UI&U. Union students deserve our support.

Support the next generation of leaders with your donation.
Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today. Click here to donate.

About Anu and Shekhar Mitra

Anu Mitra, Ph.D. is a professor in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies program. She holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in English Literature and Women’s Studies. Dr. Mitra is drawn to interdisciplinarity and the idea that all problems are capable of being solved, but only if we are able to view multiple solutions through different lenses. She is the recent recipient of UI&U’s Herbert L. and Dr. Beth Alswanger Gopman Research Fund award and was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Award for 2020-2021. She has served as a docent at several museums and as a trustee on several arts-related boards, including the YWCA, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and Cincinnati Ballet.

Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D. is passionate about enabling younger generations of scientists and engineers across all cultures, companies, and businesses to achieve their full potential as professionals. The life scientist spent 29 years at Procter & Gamble, retiring as senior vice president, Global Innovation. He holds more than 50 patents, and now, post-retirement, serves as a member of the UI&U Board of Trustees, works as a board member and strategic adviser to several Fortune 500 companies, new ventures, and a private equity company. In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and is listed in the U.S. Congressional Record for his contributions to improving lives through his impact on consumer meaningful innovations and community service. You may read more about his illustrious career here.

Nancy Lynne Westfield

Alumni Spotlight – Alumna is new leader at prestigious Wabash Center

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Nancy Lynne WestfieldFeatured this month: Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D.
Education: Union Ph.D. 1999
Profession: Director Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Nancy Lynne Westfield, Ph.D. 1999, is the new leader at Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

“The mission of the Center is to enhance and strengthen education in theology and religion in North American theological schools, colleges, and universities. All of our programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.,” said Dr. Westfield. “We support teachers of religion and theology in higher education through meetings and workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources to make accessible the scholarship of teaching and learning.”

Dr. Westfield credits her Union doctoral experience for giving her the freedom to think on her own. She also calls her program at Union transformative.

“This was the first time in my academic career I was asked to form my own thinking. I was encouraged to explore my own curiosity,” said Dr. Westfield. “While I was asked to think on my own, I was never alone in my thinking. The faculty and my peers were communal and nurturing.”

Dr. Westfield explains why religious education is important.

“Religious education is an interdisciplinary approach to the bigger questions in life. The study of religion and religious people is an important lens on history, culture, and community,” said Dr. Westfield. “The formation of faith is important especially where society is fractured and people are divided.”

Dr. Westfield is an ordained deacon of the United Methodist Church.

“I was raised in church as part of the African American tradition. My parents, Nancy and Lloyd, encouraged curiosity. Spiritual questions were not frowned upon. We read the Bible critically and maturely.”

She embraces the womanist approach and is passionate about sharing the religious, educational and spiritual experiences of African Americans, especially women.

Her new position as Director of the Center is exciting and humbling.

“I am humbled to continue this life-giving, critical work for scholars of theology and religion. The work of leading the Center is my joy.”

Dr. Westfield is the author, co-author or editor of several books. Among her works are Being Black, Teaching Black: Politics and Pedagogy in Religious Studies (Abingdon Press, 2008), Black Church Studies: An Introduction (Abingdon Press, 2007), and Dear Sisters: A Womanist Practice of Hospitality (Pilgrim Press, 2007).

In addition to her Ph.D. from Union, she is a graduate of Murray State University in Kentucky. She earned a master’s degree in Christian education from the Scarritt Graduate School in Nashville, and a master’s degree in theological studies from the Drew Theological School, Madison, New Jersey.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

Keara Wrightsman

Pay it 1964WARD – From homelessness to college student

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Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships goes directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union scholarship recipients. Learn how that support fulfilled their educational dreams and helped them become a force for positive change in their communities and the world at large.

Keara Wrightsman

Talbert House honors Keara Wrightsman as Employee of the Year. Left to right, James Wilson, Talbert House Vice President Housing Service Line with Keara at the Talbert House Annual Employee Appreciation Celebration.

Union psychology major Keara Vogt Wrightsman knows what it is to hit rock bottom.

“I was homeless for 10 years before I entered a treatment facility in 2014. I lived in abandoned buildings and on park benches. I lived on the street, addicted to opiates, like 23 million other Americans.”

She has come a long way. Now a student in Union’s Bachelor of Arts program, she works fulltime at Talbert House — a nonprofit that helps men, women, and children throughout Southwest Ohio overcome adversity to become healthy and productive citizens. She works with homeless veterans to find housing and employment, and assists them with Social Security claims. She also volunteers for the Affordable Housing Advocates, the Homeless Clearinghouse, and the Veterans Work Group. In 2018, she was named the Talbert House Employee of the Year for her outstanding work placing homeless veterans into housing and assisting them with employment and expedited Social Security claims.

“I am pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology in order to help treat and assess those who have been where I have and the understanding and knowledge to also help those who have been where I haven’t,” said Wrightsman. “My career goal is to be a clinical case manager and move on to my master’s degree. I hope my story is an example to others who are struggling.”

Her determination to change her outcome was recognized with another award, the Jimmy Render Award from the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, given to homeless or formerly homeless individuals who have defied the odds and subsequently committed themselves to addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

“Because of my homeless-related background, no one would hire me. Finally, Talbert House took a chance on me. My passion is to help people; especially those without a home or who are afflicted with addiction. In order to do that on all levels and to the fullest, I need to have a degree and higher education. A lot of change comes from the work groups and systematic change is needed for permanent change,” said Wrightsman.

Recently, her job paved the way for her to buy a home for her family. Keara achieved her first goal: to recover. Her second goal is to further her education to become a clinical case manager. She says, “I hope my story is an example to others who are struggling. My passion is to learn all I can, and also be involved in my community, building strategic plans to change the course of thousands of lives, just like mine.”

Union took a chance on her too by offering her a scholarship.

“This is my second time at Union. I had started in 2013 and I had to drop out. I needed a university that respects my work and life schedule. Union does that for me.”

Keara’s advice for students is to stay focused. “Don’t give up and reach out when you need help. Never give up!”

UI&U doesn’t give up on students either. Your support will fulfill students’ educational dreams and helped them become a force for positive change in their communities and the world at large.

Please donate today to the Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD campaign.

Jocelyn Rainey

Pay it 1964WARD – Finding Mona Lisa

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The Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964ward campaign is underway and is already making a difference in the lives of our students. At Union, 100 percent of funds that donors designate to scholarships goes directly to the student. Read how a scholarship is impacting the life of a doctoral candidate and the young students she serves in the feature below.

Her LinkedIn profile lists her current position as dean of Student Services at Wayne County Community College District, but if you live in Detroit, you know Jocelyn Rainey as an artist and art teacher, and as the founder of a gallery. But she is probably best known for creating the Finding Mona Lisa Program 313: Urban Students Become Global Scholars.

Jocelyn RaineyWhile teaching art and art history at Loyola High School in 2007, she asked her students if they wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic “Mona Lisa” first-hand, not just in a book. Their enthusiasm sparked the creation of Finding Mona Lisa, the innovative travel program that has provided students (aged 14-19) with the opportunity to visit 10 countries to view famous art works and immerse themselves in other languages and cultures.

Rainey makes sure the students earn their opportunity to expand their lives. They work for a year, training in the areas of language, culture, and how to travel. They are responsible for fundraising to pay for their trip. They must learn about the country they will be visiting, learn the fundamentals of photography so they can document the trip. And, they perform one community service project of their choosing.

A current doctoral student at Union, Rainey says, “What happens is [the students] learn to respect differences, but they also learn how to embrace the similarities that we all have as human beings.” The community and the parents… fund these trips. They want to see these kids go out. And the biggest takeaway is that they understand that anything that they dream and anything they want to do can come true. Because if you’re walking around Detroit, and then the next day you’re riding camels next to the pyramids? Or swimming in the Nile? I mean, c’mon. Your dream can come true.”

Since the inception of Finding Mona Lisa (FL313), Rainey has ushered more than 100 Detroit teens on trips to visit China, Japan, Egypt, South Africa, and Costa Rica. In 2016, FL313 was among the first American high school students to visit Cuba. Some were able to speak Spanish to their hosts, many of whom knew of Detroit because of the Tigers baseball team.

Jocelyn has an amazing story herself; one of surviving gun violence and overcoming paralysis and rejuvenation through the creation of art. She has made a deep impression in Detroit through the art world and through her TedX Detroit presentation. Jocelyn is transforming lives and communities, just as her scholarship is transforming her educational experience as a Ph. D. candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Ethical & Creative Leadership.

Jocelyn is a recipient of the Virginia Ruehlmann Women in Union Scholarship grant from the Helen Steiner Rice Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The scholarship was created by alumna Virginia R. Wiltse, Ph.D. (2000), who helped to secure the gift to honor her mother, the late Virginia Ruehlmann of Cincinnati. “This scholarship is a tribute to my mother’s decades of service. Her life and how she personified the value of higher education mirrored the value of higher education of Helen Steiner Rice, the poet,” Dr. Wiltse said. “My experience at Union was, in every way, transformative, and there is a clear link between what I studied at Union and who I have become since my graduation from the Ph.D. program in 2000. I love Union. The experience of Union changed me. For that I will be forever grateful.”

For Jocelyn, the scholarship validates her transformative work in her community.

“Union and its donors invested in me. I wouldn’t have received the scholarship if they didn’t think I could change the world.”

You too can change world by supporting the next generation of students fulfill their educational dreams. Please donate today to the Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD campaign.

Rea Waldon

Pay it 1964WARD – Why I give back: My degree changed my life

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Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships goes directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.

Rea Waldon“Why wouldn’t I give back to the university that changed my life,” asks Rea Waldon. “I know Union changes lives. I am one of those lives.”

The business woman and two-time alumna earned her B.A. in 1988 and returned to earn a Ph.D. in 2003. She credits Union for propelling her career.

“I didn’t fit the typical college mold, but Union had confidence in me. I was the non-traditional student, a single mother with skills, but companies wouldn’t take a chance on me because I didn’t have a degree.”

Her degrees led her to successful careers in banking, workforce development, and economic development.

“A degree is the ticket to entry for most professional careers. Union’s innovative approach is the right fit for adults with life challenges that don’t allow them to pursue education in a classroom setting. My message is you can work and complete your degree.”

Union was founded on the core principle of expanding access to higher education for non-traditional and underrepresented groups within a context of social responsibility.

“I have been able to leverage my education to provide solutions to businesses and non-profits trying to make the world a better place.”

Dr. Waldon invests in students with her donation to Union. “I am paying my degree forward by supporting individuals and making their dreams come true.”

Donor support is critical to continue to Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower adults to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

Pay it 1964ward today. Click here to donate.

About Rea Waldon

Dr. Waldon is the founding executive director of the Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council. She served at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati for eight years, first as senior vice president and then as chief operating officer. Prior to joining the Urban League, she was assistant vice president/community development officer for PNC Bank.

She also served Union Institute & University as a faculty advisor and affiliated faculty from 1995-2006 and Cincinnati Executive Director from 2018-2020. Dr. Waldon has been recognized as a Cincinnati Business Courier Mentor of the Year and is the recipient of the Women of Color Foundation’s ISIS Award. She is also one of Fifth Third Bank’s Profiles in Courage recipients. She is a coach and mentor to business owners and students. She is also the owner of KDDK Legacy Group that provides coaching and training to owners seeking to grow their firms.

Dr. Ronis

Alumna awarded Fulbright Specialist Award

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Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Dr. Deri Ronis, Ph.D.1987, has received a Fulbright Specialist Program award.

Dr. RonisShe is the founder of The Conflict Resolution Centre specializing in mediation, consultation, training and seminars to facilitate peace and conflict resolution.

Dr. Ronis is excited to share and explore ideas.

“My reaction is and was one of great gratitude, humility and my last hurrah! I’m thrilled to be able to share a half century of knowledge, observation, and experience with the next generation studying peace and conflict resolution. I was so fortunate in the ’80’s to be able to study my passion at Union, when the field of peace psychology and conflict resolution wasn’t even a recognized science or discipline.”

She hopes her experience of 30 years can be helpful to the other participants.

“This is an opportunity to interact with students from many different countries, engage in dialogues relevant to their research, and help them understand what is possible and doable, as well as what isn’t and how to accept the things they have no control over to avoid burnout.”

For her Fulbright, Dr. Ronis will complete a project at Uppsala Rotary Peace Center in Sweden with the goal to exchange knowledge and establish partnerships benefitting participants, institutions, and communities both in the U.S. and overseas through a variety of educational and training activities within Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Union has a proud tradition of Fulbright awardees including recent awardees Dr. Anu Mitra and Dr. Woden Teachout, and alumna Dr. Paula Royster.

Dr. Ronis is one of over 400 U.S. citizens who share expertise with host institutions abroad through the Fulbright Specialist Program each year. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, demonstrated leadership in their field, and their potential to foster long-term cooperation between institutions.

According to the Fulbright website, the program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding shared international concerns.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight – Telling the African narrative in her own way

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Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright, Ph.D. 1996, is an educator, fundraiser, and academic leader dedicated to telling the culturally rich African narrative. But, Dr. Anim-Wright works to ensure that narrative reflects the African voice instead of relying on others to tell the story. The Ghana native credits her parents for a strong work ethic. Her father was the first director of the only news agency in Ghana, from where she says she first understood her love of writing.

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright

Dr. Koryoe Anim-Wright, Ph.D

Dr. Amin-Wright earned her undergraduate degree at Central State University in Ohio and served as Deputy Director of the Office of Sponsored Research, Contracts, and Grants and associate director of the Central State University Office of Development and International Programs, where she earned several major government grants, including a $550,000 USAID University Development Linkages Project grant that aligned CSU and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. She went on to serve in a variety of advancement positions at Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, CT., including vice president for Institutional Advancement, and director of the Western Connecticut State University Foundation, Inc. She earned her Ph.D. with a concentration in communication and development from Union in 1996.

In 2010, she returned home to Ghana to give back to her country. She served as director of Corporate Affairs and Institutional Advancement at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and in 2015, she was named president of the African University College of Communications (AUCC), the first female to hold that position. In an interview with the Harvard Africa Policy Journal, Dr. Anim-Wright describes the role that higher education plays in leading to a better way of life. She also discusses the need for institutional advancement to grow across the continent to offer more scholarships to needy students.

She is currently acting dean of the Centre for International Education and Collaboration at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana, responsible for facilitating opportunities for international experience and exchange through strategic partnerships and connections. She is also a senior lecturer in the UPSA Communications Department. She serves on the Board of Directors of MG Radio Ltd and is a member of the Ghana Institute of Languages Board.

Recently, she visited her alma mater to meet with UI&U President Karen Schuster Webb. Their discussion centered on building a co-national model for Ph.D. programs between the two universities that is online and hybrid and leverages both institutions resources. Plans are underway now to build this program in the near future.

In the Q & A below, she shares her insights on leadership.

Q. How do you define leadership?
A. I define leadership as the ability to serve others. I believe in an all-hands-on-deck philosophy. My belief is that to lead, one has to serve, and have empathy to understand the journey of those you lead.

Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.
A. Watching my students excel. I love taking students under my wing and working directly with them to build their self-esteem, and help on their journey toward their purpose. Watching them then fly on their own and achieve their goals – that’s a great feeling.

Q. What leader do you admire most and why?
A. The leader I admire most is Maya Angelou. She embodied her words. Her life and achievements are an inspiration to me and inspire me to be better.

Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A. My favorite inspiring quote is, “Never let go of your dreams.” Once I had a student who lacked self-confidence and was very shy. I told her she had great potential and to never let go of her dreams and took her under my wing. Before long she just blossomed. Just before graduation, she brought me a wooden plaque with those words carved in the wood and presented it to me. I have it to this day. And she and I have remained in touch.

Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A. I didn’t realize I was a leader until I started to get promoted in my professional life. Prior to that, I was just being me, focusing on work and giving it my all. When the promotions kept coming, that’s when I realized that people around me saw me as a leader and I eventually began to feel and see myself as one.

Union’s Ph.D. program incorporates interdisciplinary study to expand and deepen knowledge and expertise. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!

Randy Danielsen

Pay it 1964WARD – Why I give back: My Union degree got me a seat at the table

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Union’s Pay it 1964WARD campaign is underway to make a difference in the lives of our students. At UI&U, 100 percent of funds designated to scholarships go directly to the student. Throughout 2020, we will feature a number of Union donors – alumni, trustees, friends, and others – who support Union and our goals to transform lives and communities. Please join them through Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today.

Randy DanielsenRandy Danielsen, Ph.D., 2003, knows one thing for sure. He would not be where he is today without his Union degree.

“I was an older student, already settled in my career, when I realized that a degree, particularly from Union, would enhance my trajectory in higher education. As a result, I was able to move into the deanship of a private, not-for-profit, post-secondary health science school and lead that program for over 14 years. My degree from Union prepared me to be open to many academic and personal changes, and to make a difference wherever I am.”

Dr. Danielsen’s career started in the Air Force, where he was given the choice of becoming a medic or a cook.

“I chose the medic route. My training as a medical corpsman would lead to my career as a physician assistant (PA), clinician, educator, author, and editor. The PA profession is a relatively new profession that started a little over 50 years ago. I was fortunate to be among the first group of PAs to receive certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) in 1975, remaining clinically active for over three decades. I maintained my certification through 2017 and then was able to attain the PA-C Emeritus status. My Union degree opened paths for me to serve in the classroom and administration. A higher education degree gets a person a seat at the table. I would never have been a dean without my Ph.D. from Union.”

Dr. Danielsen pays his degree forward by investing in students and the future of Union.

“I am a first-generation college student and certainly the first in my family to attain a Ph.D. I appreciated my educational experience at Union, and feel it is important to do whatever I can do so others will have a similar experience. Union students come from all walks of life, and many share similar stories of being the first in their family. That is why I invest in Union.”

Another reason Dr. Danielsen supports Union is its social justice mission that is interwoven in the curriculum.

“The concept of fair and just relationships between the individual and society, measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privilege is something I have felt from a very early age. This is probably why Union appealed to me from the very first day I sought information about their programs.”

Dr. Danielsen’s generosity, and that of other Union donors, supports student scholarships, veteran’s services, innovative programming such as the Maternal Child Health program, the new and emerging Union Institute for Social Justice, and is critical in supporting Union’s mission to engage, enlighten, and empower adults to pursue professional goals and a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility.

“Randy is a shining example of how Union’s alumni have developed personal missions to make a difference,” said Carolyn Krause, VP of Advancement for Donor Relations and Alumni Services. “Not only is he a monthly donor, he also serves as president of the International Alumni Association Board. In that role, he welcomes the newest class of alumni every year at National Commencement. He tells them three things: 1) to display their Union diplomas with pride and let everyone know of their Union education; 2) to recruit a new student to Union and to be a Union ambassador; and 3) to make a gift to support Union – at whatever level they can. His contributions support and encourage our adult, nontraditional students to complete their higher education dream to make a difference in their communities and the world. He leads by example.”

Make a difference with your donation. Changing the Faces of Education – Pay it 1964WARD today. Click here to donate.

About Dr. Randy Danielsen

Dr. Randy Danielsen, (Union Ph.D., 2003) is professor and director of the Doctor of Medical Science Program at the Arizona School of Health Sciences. Dr. Danielsen began his healthcare career as a medical corpsman in the U.S. Air Force in 1970, serving 28 years with the Air Force and the Army National Guard, retiring in 1998 as a Desert Storm veteran with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

A graduate of the University of Utah, Randy earned his MEDEX PA Program degree in 1974 and Bachelor of Science (cum laude) in 1978. He earned a master’s in PA Studies (MPAS) from the University of Nebraska with an emphasis in Internal Medicine in 1997. During his doctoral program at Union, he worked closely with other students and had a leadership position on the Graduate Learner Council.

Dr. Danielsen has served in a number of leadership positions throughout the Physician Assistant profession. He has participated on a variety of publication advisory/review boards and has been a prolific writer. He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed articles, 20 journal editorials, and four book chapters. In 2011, Dr. Danielsen published his first book, The Preceptor’s Handbook for Supervising Physician Assistants. He and his wife split their time between homes in Arizona and Michigan.

Cecil Thomas headshot

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight – Police Officer, Council Member and Current Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas is a tireless supporter of community and the underserved

By | Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students | No Comments

Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management in 2012, is a servant leader, influenced by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

In this video, Senator Thomas discusses the impact Dr. King had on his life and the importance of Black History Month.

Cecil Thomas headshotBorn in rural Alabama, Cecil came to Ohio as a young boy, and did not realize his potential to serve until he connected to a program that would provide college tuition if he went through police academy training. A 27-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department, Senator Thomas worked in every district, including all 52 Cincinnati neighborhoods. During his tenure, he worked on behalf of minorities and women, earning them the right to be promoted. He fought to increase minority representation, especially in policy-making decisions. His actions increased the percentage of African Americans and women on the force to 40 percent. He is credited with winning a federal ruling still in place today that mandates that the department’s demographic must mirror the city’s population.

As the head of the city’s Human Relations Commission from 2000 to 2005, Thomas instituted a community and police relations program, recognized as one of the top human relations organizations in the country. Focusing on repairing citizen/police relations across the city, he organized festivals in each police district, sponsored study circles for police officers and citizens to connect, and produced a public service announcement about what to do when stopped by the police. In 2001, when the city erupted in race riots after the killing by police of an unarmed black man, Thomas organized pastors and walked the streets with them, serving as a calming influence.

In 2005, he was elected to the Cincinnati City Council, where he created the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, an anti-violence program credited with reducing homicides after an all-time high in 2006. The program reduced crime and improved community and police relations and is modeled nationally and internationally. He worked on voter suppression issues, and an environmental justice ordinance to monitor pollution.

Senator Thomas was elected to the Ohio Senate in 2014, representing Ohio’s 9th Senate district. He was elected Assistant Minority Leader by his peers and has been appointed to serve as ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee for the 133rd General Assembly. In addition he serves on the government oversight, health, insurance and local government committees.

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