Signature Event Speaker David Brooks Reflects on Character
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
Columnist and news commentator David Brooks brought a thoughtful treatise to the podium at Bellevue University’s sixth annual Signature Event, October 9 at Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum.
It was an appropriate topic for the annual Signature Event, which showcases “American Vision and Values,” the heart of the University’s Kirkpatrick Signature Series courses, which all bachelor’s degree students must complete.
Before giving Brooks the floor, University Board member and former Chair George Little welcomed the more than 400 guests and introduced some of the key event sponsors, other Board members, and three current Bellevue University students in the audience.
Dr. Mary Hawkins, University President, talked briefly about the University and set the tone for Brooks’ remarks with a look ahead and looking back. “Bellevue University is adapting to the learner instead of asking the learner to adapt to the University. We’re very excited about the future of education,” Hawkins said. “We believe strongly that our American heritage won’t last if we don’t pass it on,” Hawkins said before showing a brief video in which each of the three students told their stories, and the impact the University and the Signature Series courses have made on them and their families.
Keynoter Brooks began by listing “four crises” facing the country. While he spoke of many things, including politics, the economy, history, education—he focuses most on character. “We’ve got a higher education problem in which people are graduating with too much loan debt,” he said. “We’ve got an entrepreneurship problem. The rate of new business start-ups is slowing compared to what it was 20 years ago. We’ve got a political problem. And we’ve got a values problem in the culture, especially in the culture of the young people.”
“In many ways, we are a great culture, but we’re a little too much into ourselves. We are a very over-confident country,” Brooks said, citing several polls and surveys indicating Americans today have unrealistically high self-confidence and self-esteem, when compared with previous generations. Other polls have shown that we are more isolated than in the past, with fewer close friends. We’re less truthful and less trusting of others, and less “morally articulate.” One study of college students showed that 70% could not give an example of a “moral dilemma.”
He delineated two kinds of virtues: “There are resume virtues—things we would put on our resumes. And there are eulogy virtues—things that are discussed in your eulogy, who you were. Were you honest? Were you courageous? What was the nature of your relationships?
“The resume virtues are your nine-to-five skills. The eulogy qualities are deeper. And I think that we all would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues—who we are and who we want to be. But we happen to live in a culture that encourages us to spend more time on resume virtues than on eulogy virtues. So I’ve come to think that we need to step back from the pressures of the moment and get very specific about what it takes to have good eulogy virtues and to have good character.”
Brooks cited the memoirs of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who overcome personal anger and rage issues. “He disciplined himself and made himself into a good General and a very good President by fighting against his anger. And this idea that you are fighting against yourself, which was once very prominent in our culture, is now much less prominent. It is based on the idea that we are fallen creatures, but we are also splendidly endowed. We sin, but we have the capacity to recognize our sin and fight against it. And character is what we build when we struggle against our own weakness. And in this struggle, humility is our greatest virtue, the humility to act against our own nature. And pride is the central vice. It blinds you to your own weakness. It makes you think you are better than you are, that you can do it on your own.
Polls indicate that prior generations were more humble than today, possibly because our culture has been so successful in so many ways, he said. “Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. And failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility.
“Finally, no one can achieve self-mastery on his or her own. We all need redemptive assistance from outside. That’s the final thing I think would all say that a person with deep character is capable of, and that is receiving grace,” he said. “Grace is, of course, a religious word, but I’m using it in a secular mindset…It’s having that ability to allow yourself to be admitted into a community of people, so that community can surround you and support you.
“In the end, we’re not just out for money, we’re not just out for even happiness. Even if you’re living in the shallow culture, even if you are watching the Kardashians, we all have a moral imagination, we all have a longing to lead a good life…And the reward in not necessarily money and fame. Sometimes a good person does become rich and famous–but it’s self-respect. Success is competition with other people, but self-respect is competition with yourself.”
Concluding his formal remarks, Brooks said, “I used to think that a lot of the problems of society could be cured by laws and reforms, and I still believe that. But when I think about the polarization of the country, some of the failures in Wall Street, some of the failures in values in the country, I’ve come to think that the laws will only get you so far, and much of the problem has to do with values and attitudes. Not the values and attitudes of other people, but of each of us trying to discover the values and virtues that have been left to us as an inheritance.”
Brooks then fielded audience questions on a variety of topics, including political polarization, the likelihood Hillary Clinton and several potential Republican candidates could be elected the next President, and what President Barack Obama is really like.
Initial Pratt Student Entrepreneurial Award Recipients Selected
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
Three Bellevue University students are building their dream businesses with help from an innovative new program funded by Tom and Anne “Annie” Pratt of Omaha.
Supporting startup enterprises comes naturally for the Pratts, who are longtime entrepreneurs and supporters of the University. Annie’s father, the late Clifton Batchelder, a successful entrepreneur in the printing business, was an early supporter of then Bellevue College and a longtime member of the College’s Board of Directors. Annie served several years on the Bellevue University Foundation Board.
The Pratts created the Tom and Annie Pratt Student Entrepreneurial Award to help student-entrepreneurs turn great product and service ideas into viable businesses. The three Award recipients will receive seed-money grants sponsored by the Pratts, longtime owner-operators of a successful travel business, who wanted to help budding entrepreneurs take the next step toward the dream.
Award funds of up to $5,000 per year may be applied to a variety of expenses to advance a product or service to the marketplace, including (but not limited to) patent application costs, building a prototype, and market or product research.
Two of the three initial Award recipients, Lori Beck and Stacy Maddux, both of Omaha, met and thanked the Pratts during an informal luncheon on the University campus October 3. The third recipient is Ben Kirkland, also of Omaha.
A panel of University faculty members and college deans selected the three recipients through a two-stage process. Award panelists included Prof. Linda Fettig, adjunct instructor, Master of Fine Arts in Creativity program; Dr. Lucy Franks, Professor, College of Business (COB); and Dr. John Kyndt, Assistant Professor, College of Science and Technology (CST); and Dr. Pamela Imperato, Dean, COB; Dr. Clif Mason, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; and Mary Dobransky, Dean, CST;
In all, 24 Pratt Award applications were received this spring, including three proposals seeking funds to develop non-profit service organizations. Seven MBA students applied, along with four B.S. in Business majors, two Supply Chain Management, and majors in Management, Health Service, Human Resources, Computer Information Systems, Project Management, Human and Social Services Administration, and Clinical Counseling.
The Winning Business Proposals:
E3 Tours – Lori Beck, a wife and mother of two, envisioned a travel agency catering to busy single parents and others who are seeking economical, educational, and entertaining family oriented vacation opportunities ranging from day trips to extended-stay venues. Lori has extensive contacts in the non-profit world and travel business, including seven years working for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. She has B.S. in Management, and Master of Arts in Leadership degrees from Bellevue University and was completing the M.S. in Clinical Counseling program at the time she applied. She enrolled in Graphic Design classes this fall. She will use her Pratt Award Funds to develop marketing materials.
Fix That – Ben Kirkland’s business concept is a smart phone application for tagging, viewing, and reporting pot holes, traffic hazards and other fixable issues to state or municipal street and road maintenance departments as well as other motorists using the Fix That app. Pratt Award funding will help with design and development costs to provide the app across multiple platforms.
The Bereavement Team – When Stacy Maddux’s elderly mother died in Palm Springs, California, Stacy saw the need for a variety of concierge services ranging from preparing her mother’s house for sale, to legal details, accounting issues, and dividing up cherished family belongings, all while grieving for a lost loved one. She has assembled contacts in a wide range of related fields, including potential future funding sources to grow her business. Maddux envisions developing a franchise business model focused initially on providing concierge services in upscale retirement markets such as Palm Springs, which are popular with retirees. Her Pratt Award funding will help pay for website development and printed marketing materials.
A second round of applications is planned later this fall, with winners to be selected early in 2015. Previous Award applicants and winners can reapply for funding, as long as they are enrolled in the University.
Alumnus David Bernard-Stevens, Out to Change the World
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
At age 63, many are thinking about retiring (or already there), but Bellevue University alumnus David Bernard-Stevens is just getting started. His goal? Change the world (at least some of it) by helping change individual lives. His M.S. in Leadership degree, earned in 2005, is helping him accomplish more than ever by passing along what he has learned to others in a place he feels he should be.
But it hasn’t always been that way for Bernard-Stevens, who grew up in Cozad, Nebraska, where his father published the town newspaper. The refrain of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” might be an appropriate soundtrack for much of the impressive resume highlighted on his LinkedIn page.
“I always have loved what I was doing at the time, but I also wondered if I should be doing something else,” he said. His current address is Nairobi, Kenya, where he helps teach Kenyans to think differently and change their lives by leading themselves and aligning their thoughts and actions to their own core values.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and working as a Senatorial aide in Washington, D.C., for a while, he returned to Nebraska and completed a teaching certificate, even though he previously had told his mother, a UN-L math and computer science teacher, that he “would rather die than teach.” His teaching career included five years at Papillion-LaVista High School, during which he was named Nebraska Teacher of the Year and one of Five National Teachers of the Year.
In 1985, when a Nebraska State Senator retired at mid-term, a friend recommended Bernard Stevens to complete the term. Governor Kay Orr appointed him on condition he would run for re-election. He agreed, thinking he probably wouldn’t win. But as the election approached, the likely front-runner, Bill Hord of Lincoln, unexpectedly called him. After the two men talked, Hord called a press conference in North Platte, Nebraska. Members of the media came expecting him to announce his own candidacy, but instead, Hord announced he would be Bernard-Stevens’s campaign manager.
After serving as a State Senator from 1986 to 1997, Bernard-Stevens was hired as President of the North Platte Chamber of Commerce, holding that position for an additional decade, during which he learned about Bellevue University’s M.S. in Leadership program through contacts at Great Plains Community College in North Platte, which has an educational partnership with University. He completed the program online, finding that could know and interact more with students online than he had in his traditional classroom setting undergrad classes.
In 2007, the Chamber’s Board of Directors decided to take a new tack, which meant hiring a new President. Losing his job turned out to be a watershed moment for Bernard-Stevens. “Looking back, it was a real blessing,” he said. “I was in my 50’s, and for the first time in my life, I asked myself ‘What do I want to do?’ I figured I had maybe 25 years to do it.”
He decided to launch a leader development company, where he could tap into his own abilities and experience as well as the leadership lessons he’d learned. “Taking Bellevue University’s Leadership program did a lot to form and develop my thinking on what a leader really is. I loved teaching but I also enjoyed helping people grow and accomplish things by learning to think differently so they could be empowered to accomplish things. You have to think differently if you want to create a different future. That’s not necessarily the traditional model of leadership.”
Long story short, he launched North Platte-based Leader Development Group, LLC, followed by an initiative to develop leaders among Jamaican youth, and finally he made contacts in Kenya, where he and four Kenyan nationals have formed Effective Change Consultants, LLC, a for-profit venture which provides leader training for businesses and organizations. Bernard-Stevens is C.E.O. of the company, which uses 40% of its profits in providing similar training at no cost to young men and women in rural areas.
It isn’t always easy to change the world, even part of it. “There are times I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall, and times it almost feels like the wall is chasing me,” he quipped. But he remains hopeful. Despite daunting cultural, economic, political, and behavioral challenges, he believes in people. He believes that by helping them change how they think, he can help them to lead themselves, and move from “reacting and repeating” to “responding and creating.”
“We want to help them move from reacting to their current circumstances and repeating the same behavior they’ve always done, which produces the same outcomes as before, to responding in new ways and creating a different reality that opens up a different path. If we can help people align their thoughts and actions with who they are in their heart–their individual core values and purpose—then they will be happier and their lives will change.”
Along the way, he has learned he is not alone in his quest. His travels and social media contacts have helped build a network of like-minded people. When there was no money to provide leader training for 80 impoverished Kenyan women from Nairobi’s Kibera neighborhood (Africa’s largest urban slum), a Twitter acquaintance in California provided helpful advice and encouragement. She told him to “Take a leap of faith,” by setting up a website, telling his story, and including a “donate” button linked to PayPal. “In two weeks, the money came in from all over the world. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! How did that happen?’” he said.
The adventure continues for Bernard-Stevens. Four years ago, his path crossed that of Ruth, a Kenyan woman, now his wife. In October he returned to Africa to join her and continue the work he is confident he was made to do.
David Bernard-Stevens can be found on Facebook and would be more than happy to connect. He also is on LinkedIn. He currently is using crowdfunding (gofundme.com/dkadqg) to raise support for a dairy herd project benefiting women and families in rural Kenya.
MBA Produces For FedEx Employee
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Bellevue University delivers!
Just ask Jerrica Cook. As a Senior Solutions Specialist at FedEx Services, she knows a little bit about what it takes to deliver the goods. Cook recently earned her MBA with a concentration in Supply Chain Management.
“Throughout the 2- year program, I learned far more than ever thought I could while still being able to be a good mom, wife and employee,” she said. “Going through this program not only taught me concepts that I could apply in the workplace, but it gave me the sense of accomplishment and empowered me to continue to strive for the best out of life, ultimately resulting in my move into the Solutions organization.”
Cook said the MBA program brought real world knowledge to the classroom — information that she was able to immediately apply on the job.
“The biggest change in me is the way I viewed the organization. Prior to completing my Masters, everything I did was on a departmental level. I saw the work that I produced and its direct effect on the customer,” she said. “But after completing this program, I started seeing the vision of the company and how my role fit into the overall strategic objectives of FedEx and how my work indirectly affected those things. I stopped thinking like an individual contributor (IC) and starting thinking like an Executive.”
Since completing her degree, Cook has become a staunch advocate of higher education.
“When employees are given the right education and tools to assist them with putting the pieces together, the results are phenomenal not only for you, but for the organization,” she said. “Bellevue University can help you get to the next level and is the key to your success – I am living proof.”
Who’s Hungry? We’re All Hungry!
So Let’s Eat! – at Alum’s Salt 88
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Well, that’s just not John Horvatinovich’s style. Instead of mixing up some lemon juice, water and sugar, Horvatinovich grated some lemon zest over calamari. That’s just one of the many dishes you’ll find at Horvatinovich’s restaurant, Salt 88.
A busted-up knee and a job opportunity that wasn’t are a couple of the bad breaks Horvatinovich suffered before opening the restaurant. Even his alma mater, Bellevue University, handed him a bit of a lemon when the new Culinary Arts degree he had initially registered for never fully materialized.
However, Horvatinovich persevered at the University, earning his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2010. He opened Salt 88, located at 3623 N. 129th Street in Omaha, in May 2013.
“He’s able to speak in front of a crowd, he’s able to really draw up some great ideas, he’s able to organize things from people to projects — that’s what a degree at Bellevue University means,” Horvatinovich said. “Bellevue was able to prove to me that it was worth staying and finishing even when the degree of choice that brought me there was no longer available.”
Dr. Julia Cronin-Gilmore’s marketing classes stood out for Horatinovich. Cronin-Gilmore and other professors were able to capitalize on Horvatinovich’s real-world restaurant experience as well as his experience as an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan Community College.
“They recognized that ‘hey, this is a resource that we can tap into so other students can see some real-world experience’,” he said. “There was definitely more engagement. I think that was the best part of it.”
Horvatinovich, who came to the University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Colorado, describes the cuisine at Salt 88 as modern American with Italian influences.
“We didn’t want to put ourselves into a corner. We wanted something different. We wanted something unique,” Horvatinovich said. “Omaha is very big city when they want to be and small town when they want to be. We like to change those hats often.”
Among the highlights at Salt 88 is the sweet and spicy pizza, made with spicy sausage, bell peppers, mozzarella cheese and a sweet and spicy sauce. The pizza won both the judges and people’s choice award from Omaha’s Food & Spirits magazine.
Horvatinovich also recommends the plank-fired salmon.
“We put it on a cedar wood plank and grill it right on top of an open grill,” Horvatinovich explained. “We top it with a tomato basil sauce and some fresh grilled vegetables.”
The attention to detail the helped Horvatinovich through college is evident in the interior design at Salt 88 as well. In addition to the main dining room and bar, the restaurant features a private dining room and a patio overlooking Eagle Run Golf Course. Lighting along the toe kicks and back benches help illuminate the restaurant without being overwhelming.
The Salt 88 experience is not complete without a little cotton candy. That’s right, cotton candy. The sugary treat is served as a free dessert at the end of every meal.
“I don’t think it is possible to eat cotton candy angry,” Horvatinovich explained. “It’s shareable. It’s fun. It allows people to let down their guard a little bit.”
Kyndt’s Combinations Lead To New Degree Offerings
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Combining elements is second nature to Dr. John Kyndt. That’s probably no surprise from someone who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
But rather than combining potassium chlorate and gummy bears (which is pretty darn cool), Kyndt is hoping to create just as much energy combining cool things like technology innovation and entrepreneurship or sustainability and project management. Kyndt leads the University’s Master of Professional Science in Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MPS) program as well as the Bachelor of Science in Sustainability Management.
Kyndt believes these combinations will help launch students into burgeoning job markets.
“It’s not the traditional track where you have a science degree or an entrepreneurship degree or a management degree,” he said. “Bring the two together and make it something people can use. That’s what attracts me. It’s a challenge because you have to explain to people that this is a new type of degree and people have to get used to it. Once they go through the program and see the benefits it will be interesting to see (what develops), but I’m confident that graduates from these programs will come out well-rounded and well prepared for the modern workplace.”
Kyndt came to the University two years ago from the University of Arizona where he was a research professor experimenting with algae biofuels. Originally from Belgium, Kyndt earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. at the University of Ghent. Well over 100 years old and with enrollments of close to 40,000 students each, both Arizona and Ghent offer a different experience than Bellevue University.
“There are pluses and minuses to both,” Kyndt said. “(At Bellevue University), you can easily get new programs off the ground that you could not do at a large institution. Being smaller, being a private non-profit helps with turning things around faster, being more innovative in a more timely manner.”
Initially attracted to the permanent summer offered in Arizona, Kyndt began to miss the seasons after almost eight years in Tucson, so he came to Bellevue along with his wife Heather, and three children; twins Diego and Sebastian (10) and youngest Elliot (7). “Coming here, it’s more like Belgium. You have the seasons again. I see the culture here is more like Belgium than it was in Arizona,” he said. “I like having some roots in both Europe and the U.S. It makes me more diverse and I can see things from different angles.”
Kyndt’s Sustainability program launched last spring with 13 students. Another section is due to start in October.
“The students come from different backgrounds. Some are from waste water management, some are from energy companies, some are just interested in sustainability,” he said. “I think it is a good group to start with. It’s not too big, but it gives enough interaction.”
The combination of the science of sustainability with project management is what gives the program its electricity.
“I think that merger is unique and talking to some of the students before they entered the program they liked that. Some of them had looked at environmental sciences degrees, but they liked the project management part on top of it,” he said. “It gives them enough tools to implement a project and stand it up.”
For more from Dr. Kyndt, check out his TEDxOmaha talk on YouTube.
Bellevue Alum Helps Keep St. Kitts Safe
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
It’s never too soon to start planning your winter vacation getaway, so now is a good time to move St. Kitts (formally known as St. Christopher) and Nevis to the top of your list of destinations. Carnival officially begins on Christmas Eve on the two Caribbean Islands.
Plus, you’ve got friends in high places there.
Celvin Walwyn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Bellevue University in 2007 and followed up with his master’s degree in Security Management in 2008, is the Commissioner of the The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force.
Walwyn was prompted to return to school for several reasons. He needed to obtain certification recognized by his then-employer, the Orange County, Fla., Sherriff’s Department. One of his colleagues, Carlos Torres, was attending Bellevue University at the time and pointed him to the school. He also wanted to be a role model for his children.
“I went back to college again because my first child was entering college,” said Walwyn, who had previous credit from the University of the Virgin Islands in the late 1970s. “I wanted to show her it could be done. Today, my daughter has a master’s degree from University of North Texas and Mary Hardin Baylor University. Of my four daughters, two are college graduates and two are enrolled in college.”
The Bellevue University experience has been a family affair for Walwyn. His wife, Antoinette, holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Security Management from the University. Orville Hudson, a friend of the Walwyn’s attended at the same time and earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.
“The three of us graduated together,” Walwyn said. “My wife is now a security consultant for Walwyn International Network and Orville owns a nursing home in Houston, Texas. That is what I enjoyed most, reaching back and bringing two people to the front with me.”
Walwyn is a native of St. Kitts, although he left the island at 13-years old in the 1970s before returning as Police Commissioner in September of 2011.
“My career has been impacted greatly (by my Bellevue University degree) because I have not only theoretical tools, but I am able to apply practical applications in real life, in my every day affairs in law enforcement,” he said. “I was always looking for solutions and was very proactive in patrols and crime fighting. The lessons learned at Bellevue placed me in the forefront at Orange County Sheriff’s Office. I no longer thought like a deputy, I began thinking like a leader and began paving the road for that eventuality.”
Walwyn is currently pursuing his Ph.D. with Capella University.
“My dissertation, of which I am almost complete, is a phenomenological study on what factors influence Florida State Troopers in Orange County to enforce the DUI statute,” Walwyn said. “The momentum of the master’s program from Bellevue motivated me to continue in the furtherance of my doctoral education.”
BU Alum Launches Social Media Firm
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Say Hey There!
Got your attention now? Mikala Harden hopes so. Harden, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Leadership from Bellevue University in 2009, has recently launched Say Hey There Social, a social media and community engagement boutique that advocates for authenticity, simplicity, relevance, and the power of storytelling.
“I’ve set out to stand out,” Harden said. “Long-term, I want Say Hey There Social to be a firm that is known for not only producing killer work, but also being very involved in the local creative community, including the arts and entertainment scene.”
A desire to lead is what brought Harden to Bellevue University and her academic program of choice.
“I am not one of those people who always knew exactly what they would do,” Harden said. “I didn’t always envision being an entrepreneur, but I have always been a leader. That natural drive within me is what initially attracted me to Bellevue’s leadership program: and today I can’t think of a more influential scholastic resource that led me to where I am. It’s not your typical business degree. It’s about leading people and inspiring change.”
The Kirkpatrick Signature Series stood out for Harden.
“The Kirkpatrick Series and its principles fascinated me,” she said. “Dr. Stephen Linenberger was my professor the whole way through, and he was always available, encouraging, and thought-provoking. His leadership transcended the digital realm. I had attended both a major university and a community college before coming to Bellevue, but BU seemed like the only place that was set up to work for me.”
In addition to her Bellevue University education, Harden brings some real world experience to her entrepreneurial endeavor.
“I spent the last few years leading the content and social media division of a digital branding agency. Before that, I served as the internal communication coordinator at a healthcare research firm,” she said. “I have always been a writer. I have always been a communicator. At the heart of social media engagement, you will find great content that people care about and that creates community. I provide that.”
Tin Lizzy, a tavern in Fremont, Nebraska, is one of Harden’s early clients.
“When we met, they were already marketing-savvy,” Harden said. “They realize the importance of an engaging online presence and have established a great following on Facebook. Their dilemma was with time. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to dedicate to multiple platforms…and that’s where I come in. Our partnership helps to make sure their message is being pushed out to multiple platforms on a consistent basis, engaging fans who may not have a presence on Facebook.”
One of the realities of being a small-business owner is taking on all the tasks necessary to run the business. For Harden, that means sales.
“I’ve never considered myself a salesperson,” she said. “My fix is to try not to look at it in the traditional sense. I’m focusing on just having real, down-to-earth conversations with people, and I think that approach will be more relatable anyway.”
Alum Leads Chamber’s
We Don’t Coast Crusade
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Omaha does not coast and neither does Bellevue University alum Kim Sellmeyer.
Sellmeyer, Creative Director for the Greater Omaha Chamber, is one of the driving forces behind the Chamber’s branding effort, We Don’t Coast. The tagline is popping up on sidewalks and billboards throughout the metro area and officially rolled out August 6, 2014.
Sellmeyer thought a little differently when it came time to tackle the branding assignment. Rather than bringing in an agency from outside the area or awarding the job to a single local company, Sellmeyer formed a creative task force with 16 creative individuals from 15 local agencies.
“We wanted wide acceptance, so we picked kind of a unique process to build this,” Sellmeyer explained. “We had a big group, but they were all there for the right reasons. They care about the community and wanted to help take us to that next level.”
The We Don’t Coast theme emerged early in a two-day design charrette and was then vetted by area marketing professionals and stakeholders.
“We built this to unite the community together in one voice,” Sellmeyer said. “If we can all use the same words and the same tone it’s going to be louder.”
Her Bellevue University degree helped launch her toward her leadership position with the Greater Omaha Chamber. After earning an associate’s degree at the Colorado Institute of Art, Sellmeyer realized she would need to continue her education to get where she wanted to go.
“I researched colleges in Omaha and found that Bellevue was able to easily transfer my previously earned credits and had the flexible schedule I needed,” she explained. “I was working two jobs at the time, so I could pay as I took classes. I didn’t want to take out loans.”
Sellmeyer, married to former Marine and fellow Bellevue University alum Kerry Sellmeyer, earned her Bachelor of Science in Commercial Art from the University in late 2000.
“I had a great Bellevue experience,” she said. “I had one professor who forced us to use a Wacom Tablet (a computer input device frequently used by artists) in design class. It was torture. He said, ‘You’ll thank me someday when you don’t have carpal tunnel.’ I can’t work without a tablet today and, so far, no hand issues either.
“Having a degree has opened up doors for me that I don’t believe would have been otherwise.”
If anyone had reason to coast it might be Sellmeyer. The branding project comes on the heels of her successful Omaha! Omaha! social media campaign capitalizing on the line-of-scrimmage calls of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Sellmeyer described the on-the-fly campaign as “three weeks of no sleep.”
The experience with both We Don’t Coast and Omaha! Omaha! has been a highlight for Sellmeyer.
“It’s been very rewarding” she said. “We’ve built something that is going to get attention.”
New Building Marks Milestone For Credit Union CEO, Bellevue Alum
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
SAC Federal Credit Union, like Bellevue University, has been a long-time member of the Bellevue community. Led by CEO Gail DeBoer, a graduate of Bellevue University’s MBA program, the credit union recently opened the doors to a new corporate headquarters building at the southeast corner of 72nd Street and US Highway 370. With 94,000 square feet of usable space, the building will house 115 employees.
DeBoer recently spoke about the new headquarters, the impact of her Bellevue University education and where she, and SACFCU, will go from here.
How important is the new building to SACFCU both in a utilitarian sense and as a milestone of progress and growth?
The new building serves as a tangible sign of SAC’s success and stability to our members, our employees and the community. Our focus over the past seven years has been to grow the business with a deliberate and paced strategy. The growth has allowed us to consolidate our operations at the new headquarters in order to reach higher levels of efficiency in our operations, which in turn will fuel more growth.
We were also purposeful in designing the building in order to foster and grow our desired culture. We did this through open and collaborative design that facilitates a culture that focuses on results and member engagement.
Are there some parallels between the growth of SACFCU and the growth of Bellevue University?
As an alum, I’ve enjoyed watching Bellevue University grow at such a strong rate. It is interesting to have both of our organizations have such success at the same time. I believe it stems from each having a very clear purpose and identity and not straying away from their mission and producing a product that is of high quality and in high demand.
Leadership is key when you have strong growth and both Bellevue University and SAC have very strong leadership teams in place. Their commitment to their stakeholders is evident in the way they operate and the way they serve their customers.
When you were completing your MBA did you envision yourself as CEO and the growth that SACFCU has enjoyed?
I certainly always had the goal of advancing my career and I knew that earning my MBA was a requirement to be the CEO. I also knew there was great potential for growth at SAC but that it would take a different kind of strategy and leader to get us there. I studied leadership and gained the technical skills I needed so that when the opportunity came I would have all the requirements I needed to be successful.
What’s next for you and for SACFCU?
Great things are ahead for SAC! We are seeing growth continue to be strong and we are planning for more success for our members and the communities we serve over the next 20 to 30 years. As for me, in the short term I look forward to guiding SAC through the transition with the new headquarters and expanding our reach. I’m excited to bring new technology to the market and really change the way that people access their money and plan for their financial futures. The work that credit unions do to provide education, financial products, convenience and community support is what makes them unique and that is what gets me excited about coming to work every day!