Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Marie Di Virgilio Doctoral Program, Leadership, Values

Dr. Seuss, Global Travel, and the Doctoral Program in Values-Driven Leadership

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…” Dr. SeussOh, The Places You’ll Go!


GlobeWhat does this quote from Dr. Seuss’s classic book have to do with Benedictine University’s Ph.D./D.B.A. in Values-Driven Leadership program? Several comparisons can likely be drawn, but I’d like to focus on one—our global trip requirement.

In order to graduate, our students are required to participate in at least one global trip, and are welcome to participate in as many as they like. Global trips provide our students, who are predominately senior-level executives, with an opportunity to present their work at international conferences, to meet others scholars and practitioners from around the world, to visit global companies and meet face-to-face with fellow senior executives, and to gain an appreciation for the richness and diversity within the global academic and business communities.

To date, trips have been taken to China, Dubai, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia, South Africa, and the U.K. With faculty approval, students can also “steer themselves in any direction they choose,” by planning their own global-exchange trip (not led by faculty).

I was honored to lead a global-exchange trip to Limerick, Ireland for the 2014 annual Irish Academy of Management conference. Benedictine was well represented by 10 students from our program. This week, we’ll be sharing three student blogs about their Irish global-exchange experience. First, though, let me share four vignettes that highlight the value our executive students find in participating in the global exchanges:

Sherri Black thumbnailValues-Driven Leaders Reside in Everywhere: Unable to sleep, Sherri Black, a Senior Manager with Visteon Corporation, decided that the middle of the night was a fine time to work on her conference presentation. Unfortunately, the hotel Internet was down and the tech support person was off duty—sleeping, no doubt. Determined to get something done, she went to see the hotel night manager, Mike. Instead of being demanding, Black took the opportunity to connect with Mike and get to know him as a person. “Mike’s mind began churning, and I could see he was a values-driven leader who wanted to take care of the needs of a hotel guest.” He found a solution to Black’s predicament. A few mornings later, Black stopped by to see Mike before his shift ended. “I told him my presentation had gone well. He brought up politics and world issues, which we discussed from the perspective of our values; I found it interesting that an Irish man and an American woman resolved many world issues in about a half hour and parted as friends. Values run deep, bring people together, and can be found all over the world in special leaders.”

KimberlyIAM or I AM? Executive student Kim Sebastian, a leader at US Cellular, reflected on the conference’s name: “While registering for the IAM 2014 conference, I couldn’t help but ponder the acronym ‘IAM.’ In context, it stands for the Irish Academy of Management; however, for me those three letters generated tremendous reflection. I AM in title, a sister, daughter, wife, mother, aunt, friend, student, and leader. I AM in character, caring, dedicated, confident, persistent, values-driven, and faithful.” For Sebastian and others, global-exchange trips create space to reflect upon who we are and who we are becoming. Sebastian heard citizens of Ireland speak of the misfortune the chaotic lifestyle is having on American culture. “No wonder we escape into the world of newsfeeds and social media; we are not taking the time to write our own stories, discover our own titles, character, and most importantly purpose. When was the last time you stopped to consider the world you live in? How many drops of water make up the vast ocean or why the blade of grass tickles your toes? There is a magnificent world around us and amazing truths within us if we would simply take a moment to contemplate three simple letters… I AM.”

WallyValues at the Irish Academy of Management: Alcatel-Lucent leader and doctoral student Wally Baehrend writes that during his trip to Ireland, “Values seem to be in the air: kindness, consideration, generosity, hospitality and curiosity. Limerick is the kind of place where when you ask for directions people greet you, chat you up, walk you to your destination, and seem to be more than willing to visit for a couple hours over a cup of tea. Warmth and compassion seem to pervade the place. It seems like a place that time has not tarnished – I feel almost like Tommy in Brigadoon.” Baehrend’s conference paper, Love Stronger than Death, “reviews the deep values of enterprise, education, equality, and hospitality that are evident at the Scottish Home elder care facility in Riverside, Illinois. It is a place that is warm, welcoming, and friendly. It is a place that feels like home. And it keeps that feeling even as residents pass in the most difficult hospice care.” Baehrend was amazed by the compassionate and empathetic response from conference attendees as he shared videos from his research project. “In my time here at the IAM conference, those same values of enterprise, education, equality, and hospitality are very evident. The students are gracious, kind, and enchanting. We are pampered and spoiled the entire time. It feels like home.”

CarterPersonal Discoveries: Steve Carter, a doctoral student and CEO of The Carter Group, made a number of personal discoveries during his trip to Ireland to attend the Irish Academy of Management conference at Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick. “For starters, a pint of Guinness in Ireland is markedly different than anywhere else I’ve experienced this iconic brew. Secondly, it is possible to get a tan in Ireland, despite widely held beliefs to the contrary, especially if you’re in an open boat cruising off the Cliffs of Moher. My most memorable discoveries revolved around the salience of our group of 10 students and faculty in the midst of the other IAM attendees. While I’m not sure of the total number of people who attended the conference, our contingent from Benedictine University was conspicuous enough to incite several more local participants to ask me how it is that our program could engender such interest in a conference across the Atlantic. While one could posit that we’re just trying to fulfill one of our program’s requirements, the evident enthusiasm of our group to learn and absorb knowledge from our involvement in the IAM belied such a cynical conclusion. Further dispelling such a notion was the excellence of the presentations by my cohorts during the conference. From higher education to union negotiations; from healthcare to engineering, my cohorts presented a variety of values-based perspectives on how to lead positive organizational change in the midst of a changing climate of business and society.”


Until then, keep in mind the great words of Dr. Seuss, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Dr. Marie DiVirgilio is a member of the core faculty with the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. Read her list of recommended books for women in leadership at this link. For more on our global travel requirement, visit this link.
Globe Photo Credit: jovike via Compfight cc

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