Dana Wright wanted to be a role model for her children. She wanted to show the women with whom she worked that they could do more and aim higher. She also wanted to expand her own learning and enhance her career options.
So the former Broadview resident enrolled in the Master of Science in Leadership program at Benedictine University, a program designed by women for women to provide the knowledge base and skills that will contribute to the professional and development needs of women in today's society.
Although Wright says that she has not fully realized the impact the program will have on her life, the metamorphosis that has already taken place has made her a better employee, friend, wife and parent.
"Many people would probably use the birthing analogy when describing the journey I just took with Benedictine, saying that they feel like they went through many different stages –experiencing growth, pains, uncertainties, excitement, enlightenment…and then finally, after all of that work, a new them – a rebirth of sorts," she said.
"For me, I liken it to the stages of a butterfly. I came into the program like the egg, full of what makes me who I am, but not fully developed and flushed out. I went through the larva and pupa stages, where I was fed and nourished and realized my place in the world and how I could make a difference.
"I finally came out, finishing my studies, that full adult butterfly ready to spread my wings," Wright added. "And this was no easy journey. It was very challenging on many levels. But the benefits I have reaped cannot be measured."
Students in the Master of Science in Leadership program, like most of the graduate programs at Benedictine University, benefit from the real-world experience of its faculty. Wright's teachers included powerful women such as Alvenia Albright, an international trainer, presenter and consultant; and Cheryl Richardson, Ph.D., the former senior director of Human Resources at McDonald's Corporation.
"I had 16 great women in two years who all positively affected my life in some way," Wright said. "I wish they had an idea how much of a gift they were to me in this journey. I am very grateful for the wisdom, insight and lessons I gleaned from each of them.
"I am even more blessed to have been able to maintain a real relationship with most of them that I feel will last a lifetime," she added.
Wright, the deputy chief of staff for the Cook County Sheriff's Office, said the program was nothing short of life-changing and the lessons gained were both revealing and character-building.
"Although I learned an abundance of things, I think more things were reinforced in my studies," she said. "I mean, life is what it is, and the golden rule applies. You should and must treat others as you would want to be treated. Hard work, integrity, trustworthiness and honesty are essential character builders.
"Being open to new things is the key to your ability to absorb new concepts and ideas," Wright added. "Pre-judgment is unproductive and creates limitations. Self-awareness is so important when dealing with others. Giving back is not optional. Having a vision, a strategy and a solid plan of implementation is critical if you want to succeed in any project or new endeavor."
Another important lesson Wright took from the program is that – quoting the character Helen Tasker in the movie "True Lies" – fear is not an option.
"Fear will paralyze you and prevent you from taking much needed risks," Wright said. "In order to get buy-in, you must create a sense of urgency. And finally, at the end of the day, everything starts and stops with active listening and effective communication."