Three Porter County residents were among 16 graduates honored Aug. 3 by the Indiana University Northwest Institute for Innovative Leadership. Christopher Runnion, of Valparaiso, and Roxann Brown and William Rieger, both of Portage, completed the Institute’s year-long Leadership Development Program, which is designed to train, motivate and challenge talented and ambitious IU Northwest students to become leaders in their Northwest Indiana communities.
During the graduation ceremony, held at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, Runnion, Brown and Rieger thanked their coaches, mentors and fellow students for giving them a unique set of learning experiences and a new vision of what true leadership entails.
“I’ve learned how to become a better leader for Christ,” said Rieger, who is an IU Northwest senior and a member of the campus Crusade for Christ organization. “The workshops and breakout sessions really helped me in upgrading my leadership abilities. I only have the highest expectations for the Institute (in the future).”
Rieger also received two special awards at the ceremony, an attendance award for having attended the most leadership classes and a skill-building award for having attended all 16 skill-building workshops throughout the year. Keith Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Institute, said that Rieger went to some of those workshops three different times.
“Will’s definitely a servant-leader,” Kirkpatrick said. “He has stepped up to provide service in campus and community organizations, and in his church. He will take on the tasks that no one else will take on.”
Brown, who is studying for her M.P.A. at IU Northwest, said the leadership program had taught her to appreciate the need for balance between planning for short-term and long-term goals. She also offered her fellow students and the audience of 100 or so families, friends and supporters some words of wisdom from Gandhi.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” she quoted.
Brown has worked in higher education administration since 1988, and has worked for IU Northwest, Calumet College of St. Joseph, Harvard University, and St. Mary’s College. Since 2004, she has provided administrative support to the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council. Kirkpatrick said that Brown’s extensive life experiences and excellent networking capabilities were major assets for her leadership group.
“Roxann is someone who really knows how to meet people,” he said. ‘Roxann has an incredible depth of experience in all that she’s done in her life, and she is a real asset to us here in Northwest Indiana.”
Runnion, who is corporate manager of business development for Orbital Engineering in Hammond, was not able to attend the ceremony. Married with three children, Runnion is currently pursuing his M.B.A. at IU Northwest. In addition to his certificate of completion for the program, Runnion received a special networking award for having attended the most special events throughout the year.
The Institute’s Leadership Development Program brings together business and community leaders with IU Northwest faculty and staff to create a network of speakers, interviewers and mentors who participate in coaching sessions, small-group discussions, skill-building seminars, and special events with the program’s students. Admission to the program is for IU Northwest students by nomination only, and students are expected to commit between 100 and 125 hours to meeting the program’s goals and expectations.
“Indiana University Northwest is very proud of these students who have sought to achieve a higher level of excellence, and who are striving to make our world a better place by assuming the honored responsibility of being a leader,” Kirkpatrick said.
Other members of the Institute’s 14th graduating class included: Kila Ward and Kisha Ward, both of Michigan City; Vickie Rainwater, of Cedar Lake; Gary Crum, of Lowell; Pamela Key, of Crown Point; Debra Towasnicki and Nicole Ruiz, both of Highland; Berylene Kozyra, of Hobart; Kristin Roberts, of Merrillville; Michelle Robbins, of Schererville; Jamila Drayton and Danny Gonzalez, both of Hammond; and Cleotis White, of East Chicago.