Meet three O∆K members advocating for public health.
Terrence Kungel, MBA
Terry Kungel currently serves on O∆K’s Foundation Board of Trustees and is the chairman and CEO of the Maine Coalition to Fight Prostate Cancer. In this role, he assists six prostate cancer network groups serving 250-500 active prostate cancer patients in Maine. Prior to his current position, Terry was the co-founder and CEO of a biotech company. He spent much of his career developing and managing new high tech companies. Terry is an initiate of the Purdue University Circle and a graduate of the Harvard Business School.
John Robitscher, MPH
John Robitscher is an initiate of the Emory University Circle and a current member of the O∆K Foundation Board of Trustee. John is the CEO of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. In this role, John, along with the volunteer leadership, provides direction and leadership to achieve NACDD’s mission to improve the health of the public by strengthening state-based leadership and expertise for chronic disease prevention and control.
Gene Siegal, M.D, Ph.D.
Dr. Gene Siegal is a member of O∆K’s National Advisory Council and was initiated into the University of Louisville Circle during medical school. Gene is the Robert W. Mowry Endowed Professor of Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and since the summer of 2015, he has served as the Interim Chair of its Department of Pathology. Gene's clinical research interests have centered on studies of bone tumors and related conditions, a field in which he is a recognized world authority.
What do you see as the top public health challenges for U.S. and why?
TK – Healthcare continues to generate much debate and partisan wrangling; while I am not optimistic about fixing “the system” each of us have huge opportunities to make our own changes. Obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise are main issues each of us can do something about every day.
JR – First, we must more actively address the social determinants of health that result in needless suffering and $102 billion annual indirect medical costs. Second, we must view health and mental wellbeing as more than just the absence of disease but as opportunities for people to achieve their potential. Third, climate change and the extreme weather events it causes must be abated to prevent thousands, if not millions, of unnecessary injuries, sickness, and deaths.
GS – First, we must understand why there is such diversity in health care outcomes among our citizens. We know access and economic challenges account for part of the answer, but not all. For example, African American women with breast cancer die at a greater rate because they often have types of invasive breast cancer. The tumor cells are different than those found in Caucasian women, which makes them unresponsive to many conventional therapies. Second, we need bipartisan support and compromise to create a health care system available to all Americans irrespective of financial means. Last, a long-term unwavering commitment by Congress and the President for research is the key to finding the cure for many diseases.
What can we do, as a society, to collectively assure the conditions in which people can be healthy?
TK – We need positive incentives for good behavior and penalties for bad behavior. Cigarette prices should cover all the downstream societal costs for health care. Why can’t YMCA membership costs be covered for anyone actively using them to get healthier? Why can’t the food industry be penalized for excess salt, fat, and sugar?
JR – Educate yourself about the social determinants of health, mental health, and well-being. Reach out to members of Congress to let them you know you care about these issues and that want to see positive change. You also can choose to adopt a healthier lifestyle and find ways to protect the environment in your daily habits. Walking or biking to school or work, for example, is a great way to help protect the environment and improve your health.
GS – We need to demand that our leaders commit to fund research in all its forms by lobbying our representatives and funding candidates who support these positions. We need to educate ourselves on issues surrounding health and science.
Why are you an advocate for health? What would you like members of Omicron Delta Kappa to know about this concern?
TK – My paternal grandfather and father both died from prostate cancer, and I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of this disease. As a family member with 50+ years of lived experience, I have seen the enormous toll of this disease. Unfortunately, too many men are not taking ownership for their health by avoiding testing for a range of medical conditions, which are manageable if caught early and generally fatal if caught late.
JR – I have spent more than 30 years working in public health. People are living longer, but preventable chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are giving us a poorer quality of life and shorter lifespan.
I’m an advocate for chronic disease prevention and control because I want to help reduce people's risk factors for these painful and potentially fatal diseases. And we can do so by promoting physical activity, improving access to healthy, affordable foods, and expanding science-based ways to kick the tobacco habit.
GS – I serve on the public policy boards of two professional societies committees which advocate for research support and attempt to mold legislation favorable for expanded health and science support. I also travel to Washington to urge Congress to support research. I’ve spent my life not only creating new scientific knowledge, but training the next several generations of physician scientists as a professor. No one escapes this life without personally suffering from the ravages of disease, either personally or in family members and friends. Everyone needs to be involved, and I encourage the entire O∆K family to join me in this pursuit.
Monica Pearson, renowned Atlanta journalist, discusses her career, leadership, and health challenges
When Monica Pearson first stepped into the offices of WSB-TV Atlanta in 1975, there were few women behind evening news desks across the country. While she didn’t explicitly set out to change that reality, an unwavering dedication to excellence and overcoming obstacles led her to become one of Atlanta’s most prominent leaders. Among other accomplishments, Monica became the first woman and the first minority individual to anchor the daily 6 p.m. news.
She remembered her early days and said, “Failure meant closing the door for others. So, I wasn’t willing to allow that to happen. Although I made mistakes, I tried to honor those that were trailblazers before me and to be a trailblazer for others.”
By the time she landed at WSB-TV, Monica had worked in a few other industries. She explained, “I had to be a bank clerk because women were not allowed to be tellers. Can you imagine? So, I worked hard.” She was then selected to attend Columbia University’s summer program for minority groups at the Graduate School of Journalism. Following graduate school, she worked as a reporter for five years.
“I knew I wanted to work in television, but I needed a degree. I was writing speeches, but I was not allowed to present the speeches. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy having men take credit for my work. So I found a way to go back to school. I looked at the national trend and saw that television was opening to women and people of color.”
She graduated with an English degree from the University of Louisville and later earned a master’s degree from University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Monica was initiated into the Emory University Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa in 1995.
The thing that strikes you the most when talking with Monica is a straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to life and work—a skill that seems sculpted from years of finding the truth in her stories. She has a genuine warmth and sincerity which cuts through to the simple realities of a topic in conversation.
She explains the challenges in her career: “I have always been honest with myself. When in doubt, I ask myself, ‘Why do you think you’re not cut out for this? What is holding you back?’ The answer may hurt your feelings. But, it is usually something you can fix. It may be that you’re still dressing like you’re in college. Or, that you’re writing for a newspaper, but now you’re in television. Growth is about constructive not destructive criticism. You must ask yourself ‘How can I get good at what I’m doing?’”
This desire to consistently improve her work has earned her 33 local and regional Emmys for reporting, anchoring, and Closeups—her segment of intimate interviews with national leaders. She has interviewed leaders from Dolly Parton to Hank Williams, Jr. and from Georgia Congressman John Lewis (who changed his presidential support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during her interview with him) to Oprah.
Adding to the Emmys are awards like the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Presidential Vanguard award by her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and countless others.
BECOMING A STAR
Maintaining a positive image for more than 30 years in the spotlight is no small feat. As a leader in the community and a public figure, how does Monica handle the world of social media, fake news, and celebrity personas?
She said simply, "Authenticity—to be real—is the only way to truly connect with people. My unique background made me stand out. I embraced what made me different.”
She goes on, “If you are a leader, you cannot always be a part of the pack. You have to know your strengths and be careful who you listen to about your weaknesses. If someone is not telling you how to do something better, it’s not worth listening to.”
Separating yourself from the pack can be an intimidating endeavor especially with the abundance of anonymous and often cruel online comments, or the tendency to reduce full stories to soundbites and click bait hiding a situation’s or person’s complexities. Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor argues in the New York Times that social media can damage one’s career ultimately by undermining the ability to concentrate and the ability to produce work that truly matters.
Monica, who maintains an active social media presence, shares her viewpoint on these platforms. She says, “Social media helps you extend your friends. It’s about sharing who you are and promoting the things that you are invested in. Also, I do not tolerate unkindness. I will block people in a minute if they share inappropriate comments or behavior.”
Even before people in Atlanta were following her, she had long-established the force that is Monica Pearson. Much of her drive and identity was developed under the watchful eye of her mother, Hattie Edmondson. Monica describes her as a “character” and a woman with a saying for everything. Her mother was the first person in her family to graduate from high school, and Monica is the first in her family to graduate from college.
Monica recalls, “I called the [sayings] Hattie-isms. She said, ‘Don’t make excuses— make work and all work is good work as long as it is honest work.’ ‘It doesn’t matter where you come from. God gives you everything that you need.’” Her favorite, however, is, “It’s what you do with what you have that makes you what you are.”
The ever-engaging journalist, Monica laughs and says, “did you notice it’s not who you are, but what you are.”
What she means is that you can be a good person on the inside, but if you don’t get to work developing your strengths and sticking to your commitments, you cannot achieve your dreams. Who you are might never change, but what you are? That is what one can develop.
Monica is heavily invested in the Atlanta community, and her service is endless. She has served on the board of Meals on Wheels Atlanta and Go Red for Women as well as supported organizations across the city, including the Girls Scouts, the YMCA, The Sisters of Promise of Susan G. Komen, and The Metropolitan United Way of Atlanta. William Finch Elementary School, where Monica has given books to children and volunteered for many years, named a corner of their library after her.
As passionate as she was about her career, she considers community involvement more important than her job. She has strived to define herself by what she does away from work.
When asked how she determines how to devote her time considering the many needs in society, she said, “There are so many demands on your time. I chose how to be involved in my community based on two things: first, I always volunteered for something that I was passionate about. Second, I choose community organizations that would allow me to meet other community leaders.
“I first started volunteering by reading to first grade students in elementary school with a project called Kids Connection. I spent an hour a week volunteering and working with the kids. This also allowed me to be a role model in the community. As you try to build a career and be involved in your community, pick organizations that you are passionate about and set aside a reasonable amount of time for them.”
The television industry does not quite have the reputation for being the friendliest or easiest industry to work in, but Monica was strict about setting expectations in the office. She says, “Only allow people to see good things from you. People will pull you into all kinds of things. Stay focused and only engage in issues about your work that matter.”
Her biggest lesson about leadership over the years? Recognize the leaders around you. Real leadership is about developing the talents within your network.
“You have to take responsibility for your decisions good or bad,” she says. “A leader is able to say, ‘I was wrong. I made a bad decision and here is what I learned.’ I always think good leaders give credit where credit is due. They also have a sense of ethics that they live by no matter what.”
Monica adds, “I know that I had a moral responsibility to do the right thing in my work. If it gives you a feeling in the pit of your stomach, you shouldn’t do it.”
She faced new challenges later in life and survived both breast and liver cancer. In 1998 when she received her breast cancer diagnosis, she, in typical Monica fashion, did two things: first, she refused to let the disease define her. She plowed through recovery and came out the other side. Second, she became involved in the support community and encouraged all women to get screened.
She said, “I think it’s really important to have a network—a community family that is separate from your work family. You need to be able to share challenges and successes with people who care about you outside of your office.”
In 2015, her doctors found liver cancer during a routine checkup. She had surgery, and more than 50% of her liver was removed. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time, “I don’t want flowers. You can pray for me. Prayer is always welcome. But the best thing people can do is go to the doctor and get checked. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Don't be afraid.”
In 2014, she launched The Monica Pearson Show—a two-hour radio show of interviews and historical profiles. She also hosts A Seat at the Table, the first Georgia Public Broadcasting television show that gives voice to African-American women from their diverse experiences and perspectives. You can be sure that Monica will continue telling important stories and serving the Atlanta community in countless ways for years to come.
O∆K member Melissa Cancio led Florida International University's Roarthon, a 17-hour student-run dance marathon. The event raised $96,000 for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals program, an organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for 170 children's hospitals throughout North America.
Melissa said, "To be a leader, we need to show the reason behind what we do and share with those around us so they are aware and desire to do the same. A leader is well rounded, takes initiative but also allows for individuals in their team to develop and share their thoughts, and is always willing to give their time and efforts to service."
Fontbonne University Circle members, along with faculty, staff, and alumni, added new garden beds and helped refurbish a community garden in Brentwood, Mo. Gateway Greening, a local nonprofit, in partnership with a local church, created and planted the garden to supply fresh vegetables and strengthen the community.
Juniata College students partnering with their local community to help plant 250 trees in honor of town's anniversary.
Stephen F. Austin State University Circle members worked with 8th graders in a group called Leaders of Tomorrow. As part of the largest day of service in Nacogdoches, Texas, they helped a historic village spruce up their ground and prepare for their annual community Easter egg hunt.
University of Kentucky Circle members made sandwiches for families at The Ronald McDonald House in Lexington, Ky.
The University of Richmond Circle worked with the James River Parks system to clean up Huguenot Park in North Chesterfield, Va.
Wagner College Circle members collected cans for donation to local hunger relief efforts.
The Middle Tennessee State University Circle held True Blue Leadership Day. Students heard from Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Jeff Bivins, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, Lindy Boots, human resources manager with an area firm, and other leaders about careers, job interview tips, writing a professional resume, and how to leverage a competitive advantage in a job hunt.
University of North Carolina Wilmington students value the upkeep of their beaches, and picked up trash on the beach.
Over the past few weeks, I have traveled to various cities across the country speaking with incoming freshmen about college success, personal success, and leadership success. During these amazing moments with diverse groups of students, not only have I talked with them about using college as a launching pad for career success, but one of the things I shared with them was the importance of developing a Dream Team!
Developing a Dream Team is a concept that I learned from Dr. Valerie Rowe several years ago and it consists of a group of mentors, peer mentors, friends, and relationship partners who support, empower, and help you make your dream or vision a reality. In essence, your Dream Team not only helps you make your dream or vision a reality, but it's your support group who is currently doing what you want to do in life, people who share the same passion as you in school, and people who you consider to be family and friends.
I explained to them the importance of a dream team because I have found that every successful person in life had someone in their corner that helped them become successful. I then revealed to them that studies show that approximately 60% of jobs come from personal relationships with others and surrounding yourself with the right people makes a huge difference on reaching your fullest potential in life. Furthermore, I also let them know that having the right Dream Team would make a huge impact on their personal growth in life, it would increase their sense of belonging as a new college student which is important, and certain opportunities that they have the chance to experience in life would manifest because of their Dream Team. And finally, I talked with them about the keys to maximizing their college experience, personal satisfaction, and career success after graduation.
To help these students become more effective in choosing the right people for their Dream Team, I also shared with them a set of questions that every individual must consider when they are creating their Dream Team. Based on the positive feedback that I received from these simple questions shared with these incoming freshmen, I wanted to take time to provide you with four questions I believe we should all consider when we are forming are Dream Team.
Does the Person Possess a Positive Attitude/Perspective?
The first question that I challenged the incoming students to consider when creating their Dream Team is, does the person possess the right attitude and perspective? In effect, I explained to them that before you make someone a part of your Dream Team, you should evaluate their attitude and perspective.
The reason why I challenged each student to consider these points as they create their Dream Team is because I have found that one's attitude and perspective affects how they will treat us in various situations and circumstances and the type of impact they will have on our life.
In essence, if someone has a negative attitude/perspective, their negative attitude/perspective will affect you, if it's positive, that positive attitude/perspective will affect you as well. Therefore, if we desire to attain college, personal, and career success, we need more positive people influencing us, and less negative energy.
Does the Person Possess Positive Communication Skills?
The second question that I challenged the incoming students to consider as they create their Dream Team is, does the person possess positive communication skills? In effect, does the person communicate respectfully? Does the person uplift and inspire you while in conversation? Is the person authentic? Does the person possess great listening skills? Can you have difficult conversations with this person? and Do your conversations with this person leave you in a better position?
The reason why I challenged each student to consider these points with their Dream Team is because I have found that communication skills not only affect your relationship with others, but it can be the determining factor between positive or negative relationships. And ultimately, this is why many relationship coaches and experts agree that communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, productive, and positive relationship.
Does the Person Have Good Character?
The third question that I challenged the incoming students to consider when they are creating their Dream Team is, does the person have good the character? In effect, what are the values of the person that affect their behavior and character.
Some of the reasons why I challenged each student to consider this with their Dream Team is because I have found that a person's values not only give us a glimpse of how a person will perform in various circumstances and situations, but our values affect our character, and in most relationships, our character and values have a huge impact on the type of relationship that will be created between two people.
Consequently, this is why many relationship experts and coaches encourage people to learn about the values of someone else before they engage in a serious relationship because our values are the determining factors of the relationships and friendships we create with others.
Does the Person Possess Positive Actions?
The fourth question that I challenged the incoming students to consider when they are creating their Dream Team is, does the person possess positive actions? In essence, does the person keep their word? Does the person express positive behaviors? Do the person's actions positively impact you? Does the person's action align with their words? and Does the person's actions inspire you?
Some of the reasons why I challenged each student to consider this with their Dream Team is because I have found that a person's actions are not only more powerful than their words, but regardless of what someone says to us, their actions have the most influence and impact on our lives. This is why Steven Covey, author of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People " states, "Your actions are more powerful than your words" because he understands the power of our actions.
Joshua Fredenburg is a friend of Omicron Delta Kappa and a nationally acclaimed speaker, author of five books, member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Tedx Speaker, and President of the ‘Award Winning Circle of Change Leadership Experience that specializes in providing emerging and seasoned leaders with the leadership skills necessary to lead effectively in a diverse world and make a positive impact in their community, nation, and world.
Omicron Delta Kappa's 50th Biennial National Convention and Leadership Conference, recently held in Nashville, Tennessee, and it was a great success! We had 90 institutions represented and more than 240 in attendance. The convention participants had the opportunity to hear inspiring remarks from our keynote speakers; attend workshops focused on circle best practices, alumni engagement, career strategies, and leadership development; and participate in a service project that assembled nearly 300 care packages for members of the armed forces. The videos of the keynote addresses are available through our online leadership hub. I encourage you to take the time to watch one or more of these excellent presentations by Janis Hirsch, Jamie Washington, Tom Bowen, Nancy Hunter Denney, and Eric Motley.
During the plenary sessions of the convention, new officers for the Omicron Delta Kappa Society were elected. I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve a second term as National President. Linda Hooks, an initiate of the Louisiana State University Circle and an advisor to the circle at Washington and Lee University, was elected National Vice President. The National Student Vice President is Andrew Brown who is an initiate of the Grand Valley State University Circle and a current graduate student at Purdue University. Cynthia “Cie” Chapel Cochran (University of Miami) was appointed as Chair of the National Advisory Council. Michael N. Christakis (Alfred University), Darwin Jones (University at Albany), W. Jeffery Edwards (Washington and Lee University), and John Herbst (University of Kentucky) are continuing on the board in their respective roles of Immediate Past National President, National Treasurer, National Counsel, and National Parliamentarian. Willie Banks (University of Georgia), Mike James (Harding University), and William Razz Waff (University of Mississippi) are all new members-at-large for the Society Board of Directors. Jonah Robison (Clemson University) and Hameidah Alsafwani (University of Nebraska, Omaha) were appointed as the student members-at-large on the board.
Also during the 2018 conference, we announced several new resources for circles and member institutions including a diversity and inclusion toolkit to help circles develop programming and recruit members from a broader population of collegiate leaders. We also introduced Campus Conversations, a signature program designed to assist circles in creating a safe and productive space for sharing ideas, perspectives, and plans for action on polarizing topics. This initiative is intended to build relationships among leaders across the breadth of a community and encourage collaboration to address larger societal problems.
One of the best parts of the convention is presenting the annual awards. It was my great honor to present Sara Frank, an initiate of the Emory University Circle, with the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year Award. Sara's award includes a $4,000 scholarship which she will be using to enroll in law school at the University of Virginia this fall.
This convention was the last “biennial” gathering for our circles. Beginning in 2020, Omicron Delta Kappa will start offering an annual convention. The National Leadership Conference Design Teams, chaired by Dave Barnes (James Madison University) and Laura Seplaki (Rider University), are in the midst of respectively developing recommendations for programming and locations for future conventions. We are very much aware of how participation in a convention supports and enhances circle operations. I know this annual convention model will facilitate the continuation of momentum for attendees and provide significant training and educational opportunities for new collegiate officers and advisors.
The spring semester included the installation of four new or revitalized circles. Omicron Delta Kappa was re-chartered at Arizona State University and East Tennessee State University. New circles were added at the Xavier University of Louisiana and Eastern Kentucky University. Presently, Omicron Delta Kappa has 304 active circles.
While FY 2017 was the best membership year on record for Omicron Delta Kappa, membership was down in FY 2018. The total number of initiated members last year was 8,577, but that number was only 8,114 this year. We have determined that this drop-off was primarily attributable to circles taking in two to three fewer members in almost all circles across the country. There were also two large circles which had personnel transitions and did not hold initiation ceremonies in FY 2018. The importance of member recruitment was stressed at the national convention, particularly as related to encouraging circles to make sure that all phases of collegiate leadership (scholarship, athletics, service, communications, and arts) are represented in a circle’s composition. Throughout the upcoming academic year, circles will also be encouraged to better embrace the intentionally inter-generational nature of O∆K by initiating more faculty, staff, alumni, and civic leaders. We will also be implementing a circle officer stabilization program including enhanced training, improved communication including formal circle health reports, advisor agreement, and a circle-specific advisor transition program.
Through the work of the Volunteer Engagement Task Force, led by Cie Cochran, there is now a more comprehensive program through which individuals may serve O∆K. Information about how members may support circles through service as an advocate or educational program specialist, as well as information about various volunteer opportunities at the national level, may be found at odk.org/get-involved/odkserves/. If you have an interest in becoming further connected with Omicron Delta Kappa, I encourage you to review this page and complete the volunteer application form.
FY 2018 was another very successful fundraising year for the Omicron Delta Kappa Foundation. I want to congratulate Foundation President Sally Albrecht and the other members of the Foundation Board of Trustees for their success in securing $415,407 in new outright gifts and pledges this year as well as an additional $522,500 in documented planned gifts. In addition to the essential and necessary unrestricted support provided by our donors, I am thankful for these gifts which will fund leadership development grants for circles, scholarships, and the preservation and maintenance of the national headquarters facility.
Let me encourage you to follow Omicron Delta Kappa via one or more of our social media platforms. You may find regular news and updates about O∆K, including updates from individual circles, via Facebook (facebook.com/OmicronDeltaKappa/), Twitter (twitter.com/ODK1914), Instagram (instagram.com/odk_hq/), and LinkedIn (linkedin.com/groups/144429). Links to each of these platforms are also readily available on the homepage at odk.org.
Our Society continues to provide scholarships, online career workshops, programming grants to circles, and post-baccalaureate service and educational opportunities for members as well as ethical leadership development through initiatives such as our Stone Ethical Leadership Challenge. The need for honor and authentic leadership is greater than ever. Please know that I truly appreciate your continuing devotion and service to Omicron Delta Kappa by our members. Thank you for your leadership and support!
Yours in O∆K,
Matthew W. Clifford, Ed.D.
O∆K National President