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Grad students advise Chicago Fire Department

Posted: Apr 10, 2013


For (L-R) Janet Hoppe, Latisha Ross, Sandra Dillard and Jerelyn Evans, teamwork played an important part in earning their master's degrees.

When asked to analyze a high performing team, Olivet graduate students Janet Hoppe, Jerelyn Evans, Latisha Ross and Sandra Dillard set their goals high.

“We asked God what we should be working on, what would benefit us as a team and also our classmates,” Janet says. “God revealed to us that we should focus on the Chicago Fire Department [CFD].”

With the go-ahead from their professor, Dr. Gia Buckner-Hayden of Olivet's School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, the women attacked the project for their master of organizational leadership program with extraordinary tenacity.

“They were amped about it,” Dr. Bucker-Hayden says. “That type of ambition is what I want to see from our students. I told them, ‘I’ll support you, and we’ll do this together.’”

Teamwork equals action

As part of the research, Janet and Latisha attended a session at the CFD’s training academy. They also interviewed firefighters and their supervisors. One interview took place during a shift at a fire station, and just as the interview was ending, a call came into the station. Jerelyn saw firsthand how the firefighters came together as a team.

“I was able to experience their flawless process of getting together, getting the equipment, getting on the truck and leaving the station within minutes,” Jerelyn recalls. “No one was telling anyone what to do. Everyone knew his or her part. They meshed and were gone.”

Impressed with the amount and quality of work that the team was devoting to their project, Dr. Buckner-Hayden told Dr. Jim Roussell '12 Ed.D., a commander within the Chicago Police Department. After seeing the team’s final paper, he requested they prepare an additional paper: a recommendation to present to the CFD.

When a CFD commissioner received and reviewed it, he responded by providing them with his impressions of and reactions to their work.

Benefits beyond the classroom

As they prepare to receive their master's degrees in May 2013, the four women reflect on this valuable learning opportunity they shared.

“This was truly a collaborative effort,” Jerelyn, a clinic coordinator at the University of Chicago, says. “When all our research came together with our different ideas and perspectives in one finished project, we were in awe. What we were able to do together as a team was much greater than what we could have done as individuals.”

“Applying what we read in our textbook to a real world situation was so valuable,” Sandra, a project manager and music therapist, says. “And seeing that we had an impact on the CFD encourages and inspires me.”

“We demonstrated that we were also a high performance team,” Latisha, a sales representative for Home Depot, says. “When we proposed the idea for our project, we had no idea the level it would reach.”

“We utilized everything we had learned up to that point in Olivet’s program,” Janet, a confectioner, says. “And we helped a high performing team perform at an even higher level.”

Cadets enrolled in Olivet's Roaring Tiger ROTC Battalion