Balancing school, work and family is something one might say Kenya Works is an expert in. That’s because she’s been doing it for more than 20 years.
Several months after Kenya graduated from high school, her daughter was born, which delayed Kenya’s college education by a couple of years. Initially, Kenya enrolled at a community college. However, that was interrupted when Kenya’s former husband’s military position took them first to the Fort Bragg Army Base in North Carolina, and then to Germany.
“I took a long break from school and worked,” Kenya explained. “I returned to Chicago and held positions in accounts receivable and operations with Keebler, Chas. Levy Circulating Company and BP.”
Once her daughter got older, Kenya had the opportunity to return to school, earning her Associate of Arts degree in general studies from Olive Harvey College, Chicago, in 1998. After that, she took another break from school, and in 2008 enrolled at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus as a part-time student in the Walter E. Heller College of Business Administration (WEHCBA) majoring in accounting. Since then, she’s been focused on her studies at Roosevelt with a full-time position in accounts receivable at Robert Half International, Inc., a staffing firm. Kenya was really happy to find Roosevelt’s suburban campus located so conveniently to her home and workplace in the Northwest suburbs. The short commute allows her to spend her time on work and school, not in traffic.
Roosevelt University also appealed to Kenya because “it has a reputation for being academically competitive, and its graduates are highly respected in professional circles,” she noted.
Kenya describes the WEHCBA faculty as business experts who “not only have credentials in education, but also have extensive professional backgrounds working in the field,” which provides students with a blend of current theories and real-world access. Among Kenya’s favorites are Josetta McLaughlin and Peter Haslam.
Dr. McLaughlin, a full-time, associate professor of management who focuses on ethical business practices, uses an innovative approach to teach socially responsible leadership and sustainability. “She encouraged us to broaden our minds and not just think about accounting or finance,” Kenya said. “How you treat people in business really does matter.”
Mr. Haslam, director of revenue and cash accounting at Office Max and Grand & Toy retailers, teaches accounting classes on a part-time basis at Roosevelt. Kenya took two accounting classes from him and said that he did a great job of making theoretical concepts concrete by showing how they apply in the workplace. He used examples from his company and assigned students to present real scenarios from their jobs in class.
Peter views Kenya with mutual respect. “Kenya is very good at tying her real world experience to her academic learning. She also does an excellent job sharing her real world experience with the rest of class in a way that enhances the other students’ understanding of the material. Kenya also balances work, school and her own family responsibilities admirably, and is a shining example to other non-traditional students who are considering going back to school,” he said.
Another strength of Roosevelt’s business administration program that Kenya cites is the camaraderie among classmates. The willingness of fellow students to share knowledge and challenge each other has helped Kenya better develop her business acumen.
Kenya is proud of her position at Robert Half, where she is a Circle of Excellence, President’s Circle winner, an honor employees receive through the nominations of peers and/or supervisors. “Our company has strong ethical values that come from the CEO,” Kenya said. No doubt that’s a good reinforcement of the values taught by Roosevelt professors, such as Josetta McLaughlin.
When she is not at work or school, Kenya loves to get into Chicago, where she grew up, and enjoy the museums, theater and fine dining. Her appreciation of theater comes from her dad, who took their family to see plays while she was growing up. Her current favorites are Victory Gardens Theater and Timeline Theatre on the north side, and ETA Theatre on the south side.
Of course, a big part of Kenya’s life is her family. Her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live at Scott Air Force Base, near St. Louis, where her son-in-law is stationed in the military. Kenya visits them every chance she gets.
Kenya also finds the time to volunteer. In the past, she helped out at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and more recently, she has worked with the Bottomless Closet organization in Chicago, which provides clothing and professional advice to people who are turning their lives around by going back to work, but who cannot afford business attire at the outset. She took vacation time so she could volunteer with them, and she says it’s worth it because, “It’s important to give back to the community.”
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