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Graduating Roosevelt student who lost everything to address fellow graduates

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Grant Ladniak
Grant Ladniak
“I’ve always thought highly of Grant. He’s good at outreach, he’s got an organizational head and the ability to make things happen, and I know he will be successful in the years to come.” Chuck Middleton President Emeritus of Roosevelt University

Grant Ladniak, a Roosevelt University Master’s in Organization Development student, understands the importance of failure.

“Failure is not the opposite of success.  Failure is a necessary step to success,” said Ladniak, a 30-year-old LGBTQ activist who believes in his future ability to make positive change in workplace environments, now that he has learned how to navigate unexpected change to his own personal circumstance.

Ladniak was on track to success after graduating in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Roosevelt University, where he learned the importance of being a socially conscious citizen determined to give back to his community.

Focused on diversity and giving back to others, the new Roosevelt graduate worked for a Chicago nonprofit and volunteered with a number of organizations including the Chicago Women’s AIDS project, the Chicago AIDS Foundation, the Center on Halsted, the Howard Brown Health Center, as well as area food pantries.

Then, in 2016, he was involved in an accident that presented him with a new set of challenges.  Before he could get his bearings, he lost his job and then his home in the weeks that followed.

“I’d love to stand here and tell you I gracefully navigated through all of those challenges, but I didn’t.  I fell, and I fell hard, and I probably made every possible mistake one could make along the way,” said Ladniak, who will address his fellow graduates at Roosevelt’s 10 a.m. Commencement ceremony.

Ladniak credits Roosevelt University, including former President Chuck Middleton, who has been one of his mentors, with helping him make it through difficult times.

“I owe a lot of my success to President Middleton,” said Ladniak who first met the former president as an undergraduate without enough finances to finish college.  At that time, Roosevelt provided Ladniak with scholarship support that enabled him to finish his last semester and get his bachelor’s degree.

“He believed in me at that time and has been a role model for me ever since,” said Ladniak of Middleton.

In the aftermath of the accident and a myriad of setbacks, Ladniak hit the reset button, returning as a graduate student to Roosevelt University. “I knew I had a natural talent not only in understanding people, but also as a problem solver to unique challenges posed by  diverse groups of people,” said Ladniak, who finished the online Master’s in Organization Development coursework at a record pace in a single year’s time, with a 4.0  GPA, all the while living out of his backpack.

“I’ve always thought highly of Grant. He’s good at outreach, he’s got an organizational head and the ability to make things happen, and I know he will be successful in the years to come,” said Middleton, who nominated Ladniak to be a student Commencement speaker.

Today, the Roosevelt student sits on the Leadership Council of Out & Equal Chicagoland and the Associate Board of the AIDS Foundation Chicago. After graduation, he hopes to become even more involved in volunteerism and activism.

Above all, Ladniak believes misfortune led him to understand the real meaning of accountability - a quality he is convinced exists in every great leader.

“The important thing is not to shy away from negative experiences, but to embrace them. After all, failure is life’s greatest teacher. Accept responsibility for your mistakes and you will expedite your own personal growth. I want to thank you Roosevelt University and my dear friends for helping me along my way.”

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