Choosing the Nontraditional Path to Service
The pandemic has made everyone think more deeply about wellbeing. But being well is multi-faceted — more than the physical body, more than a negative COVID-19 test. During these atypical times, three Dominican University alumnae/i are giving new meaning to compassionate service by using their Dominican graduate degrees in nontraditional ways to aid the spiritual, physical and social-emotional health of others.
Spiritual Health in the Workplace
Jim Revelle, MCR ’16
It’s a sunny spring afternoon at Sara Lee’s corporate offices in Oak Brook as Jim Revelle — with a friendly smile and a bit of small talk — gets down to work.
It starts with a visit to the desk of customer support specialist Alyssa Diaz, who has been helping her husband with the emotional task of moving his great-grandparents into assisted living. Revelle nods understandingly and shares a similar story of a time when he, too, took on the task of helping someone through a life transition.
The conversation lasts no more than 10 minutes, but for Diaz, it’s a bright spot in her workweek.
“I really look forward to Tuesdays,” she said. “I have an outlet I can go to.”
Revelle is a corporate chaplain, offering confidential supportive care and conflict resolution services to employees of eight different companies across northern and central Illinois.
At a time when work-life balance is crucial, Revelle’s role is critical in helping employees
address stress to improve their spiritual and emotional health. A retired Christian minister, Revelle’s work is non-denominational and aimed at building trust with employees, so he can help them through workplace conflict or talk them through stressful situations in their work or personal lives.
“I call it long-term relationships in 30-second increments,” Revelle says.
Revelle credits his Master’s in Conflict Resolution degree, which he earned from Dominican University in 2016, with propelling him toward a new career path with Corporate Chaplains, a nonprofit company supplying chaplains to businesses across the United States.
“What interested me in this program was that you could study more deeply the nuances of conflict,” Revelle said of the MCR degree. “Not every conflict is resolved — sometimes you just have to manage conflict — but how you address it and what creates conflict intrigued me to study it.”
For Ratisha Bolin, a supply chain leader with Sara Lee, Revelle’s visits are “a blessing.”
“Last year, I went through a lot of losses in my family,” she said. “Jim walked me through the process and was supportive along the way.” While Bolin was away from work during this time, it was Revelle who checked in to see how she was coping.
“He actively texted me, he let me know he was praying for me,” she said. “That really told me I don’t just add value here for what I do, but I add value here because of who I am.”
Helping to address challenges occurring outside the workplace that can impact one’s work and productivity are all part of Revelle’s job, and he is available to anyone who needs a safe space to talk.
Easing Access to Healthy Nutrition
Samar Kullab, MS ’20
Approaching 1 million followers across three social media platforms, Samar Kullab has entered celebrity territory. It’s a comparison the licensed dietitian and nutritionist laughs off.
“I do not feel like a celebrity,” she says. “But it is really funny having people run into me at Whole Foods and say, ‘I follow you on TikTok.’”
Known by her handle “chicago.dietitian,” Kullab has amassed her large online following through the numerous short videos she has created in an effort to encourage healthy eating.
“A lot of people don’t have access to a dietician,” Kullab explained. “The fact that I’m able to do this for people and they don’t have to pay to have this information makes me really happy. I can also be myself. It’s one thing to be in a professional setting and another to be yourself and share things in a fun way.”
Whether it’s mixing a social media influencer’s $17 smoothie in a high-rise kitchen with sweeping city views, hitting a Wendy’s drive-thru for foods on the healthier side of the fast-food giant’s menu, mixing up protein-packed “power jars” for lunch, or taking a trip to Trader Joe’s and Aldi to highlight some must-have, affordable meals, Kullab is communicating it all on social media.
“I really focus on two things: Weight loss and general nutrition tips,” Kullab said. “But weight loss is one of my big ones.”
Initially, Kullab’s social media work was a part-time passion, but in September 2021 she took the proverbial plunge and quit her job as an outpatient dietician to invest full-time in online content creation when more and more companies began offering to fund her videos if she featured their brands.
As the offers poured in, Kullab inked a deal with an agency that works directly with the companies looking for social media influencers to help market their products. The agency handles the legal contracts and negotiates payments.
Kullab attributes this success to consistently sharing high-quality content on her sites and having the credentials and experience to back up the information she shares.
Because so many people turn to social media for nutritional advice, it’s important they are receiving it from licensed professionals like Kullab, noted Dr. Sarah Jones, Kullab’s former professor.
“We need experts out there disseminating accurate, evidence-based information and it’s really neat to see Samar do this in a hip and trendy way,” Jones said. “I’m so impressed by her andwhat she’s done. I’m glad I was part of the journey with her.”
A New Way to Help Students Succeed
Brian Manjarrez ’15, MSW ’19
There is an assumption some Morton West High School students make upon hearing their school’s intervention program acronym.
“When they hear BARR, high school students assume we’re meeting at a bar,” Brian Manjarrez, the coordinator of the program, says with a chuckle. “No, we’re here at school, talking about you at our BARR meetings.”
BARR—which stands for Building Assets, Reducing Risks—is an educational model using data and relationships between students and their teachers, counselors and social workers to improve student performance, behavior and social-emotional health.
Manjarrez is using his Master’s in Social Work from Dominican to lead the program at Morton West, one of 12 schools in Illinois to implement it to date.
Manjarrez says he was drawn toward social work after receiving his Bachelor of Psychology degree from Dominican and joining the organization Dominican Volunteers, which placed him at a homeless shelter in Racine, Wisconsin.
“That’s what led me to the social work route,” he said. “But I always knew I wanted to be in a school setting.”
Used in more than 200 schools around the country, the BARR Model is centered around building on student strengths, proactively addressing the non-academic reasons why a student may not be succeeding in school, and identifying local resources to help them.
At Morton West, the program, funded through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focuses on freshmen.
Teachers may refer a student to BARR if they identify problems with classroom performance, behavior, attendance and motivation, Manjarrez explained. After receiving a referral, a team of school professionals consider the best intervention options. This may include recommending the student take part in the Tapestry program, which offers mentoring, socialemotional
support and resources to families. Other options include meeting with parents or providing additional support from social workers.
Many students experience challenges at home that affect how they do in school, Manjarrez noted.
“Some of them might be taking care of siblings and because of that, they forget to do their homework or are late to do it,” he said. “Another thing is parent involvement. A parent might not be at home when the student is there, so they don’t have the motivation to do the work or get involved.”
As coordinator of the program, Manjarrez monitors and tracks the student interventions.
“I hope each student is aware that we are watching out for them and that we care about their education,” he said. “We want them to understand we are a support for them and not just people who lecture in classrooms.”