About Dr. Leslie D. Sukup
Dr. Leslie Sukup is currently an Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University where she is currently teaching Team Dynamics-Organizational Behavior, Quality-Operations Management, Business Integrated Experience CAPSTONE, Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Managerial Leadership, Leadership and Organizational Change, and International Logistics courses.
Additionally, she is also the Business Administration Program Coordinator, the academic advisor for the Business Professionals of America Registered Student Organization, and the chair of the College of Business Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
Previously to her current position, Dr. Leslie Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. During this time, she held numerous leadership roles such as the Superintendent of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, and a variety of instructional roles including Air Force One Advance Agent training.
Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service including the Meritorious Service Award, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Information Manager of the Year, Quality Inspection Professional Performer, and numerous others. Dr. Sukup is also a certified Master Resilience Trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students in resilience skills.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:01):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Dr. Leslie Sukup. Dr. Sukup is currently an associate professor of management at Ferris State University, where she is currently teaching team dynamics, organizational behavior, quality operations management business, integrated experience, the cap stone version, business ethics, and social responsibility, managerial leadership, leadership, and organizational change and international logistics courses. Additionally, she’s also the business administration program coordinator, the academic advisor for the business professionals of America registered student organization and the chair of the college of business committee on diversity and inclusion previous to her current positions. Dr. Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also active duty in the US Air Force for 25 years. During this year, she held numerous leadership roles such as the superintendent of the air force agency for modeling and simulation and a variety of instructional roles, including air force. One advanced agent training, Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service, including the meritorious service award joint service commend medal information manager of the year quality inspection, professional performer and numerous others. Leslie is also a certified master resilience trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students and resilient skills. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and I will see you on the other side. Leslie, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Big pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (02:52):
Thanks. Thanks for having me, Sam. My name is Leslie Sukup. I happen to be a, a faculty member here at Ferris State University, where I teach in the management department in the college of business. I teach a wide variety of management classes. I’m also the business administration program coordinator, the business professionals of America our registered student organization advisor. I am also the chair of the college of business committee and inclusion. So I think I’ve covered all of my different committees and responsibilities, but it, again, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Sam Demma (03:35):
Tell us a little more about the journey that brought you to where you are now.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (03:41):
Oh, great question. So the journey started when I actually, it started when I was 16 years old. So this is the time when I tracked down the air force recruiter and I was told I could not enlist in the air force. I had to wait a year. So I waited a year and tracked them down again, enlisted in the air force. And I thought when I graduated high school, I would just do four years in the air force and get out and go along my, my Merry way into whatever I had at that time, which at that time was PO potentially going into the secret service. However, I made it to my first duty station and I met my husband. That changed things. He was, he had been in the air force longer than I had and, and it was, it was easier to stay in so we could go to different places.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (04:47):
And I was enjoying my job at the time and I said, okay, not a, not a, not a problem, but I also had a lot of teaching opportunities and instructor opportunities in the year of force. And I found that I really loved the experience. I loved making a positive impact on different people that I instructed. It was very heartwarming to see people grow and develop. And I especially loved the aha moment, you know, or they get that, that big light bulb on top of their head. And you can see that they really grasp what you are teaching or instructing. So this led me to think, okay, I, I’m probably a lifer for staying in the military, but on top of that, I need to think about the second chap. So I thought, well, I really enjoy teaching and why not marry those two together?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (05:50):
So while I was active duty, I finished my bachelor’s degree, my master’s and I finished my doctorate one year before I was to retire from the air force. Wow, great, great timing. so when I retired from the air force, I started to apply to different institutions, higher education institutions, and one of them happened to be fair state university. And I was very lucky that I got selected or was hired into, into the job that I’m in. Now. I, I love this university. I love the, the culture, the small town feel it’s, it’s really, really what I is meant to do. And I can say that coming into work is never a chore. I never dread it. In fact, every day is kind of like opening a box of chocolates. Mm-Hmm you never know what you’re gonna get, but it’s always a positive feel. And I love being that change agent, the positive change agent to all of my students, it’s it really is a very rewarding job. And I’m very thankful to have chosen this as a second chapter for me.
Sam Demma (07:07):
I think every educator that’s listening to this right now is thinking the exact same thing about their work, which is absolutely awesome. You brushed over a and almost didn’t even mention the fact that while you were working with the military, you started doing sessions on resiliency. Can you talk a little bit more about your role as a master trainer and resiliency and also where that passion stem from and how you define resilience?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (07:36):
Oh, absolutely. So I’ll start off with the definition of resilience or my definition. And my definition of resilience is that you are able, when you encounter adversity, you are able to bounce back stronger than you were before. Mm. And that means that you may have learned new skills. You have learned just a, a different way of approaching a problem, but either way you’ve come back stronger than you were initially based upon that experience. And my love for resilient grew probably before I actually started to teaching resilience, but the two married up very well together. When I was 20, I had just turned 22. My dad passed away unexpectedly three days before Christmas, actually two days before Christmas and 1996. And he was 44 years old and totally unexpected that shook my world. Plus at the time I was about to PCs from my permanent changes station. So I was moving from my first duty station all the way up the east coast. So from Florida all the way up to Massachusetts, and when you’re going through that much change during the holidays, it’s a lot.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (09:14):
And that experience taught me a lot about resilience. So when I started teaching resilience in the air force, it was taking my life experiences, but also providing them with stories in the classroom, but really seeing the impact of teaching resilience to others can have on their lives. I’ve had, I’ve heard so many heartwarming stories where individuals have taken the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom and have improved their lives for the better it’s. I have so many stories. There’s no, there’s not enough time in, in a podcast to cover ’em all , but to see the improvement in their relationships, to see the improvement in their personal lives, their professional lives, and to see them become better people overall that’s where my research passion for resilience came about. It’s also the reason why I add resilience into my, all of my classes, because it has such a powerful impact, not just on myself, because it’s a way of boosting my own resilience, but it’s a, it’s also lending my students to become positive change agents in the world because they’re learning a little bit more about resilience and, and maybe not all of the tools and techniques resonate with them, but they’re gonna be able to take one away with them that does, and that can potentially help them later on in life.
Sam Demma (10:59):
Yeah, it’s so true. Resiliency is a tool that you need to pack in your toolkit or in your backpack, because it’s not a matter of if something will happen that challenges you, it’s a matter of when, at some point in all of our lives. Can you tell us a little bit more about your transition from working with the army to getting into the classroom? What was that transition like and how did you adjust and adopt this new role?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (11:31):
Great, wonderful question. So that anytime that you’re moving from one culture to another, it, it can be a little unsettling. And because I had spent 25 years in the air force, you know, this is something where you’re wearing a uniform every day. You, for females, you have to have your hair up and you are expected to act a certain way, which is called your military bearing. And once that goes away, it, for some, it could be a form of a loss of identity, but I found per personally the transition to be fairly easy. And I think that’s because there was a lot of change occurring those last few years while I was in the military. And because at that time I had finished my doctorate degree. I also had my so second baby. She was, she was born two weeks after I defended my dissertation.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (12:40):
So it was, that was part of my motivation to get it done because I knew that having another baby after, and I already had a small, small child at the time. And my oldest daughter, I knew adding another one into the mix would make it a little bit more difficult to reach that finish line. So my motivation was high to make sure I got everything done before, before she was born. But she was also born with CDH, which is Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. And that mean, that meant that when she was born, she had 18 people in the in the operating room just for her. Cause I had to have a, a C-section and, you know, she was Whis away to the, to the NICU and she survived she’s she’s my warrior. But when you have all of these moving pieces happening, it’s, it’s a lot. But I also leaned upon my resilience and what I had learned myself, but also what I had taught to others. And I think that made the transitioned really, really fluid for me. It was almost like just taking off the uniform and putting on a different uniform, you know, more, a little bit more business professional, but you know, it was still putting on clothes and going to work. And I, I, I think it, I, I think I, it, well,
Sam Demma (14:18):
That’s awesome. And speaking of transitions, everyone that works in education went through a couple of massive transitions over the past 24 months, relating to COVID and going to online learning and back to in person learning back to online learning. How did you deal with those transitions and what do you think were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (14:41):
Oh, the, yes, the last couple of years have been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but I found that the way to make it through, it was one, be honest with the students, they’re going through the same journey as you. They’re not expecting you to know it all. They’re just expecting you to be real and to be clear with the communication and transparent. Yeah. You know, don’t pull any punches, don’t try to, to change things to where it may be more difficult or, you know, adding additional hurdles. But I found that that open communication really lended itself to keeping that cohesive this with my class and, you know, telling them, okay, we’re gonna try something new. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll throw it to the side. But if it does all right, you know, no, no harm, no foul, but that communication piece was, was huge.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (15:49):
But I also took the time to reflect after all of my classes to figure out, okay, what didn’t go so well, mm-hmm, what did it, what do I wish I would’ve done differently? And that helped me to prepare for the next semester. And then also leaning upon others who may have been doing this a little bit further or more with more time under their belt and getting their advice and seeing, okay, how did you approach? I mean, COVID is new, but not online teaching or high flex teaching the different modalities. Those have been in place for a while. So leaning upon the best practices that, that are out there seeking. I did a lot of webinars or zoom sessions with industry leaders and, and others who had that experience just seeing, okay, what other nuggets of knowledge can, can I add to my own toolbox to help create the best experience for my students? Cause really it’s all, I want them to have the best experience to get the most out of the class. So that way, when they graduate, they can be the best of themselves. They can go out and be those positive change. Agents,
Sam Demma (17:07):
Educators are always hunting and on the lookout for other educators, best practices to tools and tips. And I’m curious to know what some of those things have been for you not only during COVID, but potentially through your entire journey and career and education. Are there any tools, ideas, or resources that you have consistently leaned on and learned from and brought into your classrooms?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (17:33):
I think for, for me, it’s always having that open mind is probably one of the, the toolkits per se. But as far as technology, I find that games are very appealing to kids. Whether Kahoot is a big one. I found a new one during my during COVID that I added to my toolbox. And I think the students really like it cuz it adds a different appeal in the classroom. It’s still that quiz based game, but there’s no time associated with it. Mm. And I think that takes away a little bit of that anxiety that some students may have when you have a countdown timer at the top of the screen where it’s going 20, 19 18. And you’re thinking, oh, I don’t know this answer. I guess I gotta pick the best one. So it takes a little bit of that anxiety away, but you can also have the students and teams in the classroom where they’re competing against each other. But it’s, I find that when you add a little bit of fun into the mix that students take more away from the material, cause you’re, you’re tying it into a positive emotion. Do you remember? So games I think are, are really good.
Sam Demma (18:57):
Do you remember what that second quiz-based game is called? Just outta curiosity. Oh sure.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:03):
It’s called GIMKIT.
Sam Demma (19:05):
GI kit, like G I M
Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:07):
GIMKIT. And so surprisingly it was created by a high school student who found that it was boring learning information. And so he took the initiative and created a game that I I think is awesome. And it has a really good function too with reports. So you can see what questions they answered wrong, which ones they got. Right. so that I can take away, even though they’re playing a game, I can still use these reports to tailor the lessons or reinforce material that they might have missed along the way.
Sam Demma (19:47):
Give us an idea of how you leverage that tool. Would it be something you use at the end of a lecture to quiz the class on what you just taught them? Or how do you leverage it?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:00):
Oh, absolutely. So one of the ways that I, I leverage it is by having it right before a test or right before a quiz. So they have read the lessons. Maybe they have watched some videos, they have, we’ve done some lectures, some activities in class. Well now before they jump in to the test or the quiz, they can use this and they can play it as many times as they wish and build boost their confidence.
Sam Demma (20:35):
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate it. Sure. Along with challenges and pivoting, there’s also opportunities. And I’m wondering what you believe are some of the opportunities that the challenges in education that are facing us today are also providing…
Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:55):
Great question. The, I think that one of the opportunities that has arisen from these challenging times is flexibility. I think that the traditional classrooms are probably not going to be the new normal. I think the new normal is going to be that flexibility where students, if they want to attend face to face, they can, or if they want to, you know, they, they overslept. And instead of getting a feeding ticket on the way to class, they can, or they’re just not feeling well. Maybe they got the sniffles well, they can choose to attend via virtual means as well. So I think there’s a lot of, a lot of flexibility, at least in higher education but I also see it happening in K through 12. One of the things my daughter was in first, well, she start, she was at the end of kindergarten when COVID hit.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (21:58):
Mm. First grade was really where she had more virtual days. She had sometime in the seat part of the week, part of the week virtual, but I saw a growth in her that I probably would not have seen if it wasn’t for COVID. She is more tech savvy. Now she, she really blossomed with being virtual and as a parent, I was able to see more of what her world is like. So I think there there’s that opportunity too, on the parent side to be a little bit more involved in the education to see what their student or their child is learning. And maybe for that into a, a stronger bond between the two, cuz we would do homework together. And so she had the teacher teaching part of the lesson, but then when it came time to do the homework by herself, you know, she would, she would ask questions and I would be there to, to kind of help her along. But it was bonding moment as well.
Sam Demma (23:11):
That’s amazing. And that sounds like it was a result of you also being proactive because an opportunity is only as good as what you make of it. And it sounds like you had a growth mindset about the situation, because it’s also true that there could have been people who look at the challenge and said, I’m not changing. I don’t wanna change. There’s nothing good about this and missed out on all those areas of growth that you’re mentioning now. So I think like you said earlier, the flexibility, even in your own perspective is super important to take any adversity and turn it into a, an opportunity. Would you agree?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (23:50):
I do Agree. I think it’s that definitely the growth mindset it’s taking that perspective of, instead of looking at the glass half empty, looking at it as half full and what can you take out of that, that challenging time and turn it around into an opportunity.
Sam Demma (24:08):
I love it. And if you could go back in time and speak to Leslie year one in education, but with all the wisdom and experience that you have now, what advice would you impart on your younger self?
Dr. Leslie Sukup (24:24):
I would say more confidence in yourself, but also be more authentic and not, you’re not just the rule of the professor or the teacher in front of the room, but be more of yourself. And I have noticed that as I’ve brought more of my personality, the true me into the classroom, the students really resonate with that. They, they love seeing you as a human, as opposed to a teacher or professor that figurehead in front of the classroom. But the more authentic you are with students, that’s what I would, that’s what I would give is advice to my earlier self, be more authentic, you know, you’ll be able to enrich those students lives even more so. Yeah.
Sam Demma (25:18):
I love that. I, I think that’s such a good reminder, not only to impact the people you’re affecting, but also just to enjoy life more. If you’re being yourself and you never have to adjust yourself to fit a role or a situation, you’re gonna have more fun too. So that’s a phenomenal piece of advice. Leslie, thank you so much for taking some time to come on the podcast. I really appreciate it. I hope the rest of the year goes well. If someone is wondering how they could reach out to you, ask a question or even talk about resiliency, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?
Sam Demma (26:22):
Right. Awesome. Leslie, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Have a great weekend. And we’ll tell to you soon.
Dr. Leslie Sukup (26:29):
Thank you, Sam. It’s been a pleasure.
Sam Demma (26:32):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the high performing educator podcast. If you or someone, you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the high performing educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022. And I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.
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