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Student-athletes make positive changes through Brenneman Series

Mitch Schurig playing football

From The Ichabod - Spring 2021
By Chris Marshall

Over the past 18 months, Mitch Schurig has witnessed the impact of timely turnarounds.

After Washburn University started the 2019 football season with a 1-4 record, the team’s starting quarterback put his early-season struggles behind him. Schurig threw 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions the rest of the way, leading the Ichabods to five victories in their last six games to finish the year with a winning record.

The cancellation of fall sports robbed Washburn of the opportunity to carry that momentum into 2020, but Schurig, b ed ’20, and several other student-athletes used the down time to learn from a prominent alumnus who wrote the book on turnarounds.

Greg Brenneman, bba ’84, h ’99, the former CEO of such companies as Continental Airlines, Burger King and Quiznos, authored “Right Away and All at Once: Five Steps to Transform Your Business and Enrich Your Life” in 2016 to explain how people can use his business principles to better their personal lives.

For the past two years, Greg and his wife, Ronda, b ed '84, have donated their time and financial resources to create the Brenneman Series, a seven-week program at Washburn built on the groundwork in Greg’s book. Offered to all Washburn students, the series has been a big draw for student-athletes. When COVID-19 brought an abrupt end to the sports calendar in 2020, a separate Brenneman Series cohort was added to handle the demand.

“We thought they’d have a little extra time compared to a normal semester and decided to add a second cohort for student-athletes,” said Marshall Meek, mba ’17, president of the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation.

“The lessons in the book apply to business, your career and your life, but can be applied just as easily to your team in sports.”

Meek co-facilitates the Brenneman Series with Jeff Mott, adjunct instructor. Twenty students are selected per cohort each semester to learn from the Brennemans, along with other speakers, like Advisors Excel co-founder Cody Foster, ba ’99, and JuliAnn Mazachek, Washburn’s vice president for academic affairs.

Schurig, who received his bachelor’s degree in education last fall, will return for one more season as Washburn’s quarterback while pursuing his master’s degree. He said the Brenneman Series provided lessons he applies both on and off the field.

“It’s beneficial to build an A team and surround yourself with people who have your back but hold you accountable as well,” Schurig said. “And no matter what you’re doing, it’s important to learn from both your failures and successes.”

Between practice, games, schoolwork and other extracurricular activities, student-athletes have more obligations than most. Madeline Lysaught, a sophomore business major, said participating in the Brenneman Series while competing on the Washburn tennis team as a freshman showed her how to focus on what she felt mattered long term.

Madeline Lysaught playing tennis“It helped as a business student, but I’m also a very spiritual person, so I loved the personal side of it,” said Lysaught, who is involved in the Leadership Institute and Called to Greatness, a Christian group at Washburn. “One of biggest parts to me was creating a one-page plan for ourselves. Putting that together gave me a visual of what I want to accomplish, who I want to be and be more disciplined in every area of life.”

As much as Brenneman Series participants learn about themselves, the program’s greatest impact is on others. The Brennemans provide $20,000 for each of the program’s cohorts to award to charitable organizations and projects. Philanthropy and giving back are prominent themes in Brenneman’s book. Students pour through applications to determine where the money would be best spent, then allocate $10,000 to Washburn projects and $10,000 to non-profit organizations in the community.

At the start of the seven weeks, students have a broad group of nonprofits to consider, then they narrow the candidates down by factoring in everything from diversity of the organization’s board of directors to the number of people impacted.

“We bring representatives from those organizations in at the end of the program to spend time with the students, and they’re always so overjoyed,” Meek said. “That last session is really powerful. Everyone walks away feeling great about the difference they’ve made.”

A few of the Washburn organizations to receive money included Ichabods Moving Forward, Diversity in Elementary Education and the Washburn University Institute of Technology Care Closet. Topeka groups to receive donations included the Capper Foundation, Doorstep and Communities in Schools.

By the end of the series, the Brennemans have demonstrated to students how positive changes can make a difference, not just in their own lives and careers, but in the community as a whole.

“How many times do students finish a class and get to have a dialogue with the author of their textbook?” Meek said. “For the Brennemans to give this gift and do this program in the first place is excellent, but to be involved each semester and interact with students is really a blessing to students and to Washburn.”

the Ichabod magazine fall 2021

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions

 

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