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Profile: Ellen Katz Johnson

ELLEN KATZ JOHNSON
Master of Business Administration, 2004
President and CEO, The Children’s Home
Cincinnati

Homegrown Values | “I grew up in a family that really valued children,” she says. “I knew a neighbor who was a child psychologist, and I admired what she did. I just felt like my passion was for kids, and when I started studying psychology in college, things just kind of came together.”

Passion for Kids | “I had a psychology degree from the University of Vermont, and I had worked with kids. My goal was to become a child psychologist, so I got started at The Children’s Home, kind of getting my feet wet in my career of choice.”

The Accidental Leader | “I ended up being pulled into the leadership and management side,” she says. Three years ago, Johnson became the first woman president and chief executive officer of the private, non-profit agency that helps children with social, behavioral and learning challenges. “I am proud of being the first woman to ever lead the organization. We’ve been around 144 years, so it’s about time.”

Inspiration | Helping kids with problems, she says, is very satisfying work. “I get to hear kids laughing,” she says. “It’s pretty inspirational. And it is certainly rewarding hearing the stories of kids whose lives have been transformed. I hear from people who benefitted from this organization when they were children, and I hear from parents who talk about how The Children’s Home has made it possible for their children to succeed.”

Helping Troubled Kids | “We have a high school for kids with severe behavior problems. We had a 16-year-old boy from a public high school without a single high school credit. Our staffers know how to work with these kids, and they are amazing. They develop social skills in these kids so they can have more confidence in their abilities. They peel away the social and emotional challenges so they can do their academics.”

Coping | Despite the successes, challenges abound. “It’s very hard work, and the challenges of the kids’ behavior tend to cause a lot of burnout in our staff,” she says. “Fundraising is also challenging. Children can’t advocate for themselves and resources tend to be very limited for these children. Having the community contribute to this organization is incredibly challenging. It’s also challenging to get other people in the community to support a mission they may never have personally been connected to.”

The Future | Johnson says she’s committed to seeing The Children’s Home thrive and grow. “I’m prepared to make a commitment to be in this role at least 10 years because I think that is a good tenure for a CEO in an organization like this,” she says. “We want to have more impact in the community, whether we do it ourselves or through collaboration with other organizations. We don’t need the credit. We just want the communities and the kids and the families who are struggling to be better off.”

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Xavier Magazine

H-E-L-P from the FBI

Former FBI agent David Lichtenfeld donated $2,500 to Xavier’s Department of Criminal Justice as part of the J. Edgar Hoover Memorial Scholarship, an effort that is supported by the Society of Former FBI Agents. “It is important to give back,” says Lichtenfeld. “I’m honored to be able to give back to Xavier.” Lichtenfeld earned his master’s degree in corrections from Xavier in 1982. He retired from the FBI in 1992. “The Department of Criminal Justice is honored by this recognition,” says Criminal Justice Chair Y. Gail Hurst. Hurst noted this is the first time Xavier’s Department of Criminal Justice has been recognized by the Society of Former FBI Agents. The money is being used for scholarships.

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Xavier Magazine

Eigel Center

During his inaugural speech in September 2001, Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J., posed a challenging idea: “What is the great conversation that might occur between [us] if we found ourselves around a common table? What might we study then, teach then, learn then, research, report and write about then?”

The answers are being realized with the help of James and Delrose Eigel, whose gift to the To See Great Wonders capital campaign funded the creation of the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning. The Eigel Center serves as a catalyst for the efforts of faculty, students, administrators and staff to partner with the broader community to promote student learning and community well-being. It answers the call in the University’s strategic plan for a “community-engaged learning network” by serving as its hub. And, most important, it builds on Xavier’s strong tradition of service by encouraging students to dig deeper to discover the mutual benefits of community engagement.

The Center’s objectives are to coordinate and enhance the University’s community-engagement efforts by focusing on supporting faculty initiatives and participation; promoting new opportunities for student engagement; mobilizing resources to support engagement activities; and helping to manage Xavier’s external partnerships.

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Xavier Magazine

WOX on the Roll

The University’s newly created Women of Excellence organization is building momentum as it moves closer toward awarding its inaugural WOX Giving Circle grant this spring. The Giving Circle is a new giving vehicle that allows WOX members to have a direct voice in how their gift is directed. Funds collected through the Giving Circle are distributed to faculty, staff and student groups through a grant application process.

Grant applications are being solicited from faculty through March. An internal review committee will evaluate and provide feedback to all Giving Circle members who will cast the final vote on how the funds are distributed. Grants are being announced at the Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon in April.

To help generate revenue for the grant, WOX is holding a series of Giving Circle events through the winter, including an inaugural event in the on-campus apartment of University President Michael J. Graham, S.J. The event was attended by women serving on the University’s board of trustees and president’s advisory council. Subsequent events were held in Xavier’s Clocktower Lounge in the Gallagher Student Center and at homes of WOX members around the region.

The mission of the Women of Excellence Giving Circle is to provide a collaborative environment for women to come together in support of the University. The Giving Circle provides a more intimate view of individual programs and projects undertaken by faculty, staff and student groups that support Xavier’s mission. The purpose of the Giving Circle grant awards are to support special initiatives undertaken by individuals representing University divisions or departments or University-supported student groups that sustain Xavier’s mission and ultimately enrich the educational experience of its students.

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Xavier Magazine

Bending with Ropes

Before the men’s and women’s swim teams hit the pool this year, they first hit the ropes. The teams spent two days at the high ropes course at Camp Joy in nearby Wilmington, Ohio, for a little bonding and team building. Each swimmer paired up with a partner, and together they had to make it through the course, relying on each other as they edged their way along ropes strung between trees high enough off the ground to make knees wobble.

But it was a good lesson, members say. You have to rely and cheer on your teammates, whether you’re in the pool or walking a tightrope.

The hope is their experience helps propel them to somehow improve on last year’s efforts, in which both programs rewrote the history books. The women were runners-up in the Atlantic 10, while the men were third in the A-10—both remarkable feats considering the teams don’t having a diving program to garner extra points.

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Xavier Magazine

Big Island Break

The Xavier cross-country teams took a cross-country trip so they could, well, run cross-country. The teams traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, to compete in the Hawaii Pacific Invitational during fall break in October. Both teams won the event despite agreeing that it was the most difficult course they’ve competed on, mostly because of two 400-meter hills. For a slideshow of their trip, visit www.goxavier.com.

The team used the event to prepare for the Atlantic 10 Championship, which proved fruitful as sophomore Tommy Kauffmann set a school record in the 8K with a time of 24:38, earning him a spot on the All-Conference Team. Senior Becky Clark also made the women’s All-Conference Team. The men finished eighth overall while the women earned fourth place with the lowest point total and second best finish in A-10 Championship history.

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Football Fiances

Congratulations to you, people of Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New England.

If you live in a city with a winning National Football League team, you have more money in your pocket. That’s the intriguing conclusion of research conducted by assistant professor of psychology Christian End and Michael Davis, an economist at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The duo found that an increase in the winning percentage of a city’s NFL team increases the per capita personal income of city residents. The data also suggest that a winning team boosts the growth rate of personal income. “If the team is winning 11 or 12 games a year, it increases per capita income about $160,” says End.

The researchers speculate that’s because a winning team makes people feel better, work harder, become more productive, earn more money and spend more, which bolsters the economy.

Interestingly, though, it only seems to work for football. End and Davis researched the financial impact that victorious Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association teams have on the income of local residents and found there wasn’t any. End says that’s because the NFL is more popular than baseball and basketball, and the impact of NFL success looms larger with football fans.

NFL teams also play far fewer games than baseball and basketball teams, so each game produces a more profound effect. And, the climax of the regular NFL season coincides with the holiday shopping season.

“If I’m happy about the performance of my team, that puts me in a better mood, and we know there’s a relationship between being in a positive mood and spending,” says End.

Don’t worry, though, people of Cincinnati. Or Detroit. Or Kansas City. That doesn’t mean if you live in a town with a losing football team you’re losing money. The correlation seems to only work one way.

“You miss out on an opportunity for gains,” he says, “but I don’t think a losing team decreases your income. Just as a winning team creates more fans and strengthens identification with the team, people leave a losing team. They distance themselves from a losing team. They stop paying attention to the outcomes, and it doesn’t negatively impact them. Fans are pretty resilient, and they cope well with loss. If we didn’t, no one would be sports fans or everyone would cheer for the Harlem Globetrotters because they never lose.”

End, whose specialty is examining how various factors influence the emotions and behavior of sports fans, says that if a hometown team is winning, then hometown fans feel like winners themselves and feel more competent. “If you feel that way about yourself, your capabilities and your performance, maybe that makes you more productive,” he says. “And that increase in productivity can account for some of these economic gains.”

End and Davis came to their conclusion that successful NFL teams boost the incomes of local residents by extending the research of Brad Humphreys and Dennis Coates, who studied data from 1969-1998 and found that a team that wins the Super Bowl increases the personal incomes of local residents. End and Davis checked on the winning percentages of all teams each season during that time and compared them to personal income levels. To further pinpoint the connection between the NFL and personal income, the pair took into account various other factors that hurt or helped particular areas, such as a natural disaster or a high-technology economic boom.

The study recently was published in the scholarly journal Economic Inquiry, and it’s garnered a lot of attention from newspapers around the country. Not all the reaction has been positive, though.

“I’ve received some hate mail from people saying, ’How dare you publish something like this?’ because they think it’s going to lead to more people pumping in more tax money to build stadiums,” says End. “You never know how easily you can offend somebody just based on a result that you’ve found. We’re not saying this justifies putting an NFL franchise in your town or building a new stadium. The research is basically a correlation, and we don’t know for sure what the cause of this effect is. We can only speculate on it. We say in our research paper that if you have an NFL team, this research encourages you to put pressure on the owners of your team to produce a winning product.”

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