Faculty Spotlight

Respect and admiration at the heart of Brandman’s mother-daughter collaborations

May 05, 2016
Helen Eckmann and Laura Galloway; Beck Wilson and Kat Ringenbach

Helen Eckmann and Laura Galloway; Beck Wilson and Kat Ringenbach

Throw the words “mother, daughter and work” into a Google search and you’re likely to get a long list of stories about how to make the mother-daughter relationship work or a shorter list featuring some who have worked together.

We didn’t have to go that far to find two mother-daughter combinations with ties to Brandman University who have done academic research together. The pairs have a great deal in common.

Spend a few minutes talking to School of Business and Professional Studies faculty members Helen Eckmann and Laura Galloway and you can see why slightly puzzled students have been known to approach them to suggest that one reminds them of the other. Ask one of them a question and neither is at a lost for words. Ask them about each other and the admiration pours forth.

“She has always been my biggest fan, always. Whether it was on the athletic field, the volleyball court, I can still hear her voice in the gym. She always wants what’s best for me, always,” said Galloway.

“I think she’s remarkable. I’ve thought that since she was about 2. I value her as a human being. When I see her with her children, the way she mothers, when we’re in meetings and she says something, and I’ll think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” said Eckmann.

Equally supportive and admiring of each other are School of Arts and Sciences faculty member Kat Ringenbach and her daughter Beck Wilson, a junior at Chapman University who also takes classes at Brandman. Like Eckmann and Galloway they were co-presenters and researchers for a presentation at the Lily Conference earlier this year in Newport Beach.

“She’s my best friend,” said Wilson. “She is so inspiring,” said Ringenbach, talking about her daughter’s passion for helping the homeless.

Graduating together

Laura Galloway and Helen Eckmann at the Lilly Conference in Newport Beach.

Laura Galloway and Helen Eckmann at the Lilly Conference in Newport Beach.

Growing up, Eckmann’s family didn’t encourage her to continue her education beyond high school. Instead she went to work, first on an assembly line, then as a receptionist. She “clawed” her way up to secretary eventually landing as a human resources director without benefit of a degree.

It wasn’t until her children started heading off for college that she decided to go as well. At one point Eckmann and all four of her children were at universities, a time she describes as both horrible and fun.

“She and I got our bachelor’s degrees at the same time.” said Galloway, who started college right out of high school. “When I left to move to school, that’s when she went back to school as well. Until that point, I didn’t really know that she hadn’t gotten her bachelor’s degree.”

While Eckmann continued her education and earned a master’s and Ph.D., Galloway started teaching and coaching volleyball. When her husband, a pilot, was stationed at Whidbey Island, Galloway started taking organizational leadership classes at then Chapman University College, mostly to help her better understand team dynamics as coach. “I fell in love with M.A.O.L. classes,” she said. She began teaching at the college level as an adjunct, finished her master’s in organizational leadership and is now full time after recently completing her Ph.D.

While they’re both in the business school, they don’t teach the same courses but are in meetings together at least a couple of times a year. Galloway said she sometimes has to remember not to say “Mom” when referring to Eckmann. “It’s pretty funny when it happens,” she said.

The pair find their dissimilar style of working makes them excellent collaborators. “We’re completely different,” said Eckmann. “I love to start things. I always want to be the person to put together a first draft. And then what Laura does particularly well is tear it all apart and move it around … making it more logical and more interesting. Then she flips it back to me.”

“I think we have a pretty unique ability to navigate these kinds of differences without bringing in a negative mother-daughter history. I know her heart. She knows my heart,” said Galloway.

It’s about respect

Rebecca Wilson and Kat Ringenbach at their Lilly Conference poster session.

Beck Wilson and Kat Ringenbach at their Lilly Conference poster session.

Kat Ringenbach and her daughter Beck Wilson haven’t had a chance to work together on university-level projects as often as Eckmann and Galloway have. Ringenbach turned to Wilson while researching student assessments.

“I was researching positive feedback (on assessments) and everything was from an instructor’s point of view … best practices for instructors. There wasn’t much on how students take feedback, especially the younger generation. How do you give feedback that will be accepted?” said Ringenbach.

Although they didn’t do a formal study, Wilson talked to her peers and helped create a survey for students. They found that the viewpoints of students and instructors overlapped but that students were also more interested in getting feedback about what they did right as well as what they did wrong.

Like Eckmann and Galloway, Ringenbach and Wilson credit their close relationship as mother and daughter for making the project easy to work on together.

“I have a very different parenting philosophy. I’ve treated my children like adults since they were 6 months old. Even babies deserve respect. You get what you give,” said Ringenbach.

Wilson agreed. “I think her treating me as an adult, as a person with their own agency, has really done a lot for me as a human. It showed me that if my parents can treat me with respect even when I’m giving them attitude, I can treat anyone with respect.”

For Wilson, that respect extends to the homeless, the main focus of her multidisciplinary peace studies major at Chapman. “My mother has always strived to make a difference by teaching others. It’s more than a career and I think that really influenced me as a peace studies major. You want to be the one to help people whether by helping people learn or to find shelter or to make them feel human.”

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