Ed.D. grads spread hope with SurviveArt
The wrong hotel, an understanding listener, long car rides and a shared passion for life-long learning aren’t the most obvious steps to creating a nonprofit. But for Chris Fuzie and Jeremy McMullen, they were definitely part of the formula that led to SurviveArt.
An even more important component was being part of the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in organizational leadership program at Brandman University. Both graduated in spring 2016. Their nonprofit officially launched in September.
SurviveArt provides hope and support for “life’s many types of survivors through the production, use and sale of donated art.” For instance, artwork in the form of greeting cards is now for sale at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Friend-to-Friend gift shop at Mount Zion Hospital.
“The proceeds from these cards will help our outreach to low-income and teenage girls with cancer who can’t afford a wig or a mastectomy bra while they’re undergoing treatment,” wrote Marguerite Wilhite of the Friend to Friend shop.
Fuzie knows both the shop and the work that UCSF does with cancer patients well. He was once a cancer patient at Mount Zion. Six months after retiring from a career in law enforcement, Fuzie found himself walking through the cancer treatment lobby thinking “Oh, woe is me,” only to realize that people who had it much worse than he did were still smiling.
“I thought, if they can smile, I can smile. It can’t be that bad,” said Fuzie. When he told that story to his Ed.D. cohort, his Modesto–Visalia cohort mentor John Halverson told him he needed to tell that story because it provides hope for other people.
“He said, ‘You should be a dealer in hope.’ That made me think about how you do that,” said Fuzie. “I like doing photography. I’m kind of an arts kind of guy. I was taking pictures of beautiful scenery and thinking about hope and having a survivor mentality, so I started writing captions for each picture. I call them thought photos.”
That’s when McMullen entered the picture. The pair met at their first immersion session in Irvine. McMullen had taken the train from Lemoore, California, ended up at the wrong hotel and rode his bike about five miles to the right hotel and found a sympathetic (and sweat-forgiving) listener in Fuzie.
“We started talking and hit it off,” said McMullen. While the rest of the cohort had a common bond in education, McMullen’s career in the Navy and then as a civilian with the Army and Fuzie’s in law enforcement gave them something else to talk about.
For subsequent immersions, “Chris became my chauffeur,” said McMullen, who was happy to give up the train and bicycle routine. Those long car rides from the Central Valley gave them plenty of time to talk about their courses and their dreams.
“One of the times I picked Jeremy up, I said ‘this is what I’m thinking of – coming up with a company or maybe even a nonprofit with survivors of cancer. So then he starts talking about all the other kinds of survivors,” said Fuzie.
“I was just talking about how everybody is a survivor. We wanted a way to spread hope and creativity and feeling through everyone sharing their stories and their art. A lot of artists don’t want to sell it but are willing to give it away, especially if helping a charity of their choice,” said McMullen.
“Jeremy started talking about his daughter (Samantha McMullen) doing art therapy. His whole family is a bunch of artists. That got me thinking about how doing the art is therapeutic,” said Fuzie. “You start thinking about all the different possibilities … it was fun to talk about. Creating the art is a form of therapy. Knowing that your art will help someone else is also powerful.”
“Then we had to make a deal not to launch it while we were going through the (Ed.D.) program,” said McMullen. “So we finished so we could change the world through SurviveArt.”
They were the first in their cohorts to complete their dissertations, they agree, because they pushed, encouraged and held each other accountable. They also found themselves applying what they were learning through coursework and through the programs required transformational change project, including working out a vision, a mission and core values.
“Had we not had that, it would have been a lot more difficult. It (doing a transformational change project) provided the concepts for what it should be like,” said Fuzie.
They also use what they learned in their work outside the nonprofit. Fuzie, who had 28 years in law enforcement, retiring as a homicide lieutenant, was already running his own consulting business training other police officers. He wanted to earn his Ed.D. in part because he needed the leadership credibility to match the “positional creditability” that chiefs of police and other high-ranking officers in his classes often had.
McMullen supports 241 Army recruiters throughout central California in his regular job. “I guess I have an educational chip on my shoulder. I left high school at 16 when they first came up with the high school proficiency exam. I was trying to grow up too fast,” he said. When he enlisted in the Navy, his first station was Lemoore Naval Air Station, where he quickly learned that a proficiency exam was not the same as a high school diploma. “I was in the first graduating class for high school at the base,” he said. Eventually, he earned a bachelor’s, then a master’s and now a doctorate, going through his second Lemoore commencement ceremony 28 years after the first one. This time, he was also a speaker (See video, here).
“We overcame all the obstacles put in front us,” said McMullen, referring to life, the Ed.D. program and creating a nonprofit. But there are still goals to conquer.
“My plan is to have SurviveArt go throughout the whole world,” said Fuzie. “But that might take a while.”
SurviveArt For more information about SurviveArt, go to www.surviveart.org. To make donations, to donate art, tell survivor stories, or buy art from other survivors, visit http://www.surviveart.org/get-involved. The proceeds will go towards charities that have partnered with SurviveArt. Charity organizations that would like to partner with SurviveArt can register at http://www.surviveart.org/organization-registration.
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