Maria Rodriguez-Furlow says she isn’t exactly sure why her name came up — although she has some theories — but she’s ultimately glad it did.
Indeed, her participation in the upcoming Dancing with the Stars-like competition — which will certainly comprise the defining moments of Bay Path University’s second annual President’s Gala on June 2 at the Sheraton in Springfield — will be fun and support a very good cause: college scholarships for women and men who need them.
But it will also be poignant, if not symbolic, on several levels.
And this brings us back to that question about why she was chosen as a contestant.
While Rodriguez-Furlow likes to dance and her colleagues at Bay Path’s American Women’s College recognize that — “they know that when there’s music and there’s me, I’m moving,” she said — there’s more to her selection, she believes.
And it comes down to the fact that she embodies just the type of individual who will likely receive one of these scholarships — she’s a non-traditional student in every sense of that phrase — and this dance competition, like her decision to go to college somewhat later in life, was a leap of faith.
“I decided to complete my undergraduate degree as an adult — I was in my mid-30s at the time, I had a full-time job, I had two young kids,” said Rodriguez-Furlow, adjunct faculty hiring manager for the American Women’s College. “And I enrolled in what was called the Saturday program; you went for 12-hour days. I was scared, but I knew that earning a degree was something I needed to do for myself.”
In press releases from the university concerning the event, Rodriguez-Furlow’s name is followed by ’10 G’12. Roughly translated, that means she earned her bachelor’s degree from Bay Path in 2010 and her MBA two years later. It also means she’s already ‘danced a mile in their shoes,’ the name given to the president’s gala and a nod to the challenges facing those who will receive the scholarships it generates.
We’ll get back to Rodriguez-Furlow for more thoughts on that later, but first, her competition for that night in June: two members of the business community who have agreed to step out of their comfort zones — way, way out, if you listen to them.
Indeed, Patty Faginski says the woman who called to ask her to participate let her know something intriguing was up by prefacing her query with another one: “are you sitting down?”
She was, which helped, Faginski told BusinessWest.
As for Delcie Bean, who really needs no introduction in this space, but we’ll do it anyway — he’s the founder and president of Paragus Strategic IT and also a Bay Path trustee — he said his participation in this event came about not with a single phone call, but maybe six to nine months of “gentle prodding and light encouragement” by his estimates.
To put things in perspective, when asked just how far out of his comfort zone Bean was stepping with this assignment, he kept his answer short, sweet, and direct.
“As far as you can imagine.”
But like his two competitors, he never really considered saying ‘no,’ because, and we’re paraphrasing here, the cause is that good, the challenge is that intriguing, and the message sent by taking part is that compelling.
“I think it’s relatively easy to donate one’s time or even money to an organization you support,” said Bean. “However, being willing to step well outside of your comfort zone and learn a brand new skill in order to help support the organization felt more meaningful and impactful to me, and aligns with my desire to support the organization in any way that I can.”
Elaborating, he said it did take all those months of prodding to get him to do this. And while he already considers himself a winner just by participating, should be win the coveted mirror-ball trophy that goes to the champion?
“I would proudly display it right on my desk,” he told BusinessWest, “as it would represent me overcoming my fear, stepping outside my comfort zone, and, in the end, being successful.”
Faginski echoed those thoughts. She said she was first approached a few months ago and said her one of her first thoughts was ‘I always wanted to take dance lessons,’ or words to that effect.
And now, she is, along with her fellow competitors. Those lessons are being provided by Daryll (a Bay Path graduate) and Gynnar Sverrisson. There’s one a week, said Faginski, adding, with a laugh, that such a volume of instruction is certainly needed as she learns a dance called the ‘jive.’
As for Rodriguez-Furlow, she said having already walked a mile in the shoes of those for whom the scholarships are intended made it easy to agree to dance another mile.
“That’s why I didn’t hesitate when I was asked,” she explained, adding that, through her experiences with first gaining her bachelor’s degree and then her MBA, Bay Path has enabled her to believe she can accomplish pretty much anything she sets her mind to.
And that includes winning the mirror-ball trophy.
She’s not sure that will happen, but she is sure, as are her competitors, that they’ve already won something important just by competing.
The real winners, of course, are those who will receive the scholarships generated by this truly unique event.
For more information on the event, visit www.baypath.edu/gala.