In 2001, Bernie Dana, an executive and consultant left the business world he knew to give back to his alma mater, Evangel University, as a professor. He funneled his years of experience in quality management into his classrooms in Springfield, Missouri.
“I came to the University understanding that the students are my customers. What can I do to really help them transition in life? I always look for fun ways to engage them in the classroom,” Dana said.
In his Strategic Management class he emphasizes quality, developing strategies and continuous improvement. He also teaches a Human Behavior class focused on culture, leadership and empowering employees.
“Teaching is a whole lot more work than I thought it was going to be, but I love it,” he said. “I love bringing real life situations in the classroom.”
The first thing Dana did when he arrived in Springfield in 2001 was seek out a company that exemplified the concepts he taught in class. When he came across Tuthill, a manufacturing company in Springfield, MO, he knew he had found something special.
Dana described his first class visit at Tuthill. “It was the best visit they had.”
For 16 years, Dana has continued to bring his Evangel students to Tuthill to better understand lean manufacturing and the value of culture.
Dana has witnessed first-hand, Tuthill growth on its cultural and lean manufacturing journey. Years ago, he recalled seeing a pile of “a million dollars-worth of inventory” in a corner. Now he sees Tuthill’s embrace of the notion of “inventory as waste.” He sees their strong dedication to kaizen events and real-time problem solving. He said these practices are “not something that’s just talked about. It’s something they can see for real.” He also noticed a shift toward having an intentional focus on culture in the presentations to the students.
Dana is appreciative to Tuthill for opening their doors and hearts to his students. “Tuthill actually wants [the students] to come. He said it means a great deal to see Tuthill leadership involved in the visits, and they always give the student nice giveaways. “It’s like, ‘Oh wow, they think we’re important. We’re going to invest in you.’” Dana said.
The professor also invests greatly in his students. “He’s just someone that cares so much. He has dedicated hours and hours to his students,” Emily Bye, his student said of Dana. “He wants you to dig deeper and figure it out for yourself while he comes along and helps you. He’s a great mentor he’s a great professor and I’m really thankful to have him in my life.”
Below is a quote Dana often recites in his classroom. Dana said that he’s amazed when students from 10 years prior tell him of the impact this quote, and all has done has had on their lives.
“I can’t help the way I feel right now, but I can help the way I think and act.”