Sarah Macrorie, MBA ’20, is the second Oregon Executive MBA student to receive the program’s prestigious Vijaya Nair Transformation Award.
Developed by faculty member Mohan Nair, the award reflects the philosophy of cause-driven business and personal transformation that is the central force of Nair's work and teaching. Cause-based transformation blends service to society with the generation of wealth, using personal transformation as the source. Nair named the award after his living mother Vijaya Nair to honor her lifelong commitment to entrepreneurship and serving others.
“My mother has always asked her children to go beyond simply serving themselves. Rather than waiting until we ‘made it,’ she encouraged us to incorporate giving back from the very beginning of any endeavor,” said Nair.
Macrorie’s project is an e-learning course that will provide managers and HR professionals with tools for dealing compassionately and responsibly with suicide threats in the workplace. She was one of five second-year students to submit proposals for this year's award.
The inspiration for Macorie's winning concept came directly from a challenging situation that occurred in her professional life. During Macrorie's first year as a director at a media and web development company, an employee posted a suicide threat in a public forum.
After successfully resolving the situation with her supervisee, Macrorie looked on the internet for resources to help her understand the best way to respond to a suicide threat. To her surprise, she found little useful information. What she did find focused largely on bureaucratic hurdles: how to navigate workplace rules and regulations and how to deal with issues of corporate legal liability.
“Liability issues are important, of course. But I also wanted to know how to manage staff anxiety around a suicide threat. Most importantly, I found nothing that helped managers respond with humanity and compassion when a suicide threat occurs,” said Macrorie.
Further research revealed to Macrorie the level of impact suicide can have on the workplace. In one year alone in the United States:
- 9.8 million adults had serious thoughts of committing suicide
- 2.8 million adults made suicide plans
- 1.8 made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide
- Nearly 80 percent of people who go through with suicide are working either full time or part time
Having identified this gap in the marketplace, Macrorie will fill it with a resource that is based on research, uses best practices, takes a public-health approach, and is grounded in dignity and compassion. She will partner with researchers and epidemiologists working in adult suicide prevention, human resource specalists, and employment law specialists. The end result with be a scalable e-course that managers and HR professionals can take at their own pace.
Macrorie will receive a tuition scholarship in recognition of her accomplishment. Welcome as this funding is, for Macorie the ultimate reward is the validation of her idea.
"Receiving the Vijaya Nair Transformation Award has given me a tremendous boost in confidence and purpose. I feel I can re-engage with the work of caring with new energy. The award has already made a big impact on my life that I am excited to carry forward," said Macrorie.
The Vijaya Nair Transformation Award is an annual recognition. Current first-year Oregon Executive MBA students are encouraged to begin working on their proposals for next year's competition. Proposals are due by October 9, 2020, and the award recipient will be announced in December 2020.