Gonzaga's Bull Schaefer bring interest in nonprofit work to Zags

Beck Bull Schaefer engages with children of parents in crisis through Vanessa Behan organization. 

Associate Professor of Management at Gonzaga’s School of Business Administration, Becky Bull Schaefer, volunteers her time off campus as a member of the board of trustees and chair of human resources committee for local Spokane nonprofit Vanessa Behan. She shares her knowledge of Vanessa Behan with GU business students through her teaching.

Vanessa Behan is a nonprofit that offers a safe, welcoming environment for parents experiencing a crisis that refrains them from taking care of their child to the best of their ability. The organization acknowledges the difficulty of parenting and offers service to watch and take care of children whose parents need a helping hand.

Vanessa Behan was a victim of child abuse who died in the ‘80s in Spokane. The organization was created in her her name with the goal of providing a safe environment for children experiencing trauma, like Vanessa had, to feel safe and loved.

The nursery serves as a 24/7 free childcare facility for infants and children under seven and has been running for over 30 years. Vanessa Behan serves primarily as a child care center, but also provides parenting classes.

Bull Schaefer said that she first heard about Vanessa Behan through revising student resumes. Eventually, she got to know the Executive Director, Amy Knapton, when she spoke at Leadership Spokane. Keith O’Brien, GU alumnus and Vanessa Behan development director, recognized her as a GU professor and encouraged her to join the team. Bull Schaefer has served for Vanessa Behan as a member of the board of trustees and the chair of the HR committee since spring of 2017.

Bull Schaefer uses her expertise in data analysis, employee behavior and strategic decision making to enhance Vanessa Behan. She said one of her biggest goals is to ensure future caregivers feel valued and protected.

“She is a huge champion of our work. She shares our impact with students, professors and the general public," Knapton said. "Becky lights up when she talks about Vanessa Behan."

Bull Schaefer said that one of her favorite memories with Vanessa Behan was playing dinosaurs with children at a nursery shift she had volunteered for.

“Playing dinosaurs is just a universal experience," Bull Schaefer said. "It doesn’t matter where we are from, or our backgrounds, it’s just humanizing and a big reminder that we are all here together.” 

Bull Schaefer said that seeing the acts she is able to do as a contributor to change the lives of local families is eye-opening. It increases trust and strengthens the Spokane community as a whole. 

Bull Schaefer shares her expertise and passion for Vanessa Behan with GU students by bringing real life experiences into the classroom. With actual data from Vanessa Behan, Bull-Schaefer’s students are able to study and learn data analysis and interpretation skills. Additionally, she brings examples to showcase how decisions are shaped by legal compliance, funding and mission.

“I think Gonzaga students really love to hear about nonprofits,” Bull Schaefer said. “They really want to get involved in social justice initiatives. They just really get excited." 

Bull Schaefer emphasizes that there is no one way to be leaders for others. She feels it is important for students to recognize that not everyone can create an organization to solve a problem. Instead, students should first evaluate both the skills and knowledge they have to offer to an organization.

“That’s a way in which they can meet this mission, to be leaders for others, is they can find an organization that aligns with their views or values and they can offer their skillset, Bull Schaefer said. "At the same time they can keep volunteering and serving on boards and be involved in their community. That’s how they build their Gonzaga mission."

Knapton said it is a joy working beside Bull Schaefer. Bull Schaefer joining Vanessa Behan filled the HR representation that was missing from the board.

“I love that Becky has a huge heart for our staff," Knapton said. "She is constantly looking for ways we can support them in small and unique ways — buying M&M’s with our logo — to the big things like helping us refine our culture map and language used when talking about our culture." 

“Becky’s passion embodies that spirit of knowing one person can make a difference by sharing a story and inviting others to engage and get involved at a variety of levels,” Knapton said.

Natalie Rieth is a staff writer.

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