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How Chantal Weaver learned to walk on fear

“Fear was my boyfriend.”

Chantal Weaver (MBA, 2022) is joking, but it’s a surprising admission given her professional success, clear ambition and outgoing demeanor. 

Portrait of Chantal Weaver

This is a woman who earned her associate degree and then her bachelor’s degree without hesitation. Who worked as a coach and consultant for major companies so she could be home to raise her two sons. Whose “passion and prayer” led her to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), where she’d once been treated for clubfoot and where she now works as a talent acquisition diversity and inclusion consultant. Fear might be the last motivator you’d ascribe to Weaver. 

But appearances can be deceiving. As Weaver tells it, by the time she considered going back for her Master of Business Administration, pandemic lockdowns were in full swing, and she wanted to use the time at home as an opportunity to do something productive. But it had been years since she’d earned her bachelor’s degree, and she wasn’t sure how online school worked. Between the unknown and the prospect of taking math and English classes again, she wasn’t sure she could hack it. And that’s when fear arrived with “his” calling card.

“One of the greatest things that happened for me in this program was that it made me walk through and conquer fear like nothing else,” Weaver declares. Here’s how she emerged victorious.

Meet Phoenixes like Chantal. Make connections, build relationships and be part of a growing community. 

Laying the groundwork for education

Weaver grew up in Cincinnati, where her mother worked as a licensed practical nurse. “Education was important for my family, but my mom didn’t have all the tools,” Weaver reflects.

Nor did Weaver have enough perspective to pursue her bachelor’s degree right after high school. Eager to join the workforce and make her way in the world, she instead completed her associate degree and got a job.

“As you mature, you learn that you need to get a little bit more education for [career enhancement],” she says ruefully.  

So, while her husband’s own pursuit of a master’s degree took them to Boston for a time, Weaver seized the opportunity to complete her bachelor’s degree. By the time they returned to Ohio, diplomas in hand, Weaver was pregnant with the second of the couple’s two sons.

Thus began a period when Weaver consulted and coached from home so she could raise her children. Her husband, a pastor, completed his doctoral degree. She returned to full-time work when her kids were in middle school, and she made sure they got those bachelor’s degrees after they graduated high school.

When the pandemic hit, Weaver started reevaluating what should come next for her. She joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, where she encountered many successful Black women whose example inspired her to attend to the gaps in her own education. Not long after joining the sorority, she enrolled in University of Phoenix’s MBA program.

The challenges and triumphs of going back to school

This is about the time when fear gripped Weaver. She’d chosen University of Phoenix based on word-of-mouth recommendations and the fact that her employer offered tuition assistance. And while a lot of schools were heading online in the midst of lockdowns, Weaver had some serious reservations about how she could succeed in the virtual classroom.

Find out if your employer is one of the more than 1,500 organizations University of Phoenix works with to offer education benefits. 

As it turned out, the self-described extrovert didn’t have to worry. She used the same interpersonal skills that made her successful in HR to build an online community at school. Like her team at work, her go-to peer group was diverse, passionate and committed to helping each other succeed. One woman, for example, was from Australia but living in Idaho and missing her family during the lockdown. Another lived closer to Weaver in Cleveland but who navigated the degree program while pregnant and then with a newborn.

“It became personal for me,” Weaver says. “It was important that I connect with people.”

This is how Weaver approaches work as well. Weaver’s direct supervisor at CCHMC, Viki Kerek, has worked with Weaver for more than a decade, noting, “Chantal is a caring colleague, and this has only grown over the last 13 years. She often reaches out to other talent acquisition staff who might be struggling to lend whatever help she can — sometimes just an ear, other times jumping right in.”

Weaver’s MBA was personal in another way too. Six months after she started the program, Weaver’s son began his own master’s program.

“Their dad has his doctorate,” Weaver says. “They’ve been watching Dad. He’s a smart dude. But to see Mom — I stayed home. I made huge sacrifices … because I needed to know that [they] knew I was here. … Then they see me, this professional lady, going back to get her degree. … My second child starts his master’s program on Saturday. Everyone in my family has advanced degrees.”

 

"It became personal for me. It was important that I connect with people."

Chantal Weaver
MBA | 2022

Weaver had to overcome other challenges to set that example. She fretted over her math and English skills. “I had convinced myself that I didn’t have strong writing skills, so that was part of that fear package,” she explains.

But Weaver is not easily dissuaded from her goals. She leveraged resources designed to help adult learners, from online grammar tools to a tutor who helped her not only complete a difficult data analytics course but also earn an A in the class.

Weaver knew herself well enough to seek out personal connections with her instructors. Everyone has a different approach when it comes to when and how they like to communicate, she says.

“My first question in any class was, ‘How do I get in touch with you?’” Weaver explains. “I do not want to text you, nor do I want to just email you. I want to talk to you because there are so many interpretations through text and email.”

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New challenges

Considering her ambition and drive, it’s no surprise that Weaver found additional ways to challenge herself outside the classroom.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say those ways found her.

In June 2022, she and her family were vacationing at a resort when Weaver got a phone call from the vice president of HR at her company. She wasn’t getting fired, however. She was getting a new role.

Weaver ultimately accepted a position as the hospital’s talent acquisition consultant for diversity and inclusion, but she experienced some trepidation.

“So again, Mr. Fear tried to show his ugly head again, because I was in a new career,” Weaver says. “So, I networked with people in this program whom I didn’t know. I built relationships, just like I did in the MBA program to help me get through.”

She did more than “get through.” One year after stepping into the role, she received the hospital’s Impact and Inspire Award.

For Kerek, her supervisor, this likely came as no surprise. “[Weaver] has held the talent acquisition DEI role for a year, and the work she has led has transformed the way that CCHMC recruits diverse applicants,” Kerek says. “She has partnered with and built relationships within Talent Acquisition, CCHMC and the extended community. It’s easy to see how much she loves her work, and we are better because of it.”

For Weaver, the award was a proud moment that speaks to her dedication. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, and not just in terms of race or gender but in knowledge, experience and expertise. Her team embodies those virtues.

“Every single one of us brings something different to the table,” she says. “We’ve got strong writers. We’ve got social media people. We have people who want to train and develop other people. It’s just unbelievable, our team.”

People, relationships and hard work are at the core of what Weaver does, both professionally and as a means to overcome self-doubt and anxiety. She “walked on fear,” she says, when she graduated with her MBA in her 50s. She is thriving at work, and she sees her sons on the same path toward educational and professional success.

“It’s just so many wins happening right now in my life,” she says. “I’m just so grateful.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Exline has been telling stories ever since she won a writing contest in third grade. She's covered design and architecture, travel, parenting, lifestyle content and a host of other topics for national, regional, local and brand publications. Additionally, she's worked in content development for Marriott International and manuscript development for a variety of authors. Today, if given a free hour and the choice, she'd still prefer to curl up with a good story. 

 

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