Three WSU Mortuary Science graduates chosen for National Emerging Leaders program

This story was adapted from a National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) news release.

Three Wayne State University Mortuary Science Program graduates were among just 20 funeral service professionals from across the U.S. and Canada selected to take part in the NFDA's inaugural National Emerging Leaders Program. The program will help participants develop leadership skills that will serve them in their funeral homes, their state and national associations, their community and beyond.

“We were delighted to receive so many high-quality applications, and it was not easy for our review committee to narrow it down to just 20 participants,” said NFDA President R. Bryant Hightower Jr. “I am excited to meet these colleagues in the months to come and watch them develop into the leaders who will, one day, carry the torch in our profession, our businesses and our communities.” NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world.

The Wayne State mortuary science graduates chosen for the program are: 

Benny Capaul Benny Capaul '13, Capaul Funeral Home, Ida, Mich. Benny is a fourth-generation funeral professional. Listen to Let's Talk about Death, the podcast Benny and his twin brother Nick, a psychologist, co-host. 
LaShonda Martin '17, Kemp Funeral Home, Southfield, Mich. "I am elated to be a part of this program," she said.
Kiki Rodgers Kathlene (Kiki) Rodgers '16, Nie Family Funeral Home, Ann Arbor, Mich. Kiki is the Michigan Funeral Directors Association District 2 treasurer. She recently earned state certification as a Certified Funeral Practitioner (CMFP) as well as national certification as a Certified Crematory Operator (CCO).

All funeral service professionals from the United States and Canada, regardless of NFDA membership status, were invited to apply for one of the National Emerging Leadership Program's 20 seats. The only requirement was that applicants be in the process of building their careers in the profession (i.e., first-career funeral directors licensed 5-10 years or second-career funeral directors licensed 3-8 years). 

Participants will meet in person for the first time at the 2021 NFDA Leadership Conference this August, then meet virtually approximately eight times throughout the year to learn from experts, both from within the profession and from other disciplines. They will reconvene in person at the 2022 NFDA Leadership Conference to wrap up the experience.

The program, which is supported by the Funeral Service Foundation and Live Oak Bank, features a practical and theoretical approach to advanced leadership topics. The curriculum covers topics such as mentorship, ethical leadership, employee relations, collaborative decision-making, strategic planning, servant leadership, communication skills, small business ownership and more.

Participants will also have access to mentors, engage in high-level networking and work with fellow program participants on a group project that will teach them to apply the skills they are learning in real-world scenarios. 

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