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Failing UP

Fall 2021

Jason Greer ’96 sought a college where he could just be a student, but instead found a purpose for his life through his majors and campus involvement.

“You don’t go through Valpo’s social work program without wanting to make the world a better place,” Jason says.

Jason first encountered Valparaiso University as a junior at Lutheran High School North in St. Louis, Missouri. Many colleges were recruiting him to play football, emphasizing his college experience as an athlete, but Valpo offered him something more.

“It was the only place where I saw myself as just a student,” Jason says. “I was drawn to the small college where I could grow and develop.”

As a social work major and philosophy minor, Jason encountered faculty members who would inspire him to be more than a student.

The late Professor Lou Jeanne Walton taught me that everything has to do with respect and accountability,” Jason says. “Everything I did went beyond me, beyond my family, it had to do with planting the seeds for what comes next for young black men. While Professor Walton challenged me globally, Professor Laura Petties challenged me individually. She taught me to not hold back, but to speak my mind and my truth.

After he graduated from Valpo, Jason soon returned to the University as a student in the law school.

“I flunked out after a year because I quickly found out I didn’t want to be an attorney,” he says.

While many would falter at this adversity, Jason persisted and earned his master’s in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, graduating as valedictorian.

He then began working as a case worker for the Department of Child and Family Services in Illinois while completing his master’s in Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He followed his love for labor relations and became a board agent for the National Labor Relations Board.

Jason, fueled by his love of social work and professional experience in business, created his own company in 2005.

“It started as a wing and a prayer but turned into one of the top consulting practices in the country,” Jason says.

His company, Greer Consulting Inc. (GCI), works with businesses to address complex challenges in the workplace. GCI aims to strengthen the bonds between employers and employees, cultivating positive work cultures, reducing turnover, and increasing employee satisfaction.

Jason attributes his company’s early success to the skills and experiences he acquired at Valpo. He remembers sitting on numerous committees while an undergraduate student including those revolving around MLK Day, multicultural inclusion, and the provost search. Jason is a current member of the VUAA Board of Directors.”

“I didn’t have a traditional MBA, so I was sitting around conference tables with people with drastically more business experience, and the only relevant experiences I had were on those campus committees,” Jason says. “My social work classes helped me hone in on my listening skills. I was able to read nonverbals and interpret what people around the table were saying … and not saying.”

The faculty connections that Jason made as a student inspired him to grow as an individual and effect change in his community.

“Jason is a stellar human and a high-energy, strengths-based leader,” says Barb Crumpacker ’83 Niedner, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, clinical associate professor of social work. “He is intelligent, thoughtful, and trusted when it comes to race and labor relations. He is motivational, inclusive, and yet still challenging of the status quo, especially when he sniffs out dysfunction. His enthusiasm improving the world for all is contagious.”

While making the world a better place has always been a passion, one of Jason’s loftiest goals is to eliminate racism in his lifetime.

“I had experienced racism from a young age and was often called racial slurs,” he said. “The words lost their impact on me by the time I was around 7 or 8.”

His plans to eliminate racism started gestating in his mind after an encounter he faced when he returned home to St. Louis during spring break his freshman year.

“I was walking to the gym when a group of men started shouting at me from a car,” Jason says. “One of the men threw a bottle at me and its contents soaked my shirt, leaving a yellow stain. Some got into his mouth, and I knew then that the men had thrown urine at me. I ran home and hid in my basement, scared about how the world was.”

Jason sat in his bedroom the rest of his time at home, thinking over the incident. He realized this was something that not only he would have to go through, but also generations to come. He imagined a world where he wasn’t Jason Greer the African American man, but simply Jason Greer.

This passion led Jason to serving on more committees focused on social injustice at Valpo, volunteering at the local Juvenile Detention Facility, and starting a program at West Side High School in Gary, Indiana, Jason organized a group of Valpo students to regularly travel to West Side High School and tutor students there.

“I could start applying my social work skills there. I started to make their lives better — to make my life better by extension.”

GCI also supports Jason’s passion to address social injustice. He combined his past work and educational experiences to create a revolutionary diversity training program that addresses the biological impact of differences and focuses on commonalities and forging relationships.

The path to success isn’t always linear. Jason’s biggest advice to current students and young professionals is to embrace failure.

“It’s okay not to know what you want to do,” Jason says. “It’s okay to fail as long as you’re failing upwards. You won’t know success until you fail. Have the fortitude to sit down and determine what you might want to do, it might change in a few years, then change again in a few more.

“I’m living proof that you can fail and still succeed at the same time. Have confidence in yourself, but also humility. Forgive yourself. Fail fast and keep moving on.”

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