Erin Green, campus director at the Rasmussen College in Bismarck, ND should be considered the definition of a truly inspirational leader. Whether she is managing her campus’ hundreds of students and faculty, moving her family from Minneapolis to Bismarck or continuing her fight against almost every woman’s worst nightmare, breast cancer – she takes it all in stride and keeps pushing herself to bigger and better things in life.
It didn’t take Green long to work her way up the management ladder at Rasmussen. She was Director of Campus Operations at Rasmussen College in Eagan, MN for only nine months when she was transferred to one of Rasmussen’s largest campuses in Brooklyn Park, MN. A short ten months later, her hard work and leadership did not go unnoticed, and she was promoted to Campus Director in Bismarck.
Deciding to move to Bismarck was not as hard as some might think. Green was excited to meet up with family that already lived in Bismarck, especially her youngest sibling and only sister Kelly. “Kelly and I have never really lived in the same state,” said Green. “I was excited about the opportunity to live near her and spend more than just the holidays with her.”
Convincing her husband to move wasn’t much of a task either, considering he is an avid hunter and fishermen. With a grin on his face he said, “I’ve got my fishing pole and my gun. When do we leave.”
It was settled . Green, her husband and two little girls would set out for a new journey in Bismarck.
Another journey for Green started even before she worked for Rasmussen College. In March of 2007 she got news that no one wants to hear… ‘you have breast cancer’. Hearing news like that it’s hard to know what to do next, but that decision was easy for Green, she has always been a fighter.
Being the oldest of five children and working her way through college with three jobs, putting up a tough fight was not a new thing for her. “The first thing that went through my mind when I was told that I had cancer was I am going to beat this, there is no other option but to live no matter what it takes,” said Green. “From there I went into task management mode.”
Green did what she knows how to do best, put her nose to the grindstone and fight. Taking just 12 days off work during her battle, Erin would take her cell phone and computer to her chemo appointments and complete her daily tasks while her mother Susan kept her company. “Having cancer wasn’t a reason to throw my hands up and lock myself in a room,” she recalls. “It was a reason to get out of bed and fight every day. To stay positive and know that I would be ok in the end.”
It is this kind of attitude that Green brings not only to her life but to her job every day. “There are no problems, just opportunities,” she said.
This was not a fight Green needed to do on her own. The support of friends and family helped her keep pushing on. “I had wonderful support from my husband during this time as we had two little girls, a two year old and a one year old at the time of diagnosis,” said Green. “ Without his help and support I would not have been able to balance work, treatment and family.”
The result of Green’s fight is a happy ending of currently being cancer free. However, there is never an end to the continuing fight against breast cancer. With Greens’ young diagnoses at age 35 there were many questions to be answered. One of the big questions was why did she have breast cancer at such a young age?
Green opted to have a genetic test done to see if she had the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, which is also known as the breast and ovarian cancer gene. Her test results came back positive for the BRCA2 gene. Being a carrier of this gene means your chances of getting breast cancer before the age of 70 can be as high as 85 percent. With this news Erin’s youngest sister Kelly wanted to know if she might face the same battle as her sister and was tested for the same gene. Her results also came back positive for the BRCA2 gene. Taking her future into her own hands she had a preventative double mastectomy on December 15, 2009 “I am forever grateful to my sister for putting up such an amazing fight and going the distance to figure out why’” said Kelly. “She saved my life because she wasn’t scared to keep pushing for information.”
With the impact of all of this in Green’s life, it has opened her eyes to a new look at life and work. “I encourage employees to use their vacation and do fun things with it,” she explained. “Don’t take a vacation day to clean your house (unless you think it is fun). Do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.”
Green takes nothing for granted and is very thankful for all that she has, even when her feet hurt and cramp from the long term effects of the chemo, she is glad she is here to feel her feet hurt.
In 2010 Green and her Rasmussen College team partnered with the Bismarck Cancer Center to put on a family 5Krun/walk and raised more than $3,000 towards cancer research. With the 2011 race date set for July 30th, Green looks forward to raising awareness and fundraising for cancer-related causes. She is a true inspiration to her Rasmussen College team, her family, and the surrounding community.
Green’s advice to anyone who is experiencing trying times is this: “Stay true to yourself. Quiet all the voices around you and listen to the one that is inside you as it will never take you down the wrong path. Keep your faith and remain positive as a good strong mental attitude will take you much further than anyone could ever imagine. Surround yourself with positive people and remove yourself from those that don’t support you no matter how hard it might be.”
About the Author: Kelly Green works in communications for North Dakota Policy Council. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from University of Mary, and recently she added to her education by completing a Multimedia degree at Rasmussen College Online.