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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Professional Studies Award Recipients

Leadership Excellence Award

Shelley J. BobbSHELLEY J. BOBB, GRAD '11

“Being present with others and working with people.” Simply stated, that is what has motivated Shelley throughout her career, from more than 25 years as a Lutheran pastor to her transition to the alternative dispute resolution field and current role as president of SJB Mediate and Consulting.

And the word “with” is important to her. “My brother had cerebral palsy and had some cognitive difficulties,” she says. “He lived at home, and I watched my parents and our family being with him in such a wonderful way. It was a searing experience, probably the one that has most defined and shaped my life. I got a firsthand look at what being ‘with’ means.”

Now she shares that same spirit with her clients, primarily hospital and clinical teams. “I help hospital teams think about their work together and how that can be deepened,” she says. “I like to think I am being with them in their exploration of teamwork — and helping them get a perspective on what it might be like to think of them being with each other in their work. So I ask questions about what their work means to them and what they can mean to each other in their day-to-day work as a way of being with each other.”

That same thoughtful approach also infuses her community service work, including her previous roles working with the homeless, serving as vice president of a shelter for victims of domestic violence and volunteering with a therapeutic horseback riding academy. These days, she’s busy juggling her business with classes at Marquette, where she’s working on an interdisciplinary doctorate focused on health care organizational development, along with presenting her research at national and international health care conferences.

“I think success is defined as being able to use your gifts and honing those in a way they can create something new that tips the scale on this brave little planet,” she says. “It’s sad, though, because not everyone has the resources to make that happen. I was lucky I did, and that’s a work of grace in my life, too.”

Hometown: Elkhorn, Wis. (Moved to Charlottesville, Va., when she was 12.)
Favorite quote: “‘Every man for himself’ is a doctrine for a feeding frenzy or for a panic in a burning nightclub, appropriate for sharks or hogs or perhaps a cascade of lemmings. A society wishing to endure must speak the language of care-taking, faith-keeping, kindness, neighborliness and peace.” — Wendell Berry
Dream dinner guest: Poet Billy Collins. “He’s alive. And if he’s reading this, I’d even cook him dinner!”
Marquette faculty who had an impact: “To single one out is not possible. Together, they have truly helped to shape me and form me. I think that is a wonderful thing, too — nobody writes the whole check, really. But each of them has stepped into my life and enhanced my skills sets, thinking, perceptions, and stretched me in ways I never thought possible. They have all been good shepherds!”
Favorite Marquette memories: “Being with my student colleagues and debating issues in class.”
Career she aspired to in grade school: “I thought of being a vet, but then really noticed I was paying a lot of attention to words and language — and groups. So I had to figure out where that could fit. I also had this thing that Marilyn Robinson calls ‘a haunting solicitude for the vulnerable’ when I was little, probably from growing up with my brother Jeff, so somehow I knew I had to pay attention to that and I think I have throughout my life.”
Most influential people: “My mom and dad, but also more than 26 aunts and uncles who were part of my mother’s 13 siblings. And many, many cousins. And dear friends. Huge impact!”