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Alumni Samuel Doyle: Celebrating Black Excellence at Boise State University

Profile Photo of Sean Doyle, an OPWL Alumni

Thank you for this opportunity to share a few moments of my personal “black history.” I am humbled and grateful. The story that I am about to share with you is one that I haven’t thought too much about and have never told anyone before. Let’s see where it goes . . .

I currently practice as an “active mindfulness” coach for youth and adults. I hope to launch an online and virtual instructor-led “self-mastery” curriculum later this year, merging centuries of Eastern thought, modern neuroscience research and practical “brain training” methods. This will be my life’s contribution to the fields of “mental health” and “human factors engineering.”

I was born in 1957 in Highland Park (Detroit), Michigan. My parents were born and raised in the “Jim Crow” south, in Mississippi and Kentucky. Deceased as of 1986 and 1987, both of my parents knew the burden of nationalized racism. My younger brother and, later, my younger sister and I vacationed with my mother in her native small town in rural Kentucky each summer until age ten. We lived there on a small farm owned by my grandmother, near aunts, uncles and cousins.

My brother and I attended school for a year there in 1967, when my father sent us “south” to escape the violent backlash by America’s black community to racism, forced joblessness, and crushing poverty in Detroit and urban communities across the nation.

At that time, although an occasional racial slur might have come from a classmate, for the most part there was no overt “race-based” animosity among my classmates. We had “white” friends who my cousins and I were close with, played sports with and were Boy Scouts with. I do not remember feeling fear while I visited and lived in the South in the 60’s.

Fast-forwarding to today, there have been many bi-racial marriages among my cousins. Yet, as always, the “race” of my relatives continues to be irrelevant to me and my family. My family has never tolerated bullying for any reason. Today, I probably have as many friends who are not black as I do those who are. Character and integrity are the values I live by.

Meanwhile, I sometimes remember being at the nearest public library in Detroit when I was around age 14 in the early 70s, sitting silently by myself and reading Freud, Yogi philosophy, The Science of Breath, and Buddhism. Looking back, it could have been that time in my life that I became fascinated with the idea of confronting the human “unconscious,” with Freud’s “Id,” the “human psyche” and the possibility of practicing metaphysical mindfulness as an antidote for human suffering and as a form of mental and emotional self-control.

In contrast to my study of the mind and the possibility of experiencing sustained peace, joy, and kindness — outside in the world, I saw only war and violence. News television broadcasts showed us wounded U.S. soldiers. Jungles on fire. Wounded and dead Vietnamese, Cambodian and other Asian civilians. We saw college students and “hippies smoking grass” and marching against America’s war against Vietnam. We watched civil rights marches. We watched rioting across the nation. We watched the destruction of the Black Panthers. We watched the assassinations of Black civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. At the movies, we watched Superfly, The Mack, Shaft and other “blaxploitation” movies strategically released at a time during which the Black community likely needed our own cinematic heroes as “catharsis” and an alternative to violent property destruction.

Living with and loving so many adult family members who were Vietnam veterans and many who just struggled with illiteracy, joblessness, poverty, alcoholism, drug use, domestic abuse, criminality, depression and hopelessness — maybe these movies served as a sort of mass release valve to help the Black community imagine that we were “fighting the system” of racism, at least in our minds. Even with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws designed to help protected class citizens survive classism, racism, sexism and religious bigotry practiced by the wealthy and by segregationists, America seemed to offer the Black community no answers to endless joblessness and poverty.

Although many youths from my neighborhoods did not escape the “curse of the inner city,” I believe that my curiosity and early exposure to the possibility of the existence of a metaphysical force (i.e., “God”) — supported by a family of typical church-going, hymn-singing Southern Christian Baptists (both of my grandmothers, my parents, aunts, uncles, extended family, community, elementary and middle school teachers and clergy) — might somehow have unconsciously convinced me that I could and should accomplish anything that I chose to accomplish in the “America” that I was inheriting, even despite what might feel like what were overwhelming obstacles that I might encounter.

With this as my early “black history,” I graduated from the renowned Detroit’s Cass Technical High School in business administration and data processing at age 16. I have lived to become a first-generation, college-educated and corporate-trained professional. I survived. But did I prosper?

At age 18, I decided to attend the University of Detroit-Mercy in 1975 (a year before the U of D Titans journeyed to a storybook “Sweet 16” appearance in the NCAA basketball finals — what a celebration we had!). I was given need-based scholarships, grants and small loans to pay for my entry into the university’s respected management systems program. I lived on campus, and I took six classes a term.

I had worked part-time since I was 13 but had no time to work. Without much financial support possible from my parents, I left school in 1977, a junior, to work in the Specialty Foundry, the Engine Plant, the Stamping Plant and the Assembly Plant of the legendary Ford Motor Company, Dearborn-Rouge complex.

I began full-time work as a laborer in the largest steel and auto manufacturing facility in the world at that time. I worked at Ford for three years — hot, dirty, sweating and tired from working 12-hour shifts, sometimes for seven days. Yet, at no point did I see “laborer” as my destiny.

Eventually, I saved enough money to rent my first apartment and purchase a used auto and furniture. I quit Ford to pursue my career in business management. Although completing computer programming and management classes, without a degree, I could only find employment as a “word processor” for a large law firm that was using and would teach me how to use the latest IBM document management system.

As it turned, out, this first “information technology system” (replacing the dominant IBM Selectric typewriter in offices across the globe) was the most fortuitous break (of many) in my life that the Universe was to bestow on me. I benefited from my above-average skills. I soon became proficient as a first-generation “document management specialist” for a large law firm. With luck, I had made the transition from “laborer” into “white collar” employment — not a small feat in the 70s and 80s in my family and in America’s Black community.

One of the first black, male word processors there, I joined three shifts of almost all women “word processing” veterans and became a part of an expert team responsible for reading, typing, printing, editing and proofreading confidential, proprietary legal documents for ivy league attorneys at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. For three years, I used this opportunity to study business strategy and business management as performed by top legal consultants and advisors for heads of state, politicians, judges, boards and executives in over 15 different types of business law, as I read their documents.

Next, I was most fortunate to be hired by the Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for the Burroughs Corporation (later, the Unisys Corporation), tasked with automating his corporate law department. Knowing my background at Miller, Canfield, he acquired new office automation technology, trusted me to design and manage a state-of-the-art legal word processing center and to train the secretaries and his 50-member ivy league global legal staff to use Burroughs word processors to create and manage their forms and documents. This is how I came to join the law department of the second largest computer manufacturing company in the world as their (first black) information technology and document management specialist.

After designing and managing Burroughs/Unisys legal document management centers, hiring staff and serving Unisys legal professionals across the globe, I was eventually laid off after five years, when Unisys moved its world headquarters to Pennsylvania from Detroit.

Again, fortuitously, the same supportive black women in the Unisys Human Resources group who recruited me to interview with my former boss for the Unisys law department position, reached out to me for an interview to work for the Unisys Worldwide Telecommunications organization. I learned that I was one of the few and only Unisys professionals at our world headquarters with experience managing IBM personal computers and Novell Netware local area network technology learned when I upgraded the Unisys law department in a second generation migration of the document management center. In this way, I was hired, completed data communications self-study and traveled to courses across the United States. I soon became the first black, local area network specialist at Unisys World Headquarters.

After three years, I left the Unisys Worldwide Telecommunications organization to help lead client-server application development for DTE Energy. By then, I had learned and practiced how to walk into any English-speaking community and building in the world to work as an independent consultant with global telecom infrastructure and office automation suppliers to provision and terminate high-speed digital circuits; to wire distribution closets; to install and test digital phone and data wall jacks; to install, configure, test, manage and document network bridges, switches, servers, desktops, server and desktop operating systems and applications; and to train others to do the same.

My last role at DTE was working for the SVP, CIO on a variety of organizational improvement and culture change projects, including designing the company’s first computer-based learning centers for the IT organization; building a multimedia content development center; serving as IT Training Manager for 900 IT employees and contractors; and hosting a company-wide “technology fair” showcasing technology-driven business unit change and improvements made across the company.

After years serving these Fortune 500 organizations and their tier one suppliers as subject matter expert for products from Microsoft, HP, Cisco, Oracle, Adobe and other leading information age suppliers, I somehow, unintentionally became the only black male business analyst, office automation specialist, global network specialist, project manager, change and diversity leader in my workplace and in my community in the 80s and 90s.

During this same time, in my efforts to remain current with the latest research and best practices in organizational development, I joined and participated in the leading international professional organizations committed to the academic study and practical application of personality type, communication, learning, performance, group dynamics, facilitation, conflict resolution, human factors, system dynamics, diversity and inclusion, organizational development and large-scale change (e.g., Gestalt Institute (GIC), APTi, Toastmasters Intl., NTL, ISPI, ASTD, SHRM, SoL, among others).

Feeling like I had peaked in my career, retiring at 43, building a home on a golf course in Michigan, taking a three-year research sabbatical, and living as an urban monk, I got rid of my home, material possessions and debt.

I returned to mainstream society, serving as a consultant, change leader, adjunct professor (University of Michigan), substitute teacher (Metropolitan Detroit school districts) and in customer service roles in large organizations for another twenty years.

I used this time to continue to research, imagine and design an approach, methods and activities that I could use to integrate the social and facilitation skills training I had the unique opportunity to learn during my career into some sort of adult rite of passage learning experience that I could make available for teens across the globe.

Retiring once again at age 62, my principal commitment has been to learn how to deliver a student-practitioner learning experience that does not end up on the shelf, as has been the fate of hundreds of thousands of other books and curriculum.

Soon renewing my certification as a CompTIA Security+ cyber-security specialist (to stay up-to-date with the latest in IT), I am improving content development and delivery skills that I hope to use to create a provocative and addictive learning experience for what has become the Mindfulness 5.0© curriculum for student-practitioners.

In the age of the social dilemma (we are all holding and are transfixed to our screens), I know that my delivery team must leap toward a very high cognitive-emotional attention bar, if we are to consistently motivate our youth (and adults) to want to independently acquire self-mastery, social, team-building and leadership skills needed to: (1) support S.T.E.M., A.I., robotics, nanotech and other information age technologies; (2) to learn how to avoid unnecessary conflict; (3) to learn the art and science of “dialogue;” and (4) to learn how to stop fighting with perceived “others.”

Luckily, my last fortuitous formal academic education action was to choose the Boise State IPT online graduate M.S. program, as the U.S. leader in human-centered learning and performance competencies. A program that teaches learner needs assessment, gap analysis, cause analysis, appropriate performance solution selection, solution development, testing, feedback, work process and activity integration.

In retrospect, in my planned retirement during the last few years of my career as an employee, I was both excited and floored to learn that there was an important gap in my organizational improvement skills and I was learning to close it in the Boise IPT program!

After more than twenty years in corporate America, there I was: learning from instructionally-skilled professors, new ways to accurately see, measure, predict and prevent wasted human conflict, human effort, human error, human mistakes and human slips and lapses by improving human communication, learning, work processes as the components of a complete human performance system. I was learning about well-known subject matter experts, their theories, models and languages that I had not studied before.

Recently looking at the expanded, updated OPWL curriculum, I noticed that much of the professional training that I received from different organizations throughout my career is now available to 21st-century professionals in a single program.

With the addition of process labs and learning labs where students can fine-tune their skills with actual projects taken from their own work-life and community-life — Boise State OPWL is still number one!

I thank my family in Boise for your unique contribution to success in my career and in the careers of hundreds of women and minorities across the globe. A “Trekkie,” I have continued to “live long and prosper,” using the skills I learned as a graduate of the online Boise M.S. IPT program. I see now how the road to excellence in any area of practice never ends for committed learners and is likely paved with proven models, methods and skills which most organization and team leaders will never even hear of!

Last, I thank my Boise family for inviting me to share and for celebrating my “black history story,” as but one example of how societal, institutional and personal bias, prejudice and discrimination might slow progress — but, personal ambition and commitment to excellence is not limited by the gender, race or nationality of a determined and ambitious student-practitioner guided by the right subject matter experts!