Springfield, MO

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2015 40 Under 40 Honoree: Kezia Lilly

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Kezia Lilly has built her career from the ground up.

The middle child in what she describes as a dysfunctional family and the only one to go on to college, the now-mother of four has made a name for herself at a young age.

As dean of the Mercy College of Nursing & Health Sciences of Southwest Baptist University, Lilly oversees roughly 65 faculty and staff and over 730 students.

Her philosophy? Empower others through leadership.

“Every day I wake up, face the day and embrace each day as opportunity to empower others using the personal platform that God has blessed me with,” Lilly says. “Each and every one of us alive today has the power to inspire, influence and elevate each person we meet by the gift of great example.”

The dean also hopes to foster an atmosphere of inclusivity.

“Transparency builds trust, yet transparency also creates a lot of risks,” she says.

Lilly points to a memo she recently shared at the college in which she laid out personal details of her life, a move of transparency and risk she said was met with overwhelming response. For example, she tells a story about failing her third semester of nursing school by just one point, only to return and achieve her degree.

“The dean of your college failed nursing school. Returning was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life. I was labeled as a ‘failure.’ I was treated like a ‘failure,’” Lilly wrote in the memo. “I am not ashamed to share it or say it; it is part of who I am.”

As dean, Lilly recently led the master’s in nursing team through a successful site visit by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. She’s also worked to position the school as a civic affairs leader. Lilly is leading the re-evaluation and subsequent change of the school’s mission statement.

“I wanted to embed leadership into all that we do at our college,” Lilly says. “This task and process resulted in a revised mission statement, which states: ‘MCONHS OF SBU is a faith-based partnership educating students to be competent and caring health care professionals engaged in the healing ministry of Christ through servant leadership.’”

The process has resulted in a partnership with Springfield nonprofit Isabel’s House. MCONHS faculty and master’s of nursing students provide health exams for employees and volunteers of the crisis nursery to help them maintain compliance with state regulations.

“By helping this organization, they will be able to continue to offer services to the needs of the children in our community,” Lilly says.[[In-content Ad]]


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