ForCollegeForLife Podcast Ep 4: Dr. Mari Ann Callais

Casey J. Cornelius (00:02):

Hey everyone. And thank you for joining the latest episode of the four college for life podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius and it has been such a pleasure to get to introduce you to our just incredibly talented roster of speakers and consultants to get to know a little bit more about them. I gotta tell you every time I do one of these interviews, I learned something new about these folks. These are people that I’ve known for years and years and years, and I get to learn something new. I hope you’ve been enjoying them. Please let us know that you have like share, subscribe, all the other kind of stuff that you’re supposed to do. Today is just an absolute pleasure for me as well. I get to interview someone who I just have so much personal and professional respect for, and I, I know many of, you know, her know her background, know her story, but my guess is we’re probably gonna learn something about, about that story and about that evolution today.

Casey J. Cornelius (00:52):

And also what she’s thinking about into the future as well. So let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Mari Ann Callais, and by the way, her last name, for those of you who aren’t familiar is pronounced “Callais”. I think we’ve all been saying it slightly incorrectly here, but but I, I got it right here. So Dr. Mari Ann Callais serves as the senior director of strategic initiatives for Delta Delta, Delta fraternity. She has been a keynote and featured speaker at many, I mean, countless local, regional national, and international conferences and conventions. She is the former national president of theta fi alpha. She is a member of AFA, the association of fraternity and sorority advisor. She has been since 1991. She wrote her dissertation on sorority rituals and behavior at the, at Louisiana state university. She has her master’s degree from the university of holy cross, and she is a proud graduate as well of Loyola university of new Orleans. So without further ado, let me bring to the mic. None other than Dr. Mari Ann Callais.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (01:55):

Hey, Casey, thanks for having me today.

Casey J. Cornelius (01:57):

Look at me, pronouncing your name correctly.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (01:59):

I know you’re just rolling along. It’s amazing. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Casey J. Cornelius (02:04):

Of course, of course. So Mari Ann, you know, I take for granted that everybody knows you and knows your story and knows your background simply because I do. And I feel like, you know, most people do, but it, it would be kind of cool for you if you would, to, to share a little bit of your evolution. So obviously originally from Louisiana, I have some, some great roots there. Tell us a little bit about your story.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (02:27):

Well, and it’s interesting because, you know, I, I bet you might say people know me just cuz I’ve been around for a while, but you know, for me it really, as I’ve journeyed through this profession and this, you know, this experience you know, I’m a first generation college student, first generation sorority woman. And really, yeah, I mean, and I didn’t, you know, my dad was a commercial fisherman and my mom was a florist and you know, it wasn’t, we didn’t really sit around the table talking about when I was gonna go to college. It really, my family likes for everybody to be close and close by. And so, you know, leaving home and going to college was a, was kind of a, it was a little bit of a disruption for my family and you know, my dad being a commercial fisherman, it was it was a, it was a family sacrifice, you know, to pay for tuition.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (03:18):

And we had no idea about financial aid and all of those things. So academically I was always, you know, I performed well, but I, I had no idea what college was about. And my grandmother told me one day, she said, Mari Ann, there’s a big old world out there and you need to go figure it out and see it. And I was like, oh, okay. And so I, I, I literally took the a C T on the day of my senior prom and decided where I would go to school based upon if we could afford it or not. And wow. So my education just really was a, a community experience. And, you know, when we’ve passed that on to my nieces and you know, we’ve all helped, however we needed to help. And so I think for me, you know, this, this field has really just given me an opportunity to grow and develop and make mistakes and, and be successful and all the things, you know, and isn’t that what we all want out of life is, is to experience that.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (04:19):

But I’ll be honest with you, Casey, being a, a speaker was not in my purview. I didn’t take speech as a senior at Loyola, cuz I was too shy to speak in front of people. I would play for mass. I, I, I played for three masses a weekend. I grew up Catholic and I could play my guitar, but to, to announce the songs was a lot for me. And so I didn’t take speech. I took speech my senior year at Loyola and then became, you know, started working in orientation and recruiting at, at the university of holy cross. It was our lady holy cross back then. And it really was being in a sorority and being an orientation leader, you know, my senior year at Loyola that changed everything for me. And then I was doing many, many youth retreats, summer camps and retreats were a big thing.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (05:11):

And I still think, I think they need to be brought back. I agree. I agree so valuable, but retreats were a big, big part of leadership development on most college campuses. And so what I realized was that, you know, especially the students didn’t know how to organize a retreat and how to plan an agenda and how to budget for that. And so I started doing presentations at the regional conferences on how to have a retreat, like really how to put it on a retreat. And and our campus said, you know, Hey, we, let me think, what you said was really good. We can bring you to campus for 50 bucks and you can stay in the residence halls. And I was like, awesome. <Laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (05:51):

<Laugh> well now let’s, let’s pause for just a second. Cause I have found in my experience Maryanne that, that every professional speaker has a first ask story, right. Where someone says to them for the first time, we would love to host you and they say, of course, and they, they say yes to this $50 at a place to stay on the residence hall. So, so yours was at one of these training sessions, is that correct?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (06:18):

Yeah, I, I did a breakout at, you know, what’s now St a and it WASC and S se see, I would take students. I was like, maybe this is good information. And literally, I, I think they might have paid for gas too. I’m not sure, but you know, I had, at that point I was just grateful that somebody wanted to learn and I could help, You know? Right. And then later I was like, oh, this, this can’t be way that role

Casey J. Cornelius (06:46):

<Laugh>, this is not sustainable. This is not sustainable.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (06:49):

Exactly, exactly. But, but again, you know, I, I think people come into this, into this speaking arena, whatever area that’s going to be. And they, they believe that they have to start at a certain, you know, at, at this high threshold. And for me, you know, I’m glad that in some ways I, I evolve through the, the, the field of the profession as a presenter, as a facilitator, as a speaker, by not, you know, you don’t wanna charge somebody this big amount of money, and then all of a sudden you bomb that can still happen. Right. Right. But at least if you’ve got experience under your belt, you know, you’ve, you’ve made those mistakes at a lower, at a lower threshold. And so for me, it was also important to volunteer at, you know, U I F I, the undergraduate inter fraternity Institute, I was a fellow for IFI and facilitating youth retreats and summer trainings of counselors and all those things in learning how to facilitate and watching other people who were amazing at facilitation.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (07:58):

You know? So I think it was also learning, you know, the first back when I, I first started speaking the main speakers I saw. So TJ, and do, did a program called friendship in the age of aids. Yes. That was early in their, in their career. I mean, one of the very first times that they presented and I was like, oh my gosh, these men are remarkable. Yeah. And then, you know, watching them evolve, but there were people in our field who in fraternity sorority, especially, they didn’t start speaking on college campuses until their retirement years. You know? So Maureen sine ed king, various folks who I would still learn from them today, you know, because it was a, a level of respect, but it was also, I mean, they captured a room like nobody’s business, you know? So I feel fortunate that I didn’t walk into, and, and this isn’t to condemn others who do, but I didn’t walk into the speaking world thinking I was gonna be a, a speaker that, and that was all I was gonna do with, with my experience. Right. But that I was able to continue that learning from really remarkable people. And I still do. I mean, I’ll go watch speakers at the conferences where I am, because I’ve heard they’re, they can, they connect with the audience and their message is so important and relevant. And I still want to learn no matter what age and stage they’re at, you know? So, and I, and that I’m, if that makes any sense,

Casey J. Cornelius (09:34):

It does. No. And I think that, it’s one of the things that I have always found so compelling about you. And one of the reasons that I enjoy working with you so much is, is that desire for relevancy. I mean, I I’m, I’m not blowing smoke and, and again, people, people who know Mari Ann know this, you’ve been doing this for a long time and have worked in front of some fantastic audiences all across the country coast to coast everywhere in between. But there’s this desire that I always hear from you about wanting to remain relevant. Can you talk a little bit about that, that drive that motivation?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (10:14):

Yeah. you know, I think I finished my doctorate when I was 36 and I became in may, and then I became the national president of the defy alpha that July. And I was the national president for six years. Wow. And so for me, and, and, you know, our journey is, is an interesting one as an organization, but you know, I think that I never walk into a room and think that I’m the smartest person in that room doesn’t mean that I don’t value what I know, but I think that there’s always something to be learn to learn from others. So growing up, you know, my grandfather was a world war II veteran. And so we heard the stories over and over and over again. And, and we could even tell the stories the same way, the same inflection, the same wording. But I also remember the respect of, we were gonna sit and listen to that story.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (11:09):

And every time I learned something a little bit different about him. So my, my curiosity for learning, I think has been since I’m little, but as I’ve gotten older and I’ve stayed in the, in, you know, are predominantly in the college arena. I’m not also, I, I’m not a fool to think that age and, and distance and age doesn’t create some misunderstanding or some, some lack of understanding or whatever that might be. So for me, I don’t ever wanna walk on a stage or walk into a room and facilitate a conversation and not feel like I understand as best as I can where those folks are. You know, that’s part of our that’s part of our pre gig development is that you should know that campus, you should know their ti you know, their challenges. You should know who is gonna be in that audience.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (12:05):

And so for me, it’s been a desire. I’ll give you an example. I couldn’t figure out how to the other day at, at, at tri Delta’s collegiate leadership conference, I couldn’t figure out how to get an app on my main screen. And so I go up to one of the, you know, marketing people and she’s, I don’t know, late twenties. And I’m like, how do I do this? And I hand her my phone. She’s like, this is what you do. And I’m like, awesome, thank you so much. <Laugh> right. I mean, I good YouTube dinner, whatever. I’m like, she knows. So why not go ask her? And so for me, it’s, it’s, I guess I had a conversation with my niece who was 27 yesterday. And she said, you know, I love the fact that I’ve been able to grow up with generations of folks who we never have a problem sitting down and talking about a topic <laugh> and sometimes we don’t all, I mean, it gets heated, you know, we’re Cajuns.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (12:54):

So we’re, , there’s a lot of passion there, but at the end of the day, I guess I never thought that I couldn’t learn from others. And I think it takes me back to, I was a senior in high school and my English teacher had taught me two years of, of English. And back in the day before you had, you know, we had Google and www <laugh> about something. She, if I didn’t know the definition of a word, she’d make me go to the counter where the dictionary was and read the definition. So probably about 10 years ago, I, I talked to her before she passed away and I said, miss Wedell, why did you make me read those definitions? She said, because I knew you were more capable than I thought you thought you were. And I felt like if I pushed you to learn in a, in a broader way, in a, in a more, you know, global and just bigger than bureaus Louisiana, she said, I thought you could do things. And she said, I believed you could. I just needed you to believe you could too. And so I guess for me, that, that yearning to constantly stay relevant has been for a long, long time in, in my life. You know? So,

Casey J. Cornelius (14:15):

You know, I, I often describe it as a, a desire to end more sentences with question marks than periods.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (14:21):

Well, and going to Loyola, you know, they, they teach you to ask a lot of questions. That’s part of the Jesuit background. And so it’s not enough to say, oh, I’m about social justice. Okay. Well, what does that really mean? You know, so there’s all there, especially in the Jesuit education, there was always the question. So what does that mean? So if you’re ever in a room with me, I ask students and I ask for, I ask whoever I’m working with questions, partly because I want them to, to be able to express what their, why is. Right. But also I wanna learn from that. And so it’s I think it, I didn’t realize how much the Jesuit education brought me into that space. But I would be I’m on boards today. And I ask a lot of questions because you ask a lot of questions. I said, cause I’m curious. I wanna know. Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (15:09):

So this is, this is one of those moments Mari Ann where I, I, we could not have predicted this conversation would go this way, but I, I have done some, some speaking and consulting work with Jesuit institutions, and I’m always fascinated at what you just described, which is the, the curiosity about what’s next. So for example there’s a, there’s a word that’s used quite a bit it’s mods. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, and, and it, and it literally means more, but it doesn’t necessarily mean more in volume. It means more in depth. Right. okay. And I guess I’m, I’m fascinated by that now I was, as you, as you mentioned, Loyola, it’s like, yeah, I remember being at Loyola and I remember some of the, the Q and a time being really in depth because there’s this genuine curiosity there.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (15:55):

Yeah. And I think, I, I think what that creates right is in today’s world, we would use it. We would talk about we’re gonna innovate. Right. We’re gonna innovate, we’re gonna ask the questions. And so sometimes when I’m in spaces where people are using all these current terminology, I’m like, so basically we’re trying to figure out the why, right. Is that where we’re going? And they’re like, yeah, that’s it. They’re like, oh, okay. And, and I love, you know, I love all the, the new terminology. And, but in, in that education space, I took 15 hours of religion. And I grew up very Catholic. I mean, in a very, in a small fishing village in south Louisiana, but I was hungry to learn about how religion and faith and everything, just, how did that navigate, help folks navigate whether it was, you know, government or whether it was community or whatever it was.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (16:52):

I tell people all the time, like I never talked about community service or philanthropy growing up. If my grandparents said we were going to church to do something for the senior citizens, although they were in their, you know, upper sixties we were gonna go, and that was something we were gonna do. If we were gonna do, we were gonna sponsor an Easter egg hunt. We were gonna boil 300 dozen eggs on the Friday, Saturday of Easter weekend. Then we were gonna go hide them. And we were gonna put on a whole day for the community. It, it was never called community service. It was just the way you were supposed to live. And so for me, when I talk about community and belonging, you know, and there are times in this world where we have to let, let communities or spaces go, right. Or people go.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (17:39):

But at the end of the day, I really believe that what we all want is that when we walk into some place, we feel like we belong there just because we’re treated with kindness. And so, you know, when I think about how I grew up then, where I went to college and then, you know, working in fraternity and sorority in, in higher education in general, for me, it really is that, you know, it it’s do. I feel like I belong there. And I think there are all, there have been times in all of our lives where we don’t feel like it. And that, that doesn’t feel good. But when we talk, when we feel like we belong somewhere, wow. That, that gives you the courage to do so many different things. You know? So

Casey J. Cornelius (18:23):

Mari Ann, I, I know so much of your work’s been tied to things like ritual, right? Like you, you wrote the dissertation on it. Mm-Hmm , but, but I also know, and, and it’s, it’s interesting that you just referenced it, that, that a lot of your bandwidth and a lot of your attention right now is really focused on this concept of belonging. So can, can we spend a little, a little time on that? Like where are you at now? Why is, why is belonging today such an important concept? Especially as it relates to college students?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (18:56):

Well, I think if, if, if, if we’re not reading anything and we don’t understand that mental health is a challenge for folks in general, but especially students at all ages and stages right now, and specifically in that era of time of growth and development on college campuses, then we’re living under a rock somewhere.

Casey J. Cornelius (19:15):

Right. Right.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (19:16):

What’s interesting to me though, is that when, you know, I did my dissertation research in the late early two thousands and looking at it from an anthropological perspective, which is what ritual really is about, right. Rituals have been a part of the world of cultures since the beginning of time. And it it’s because those rituals bring people together. It, it, it helps to create a bond. It helps to create a space, right? If you think about religious rituals, it, and it’s a Rite of passage, it’s a movement from one phase of life to another. So it’s, it’s not just about having ceremonies. It’s about what those ceremonies are supposed to do as it relates to a group, a community you know, whatever that, an organization, whatever that looks like. So as I watch the pandemic and myself, to be honest with you, especially, you know, and, and a lot of my interest is about around women, but I don’t, I think men are in the same space.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (20:29):

I just think that we, we don’t hear as much maybe, or maybe I haven’t heard as much about where our men are in their belonging space, but you know, for me, if we’re not looking at belonging and how people are gonna come through this pandemic time frame, we know things are not be the same. It’s like when people tell me, I wanna go back to 2019, really, because we stuff not so great back in two 19, you know? Right. And so I do think that belonging relates to engagement. It relates to commitment. It relates to productivity. It’s about being resilient. And so when you don’t feel that there’s an emptiness. And I think right now, as it relates to college students, there’s a lot of emptiness and they don’t know how to get from point a to point B when you’re in a room with students in case, you know, this cuz you’re, you’re working with students like I am.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (21:25):

And they’re just, they’re like, this was the first time I had an in-person event, right? Like, oh my gosh, last weekend or two weeks ago was the first time I spoke to a group of students who weren’t all masked. I mean, the difference in the energy, in the interaction, it was remarkable. You know, I was with 800 collegians last weekend and I stood on stage and sang Bruno Mars. You can count on me. And it was like being at church, you know, I mean, they were singing and swaying and dancing and it was just, there was joy. And I think that’s belonging brings a sense of, of joy, a sense of belief that I got this. And, and there are people that are with me in this. So for me right now, not, but that with our folks not feeling that sense of belonging, it, it worries me because I don’t really speak about mental health.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (22:23):

Like I’m not a mental health expert and my friend Ross, you know, who we all learn. Sure. Yeah, yeah. That he wrote behind happy faces. And you know, he’s, he’s the expert. This guy knows what he is talking about when it comes to mental health. Well, he asked me to speak at a conference that he was doing for some professionals. And I said, Ross, I don’t speak about mental health. He goes, you absolutely do. I’m like, I absolutely don’t <laugh> he says, yeah, you do Mari Ann. He says, you talk about community brotherhood, sisterhood, friendship, belonging. He said, that’s all part of coping. He said, that’s, it’s like, you know, our mental health is a muscle, it’s it, it, it has to be developed. And it’s developed when all of those other things are a part of our lives too. And I was like, okay, that, okay.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (23:13):

I still don’t think I speak about mental health, but I understand where you’re fitting that. And so that’s really where I am in that process. The other thing is, you know, like everybody I’ve had friendships and relationships that haven’t lasted the test of time. And it leaves you with a pause, you know, did I do something wrong? Could I have done something different? Was this, you know, whatever that was. And I think it’s a reflection sometimes where you have to figure out then, okay, maybe I don’t belong there, but where else can I belong? And I, I, I just think that’s how the world operates. You know, I think about right now, some of the things happening in our world and I, I just, you know, I feel for folks who don’t have any place to go and, and that to me is we’re privileged.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (24:11):

If we do have spaces where we can, we can feel like we belong, but the other thing is we’ve gotta create them. You know, there’s a great book called the art of gathering. And it talks about how you can create a space where the gathering can happen, but the art of gathering happens when the folks come together and create that space. So you might have the most beautiful home, but if it doesn’t feel warm, when people walk in, they don’t wanna come back. You know? So I think for me, that’s, that’s what that’s about for me is creating those spaces where people can feel like they belong,

Casey J. Cornelius (24:52):

You know, Mart. I, I did not anticipate in, in the course of this dialogue, again, I, I, I mentioned at the beginning, I always learned something new. So you and I have some, some very similar points along the journey, right? First generation college students, mm-hmm, <affirmative> finding sorority and fraternity having that social science background and understanding rights of passage and socialization processes and so forth. But I think that that’s probably why I value sorority and fraternity so much is because I recognize like people asking me sometimes like, you know, will sorority and fraternity continue to be relevant, or, or why is it still relevant? Well, the answer is because all of us, I, I believe most in 99% desire to be part of something greater than ourselves, both in number and in value. And I think that that’s probably why I know I still care about fraternity the way that I do. And I hear from you, that’s why you still care about sorority and fraternity as well.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (25:49):

Absolutely. And you know, I am I concerned about fraternity and sorority today. Absolutely. Sure. I think we are off track. I think we’ve got to get back on track as, and be focused on friendship. Right. Cause that’s really why we were founded. We were founded to be organizations where we shared values and, and really chose the people we wanted to grow up with. And if we stayed around long enough, grow old with right. That’s what fraternity and sorority,

Casey J. Cornelius (26:19):

If we do it correctly, right. Yeah,

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (26:21):

That’s right. That’s right. So, but we’ve gotten off track in the sense of what’s become important. It’s I tell students today when I joined theta FA alpha, I didn’t need them to plan parties or events or programs for me. I just needed the them to introduce me to people who would help me be a better person, help me stay safe in some regards, you know? Cause I like to have a good time. I went to school in new Orleans. So as you can imagine I,

Casey J. Cornelius (26:51):

I’m sure there’s a story or two, there, there

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (26:53):

Plenty stories, but you know, I think, I think that’s it though. It’s today. I think we walk into spaces and I deserve a party or I deserve formal and I deserve this and I deserve that. And I’m like, if we’ve told you, that’s what we were about, we didn’t tell you the truth because at the end of the day, we’re really supposed to help you be better people. And that’s what we give to the world. And through the way that we do it hopefully is that you stay safe, that you keep others safe as well. And that you challenge and, and you know, the whole challenge and support and higher education. But I, I think we’ve got to get back on track that we are not organizations that are about just programmatically, you know, putting people through programs or activities or throwing parties. We need to be about people, helping them be better, helping us be better people.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (27:51):

And I’ll be honest. Had, had I not joined a sorority. There’s a, my whole life would’ve been different, but there’s a lot. I just wouldn’t know. Yep. And, and I, and I wasn’t an officer or a rockstar member. I was a great member. I went to everything, but they didn’t have to gimme points, finds a mandatory cuz I just went to go, you know, I mean, I that’s what I wanted to do, but I, I, I don’t think I would be the same person. And, and even more than that past the undergraduate years, you know, I’ve been around some remarkable women in my sorority, but wow. The fraternity men and sorority women that I’ve, that really helped raise me, you know, in this field. I, I just, I couldn’t have asked, I wouldn’t have gotten that anywhere else. I don’t think I, I just don’t believe that I would have. And, and so for me, it’s that those folks continue to invest in me. And I hopefully am doing the same for others. So, and,

Casey J. Cornelius (28:52):

And it sounds to me, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me that this is still what excites you about this work too.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (28:59):

It does. It’s what excites me. And it’s what that drives me crazy all at the same time, to be honest. <Laugh> right, right. Because I, I see the potential, you know, I’ve spent some time in the last couple of weeks with, with young women on zoom calls, just to be that sounding board to say, what do you think about this? And what do you think about this? They are so much smarter than I ever was at 21 years old. Yes. You know, and I just sit and I’m in awe, but I also struggle with understanding that, you know, developmentally, they’re just now getting to the point of where they’re figuring this out. And so I think we have these expectations and we forget that every year, you know, college students come to campus and they start over. I mean, that, that first year is, you know, we don’t, we, we keep wanting to be innovative and create all this new stuff.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (29:52):

And at the end of the day, they still need the basics. <Laugh>. Yep. And we’ve forgotten that because we get wrapped up in all the big, shiny objects. And at the end of the day, it’s really about their growth and development. And do we help ’em be better? Or do we send ’em on a path that their life is not better because of what they were introduced to through sorority and fraternity. And I think if we don’t address that, then we’re not being honest with the fact that there are, there are chapters, there are individuals, there are people out there who are not leading in the direction of what our organizations truly, I believe, you know, the intent. And we’ve been off track. You know, we could look at diversity, equity, inclusion, access, belonging. We could look at all those pieces and haven’t always done that well, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to move forward together.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (30:48):

And if we can’t do it, Casey, who can that, that’s where I look at it, you know, it’s where else on college campuses, can students come together and, and really accomplish remarkable things? You know, tried also just met our, our 60 million commitment to St. Jude in eight years, 60 million predominantly raised by 18 to 22 year old women. And you think, you know, how did that happen? It’s because when they set their mind to something, they can do it. And, and I think that’s where we got to harness that, that power in whatever we’re doing, right? Whether you’re raising $500 for a local philanthropy or you’re, you’re wanting to accomplish something remarkable or having whatever it is, we’ve got to harness the good and move that forward in the world. And we’ve gotta get rid of the, the, the negative that is, is holding us back right now. And it’s there.

Casey J. Cornelius (31:50):

If you’ve never had the opportunity to hear from, or work with Mari Ann, I think the last oh minute or two of this conversation probably is illuminating about that infectious enthusiasm for the future. I, I often say, and I know Mari Ann is a proponent of this as well. Listen, I love the past. I, I, I believe that we should honor it, but I’m excited for the future. And it sounds like, it sounds like Maryanne’s saying the exact same thing.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (32:20):

I am, I, I see what we have the ability to do. I just think we’ve all gotta get, you know, when it comes to talking about from good to great, like how do we become great. Right? And, and it really is about the way we walk into this world. And what is that about? You know, drives me crazy because I was taught a long time ago, a young member of alpha alpha fraternity incorporated walked into my office and he says, Mari Ann what sorority are you in? And I said, I was a theta five alpha. And he said, when did you get suspended? And I was like, I didn’t get suspended. And he said, you said you was, I think, especially in the N IC MPC world, we have got to start understanding that this is a lifetime. Whether or not you stay involved, you know, actively involved or not, what fraternity and sorority teaches you at a really important phase in your life is something that we hope will help you do great things.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (33:26):

We’ll help you be a civic minded person. We’ll help you, you know, be a good family person and, and make commitments and keep them to the best of your ability. You know? And so that’s what I feel like we, our future that’s where if we’re gonna still be here, that’s what our future is about because anybody can throw parties. Anybody can, you know, haze people, <laugh>, that’s, that’s all easy stuff. I hate to tell ’em it’s easy. What’s hard is really holding one, another accountable to a standard that we’ve decided is our standard, right? Our expectation. And that to me, is what we have to offer one another and the world and those who come after us, if not something will come along, whether it’ll be better than this or not. I don’t know, but I have to believe that we’ve got to do better. And, and if we’re not, then, then what is this really all about?

Casey J. Cornelius (34:28):

So I am over here snapping, you can’t possibly hear how many snaps we didn’t

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (34:34):

Even practice on Casey. We just came on.

Casey J. Cornelius (34:37):

Tell you, I’ll tell you what I I always tell the story one time. And I won’t name him by name. I don’t want to bears, but the first time I ever got to keynote a sorority convention and they started snapping, I was like, I have to teach this to fraternity men, because it is the coolest sensation in the world to hear hundreds of women. It sounds like a swarm of bees or something in the room, but I have been snapping Mari Ann. This has been, this has been fantastic. Can I get you outta here on some fun, fast questions?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (35:06):

Yeah. Bring it on, bring it on.

Casey J. Cornelius (35:07):

Okay. All right. So hard to imagine. I know, but let’s imagine for a second that you have an entire day to binge watch anything. What do you choose?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (35:18):

<Laugh> I’m gonna sound so old by telling you this. So I love anything CSI. N C I S oh yeah. Castle rose, Brazilian Isles. Like all those old school kind of shows. That’s what I would do. It’s or now I would do Yellowstone in

Casey J. Cornelius (35:39):

<Laugh> in

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (35:40):

  1. Those are kinda my current, but yeah. Binging is, is a, a like streaming, especially, you know, I’m like, I really don’t understand what that means. I think all it means is that the next episode starts before you can turn the channel. Sure,

Casey J. Cornelius (35:53):

Sure. Or, or I’m not moving from this couch. This is, this is all that’s happening today.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (35:57):

Exactly. And I’m a project person, so I would, I would get up and do some stuff in between, but, but that would be it. I mean, I would, that’s what I would enjoy.

Casey J. Cornelius (36:05):

So I love it. I love it. All right. Mari Ann, what is the most used app on your phone?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (36:10):

Most used app on my phone. Hmm. Target drive up. No <laugh> OK. OK. It would be Facebook I’m sure. Cuz I’m still a Facebook driven person, but which I love me some target drive up. I save money because if I, if I shop and just buy what I need and I don’t go meander, I don’t spend as much money.

Casey J. Cornelius (36:31):

<Laugh> kind of, kind of breaks the model of target, right? Like where you go there for sunscreen. And then all of a sudden $200 later, you’ve got a basket of things and forgot the sunscreen to begin with.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (36:41):

I was gonna say that’s expensive S screen

Casey J. Cornelius (36:43):

For sure. For sure. No, that’s fantastic. All right, here we go. Mari Ann, who would you most like to have dinner with?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (36:50):

Yeah. Most like to have dinner with. Hmm. That’s a great question. I have dinner with the people. I like to have people have dinner. There

Casey J. Cornelius (36:59):

You go. There

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (37:00):

You go. I mean, I, you know, I guess I’ve never been one of those people who’s oh, who good. I have dinner with. I, I think when you get to have dinner with the people who are special in your life, that’s who I wanna have dinner with.

Casey J. Cornelius (37:12):

I think I just snapped again. That’s a fantastic answer. <Laugh> all right. So what do you do to wind down as someone who studied rituals and so forth, do you have any particular ritual or, or signal that like now is my time to wind down? What do you do when it’s time to just relax for a moment?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (37:30):

Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I love to sit on my porch. You know, we have a ho home that’s over a hundred, almost 110 years old. So porch is, are a thing. We talk to everybody from porch to porch and you know, it’s, it’s, there’s a great book called bowling alone. And it talks about how, you know, people stopped sitting on their porches when air conditioning came because when the heat house would heat up during dinner time, right. You’d go sit on the porch in the afternoon. Cool off. So for me, it’s still sitting on the porch and just enjoying, you know, sounds or conversations or sitting with my dogs and my wife. And just sometimes enjoying a good cocktail never a bad cocktail, always a good one. And but yeah, that would be it. And then, you know, if I had to go somewhere, if I, if I lived on the water, that would be my dream because I grew up on the water. So

Casey J. Cornelius (38:30):

Sidebar and we’re not at all going to edit this out. Bowling alone is one of my favorite books.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (38:35):

Yep. Yep.

Casey J. Cornelius (38:36):

There you go. Fantastic. If you have not yet read it, Robert Putnam, it’s a little bit older of a book, but it really ties into a lot of the things that we’ve been discussing today about community belonging, connection, et cetera,

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (38:46):

All the way down to sidewalks. You know, I mean, there you go. And I just think that we, we built a world where people could stay isolated if they wanted to, and now I I’m hoping people are walking again. I that’s one thing I love about our neighborhood is that lots of people walk, we stay, hello, people engage, and I may never see him again, but it’s still is important that, that, that human interaction happened. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (39:13):

Well, one more question for you, but before we do, I wanna remind people, if you wanna learn more about Mari Ann her signature programs, her work, her consultations, please go over to for college for That’s Mari Ann with an I, M A R I A N N. You can learn all about her work. Fantastic. If you wanna schedule her for an event retreats, a workshop, whatever it might be. Mari Ann, we’re gonna get you outta here on this one. Where can listeners best connect with you? Like, is there, is there a platform that you prefer, I know you reference Facebook, where, where can listeners best connect with you?

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (39:46):

Probably Facebook is probably still where I am most I’m on Instagram and I’m not toing at this point. So I know everybody thinks we should be doing some TikTok, but I, I, I would say that’s it you know, and they can email me or my website It has information, it has articles and some things that I’ve done, but you know, I mean, I’m also available if you go on I’m I make my email and my phone number available, always. So I think that, you know, that’s part of, of engagement in community is letting people know how they can get in tribute. So but yeah, that’d be, you know, any of those spaces, they can just look in LinkedIn as well. I’ve gotten a little bit better with using, using LinkedIn and, and working on that. So,

Casey J. Cornelius (40:32):

Although let’s be honest, is there an app that for is widely used, is the least user friendly compared to LinkedIn, like it is just the worst is

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (40:42):

The worst it’s supposed to be for professionals. I mean, I supposed to be doing all this stuff, so I don’t know. And then my music can be found on Spotify as well. So some original music that I’ve written that that’s there and folks can just go there and listen.

Casey J. Cornelius (40:59):

You know, I guess I, here’s another thing I didn’t know, you can be found on Spotify.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (41:03):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, yeah, it’s fun. And I’m doing, and then I, I started during the pandemic P chat with Dr. MAC, and hopefully I’m gonna get back into some of that now that you know, I’m back in, to be honest with you, I just kind of ran out of some things to talk about when we weren’t visiting with folks and now I gotta lot about, but but yeah, I think, you know, hopefully I will be back into some of that. And you know, I play with my niece around Hammond. We play at this local wine bar called red, white and brew. And, you know, my life is I play for mass again. And I’m actually, I was just asked to preach at a Christian Church in town in may. Wow. And so I’m gonna do that. So it’s interesting how, you know, life opens up to you in a different way.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (41:50):

I called our mayor yesterday and I’m like, mayor, what are we doing as far as kids after school? And, you know, we need to get some, we’re looking a little, little dirty these days and, and he’s like, Mari Ann, we’re on it. We’re, we’re doing this, we’re doing this. And he, he jokes. And he is like, thanks, mayor. I’m like, thanks mayor. But I think for me, you know, it’s about being present where you live, whatever that means. And and so that’s where I appreciate, you know, and for college, for life, I’m, I’m new here, but I am excited and want to bring good, good work and support the good folks that we support on college campuses. And so we know that that time is not easy for them either. So if there’s anything we can do for, you know, our partners out there, they just need to let us know.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:39):

Well, Mari Ann I’ve said this to you privately. Now I’m gonna say it to you publicly. Thank you for making us better. Folks, thank you for, for tuning in today. I think you probably recognize that Mari Ann and I could talk for hours on some of these topics

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (42:52):

And that’s okay.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:53):

And that’s okay. I hope you’ve gotten something good out of it. Please like share, subscribe, all that other kind of stuff again, if you wanna learn more about Mari Ann at, and we look forward to the next time that we have the opportunity to chat. Thank you all so much for joining.

Dr. Mari Ann Callais (43:08):

Thank you, Casey. Thank y’all.


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