On Sunday, Brittany Rohner was supposed to be on campus with her fellow graduate students as they celebrated the successful completion of their degrees. Instead, she was in Akron City Hospital, celebrating her graduation with the hospital’s nursing staff, her husband, family and most importantly, her newborn son, Eli Michael Rohner.
Eli was scheduled to arrive on May 28, but he apparently did not want to miss out on his mom’s special day. Rohner went into labor at home on Saturday, May 18, at about 2:20 a.m. and gave birth to Eli at 6:51 p.m. that same day.
“Honestly, I told everyone how excited I was that I would be able to get to the ceremony on Sunday,” Rohner said. “So, when I went into labor unexpectedly, I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding me!’ There is only so much control you have in any situation, so I couldn’t help but smile and feel an excitement about the unexpected, ironic surprise.”
Although born early, Eli weighed a healthy 7 lbs., 11 oz. and measured 21 inches long—the exact dimensions his mom was when she was born.
With help from the hospital’s nursing staff, Rohner’s family put on a surprise graduation party for her on Case Western Reserve’s actual commencement day.
“They brought in a spread of food, a mock diploma, as well as my regalia,” Rohner said. “Once I got on my cap and gown, my mom passed me my ‘diploma’ and all of us, including Eli, had a wonderful time enjoying the celebration.”
Rohner’s actual diploma is for a Master of Positive Organizational Development and Change from the Weatherhead School of Management. She went to school while working as a human resources manager at 1 EDI Source in Solon, where she has applied the MPOD curriculum to her role as well as across departments in an effort to support the company’s growth.
“I plan on using what I have learned over the past 18 months to adapt to life as a new mom—especially intentional change theory—and to continue to foster positive change management in my organization,” Rohner said.
Rohner now can be called an official graduate of Case Western Reserve, but to her the real reward is the privilege of being called a mom.
“Eli’s arrival, as unexpected as it was, made this commencement so much more transcendent and filled with love. He is the best graduation gift in the world,” Rohner said.
Learn more about Rohner is this week’s five questions.
1. If you could do any job in the world for one day, what would it be and why?
Since I was little, I have always loved the theater and enjoyed acting as a hobby. So a dream would be to have a lead role on Broadway, even if it was just one night’s performance.
2. What’s your favorite activity to do in Cleveland?
Go out with friends to enjoy the local restaurant scene. From Ohio City to Little Italy, there is always something new to check out and try.
3. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Terrible rush hour traffic, especially on a beautiful day. Anyone commuting northbound on 271 knows all about this.
4. What is the best class you’ve ever taken—from elementary school through higher education—and what skills or lessons did you learn that you still use today?
That’s a really tough call. I really have had some excellent courses and instructors over the years. I would have to say that Dr. [Richard] Boyatzis’ class on intentional change theory has been one of the most powerful for me. It has not only helped me personally to better foster resonant relationships with others, but professionally, it has allowed me to be a better coach and manager.
5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
My MPOD 8 colleagues. They are some of the best and brightest minds and we have cultivated a genuine support system. I have learned so much both in and out of the classroom from them, which enriched my university experience in a way that I could have never imagined when I started.