As the global workforce becomes increasingly diverse, the need for developing more sensitivity to cultures and a curriculum that includes the ability to negotiate cultural diversity has also become greater.
Enter Rick Creasy, the director of Workforce Development at Cleveland State Community College. For 32 years Creasy worked for Pfizer, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York City. Over three decades Creasy developed a sensitivity to cultures that successfully served him and the multibillion dollar company he worked for.
“A lot of it was on-the-job training,” Creasy said. “There were some professional development classes that explained the dos and don’ts of working with different cultures. If you’re working in Asia or in Lagos, Nigeria — those are different cultures and I learned the cultural dos and don’ts. I grew up in Nashville, so I didn’t experience a lot of diversity. Later, I lived and worked in and around New York City and especially in Philadelphia (Pa.). I spent 15 years in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Our home office was there.
“Before that I was a district manager in the Tidewater region of Virginia. I’ve always viewed differences as an adventure. I love diversity. I love to travel. To me it’s exciting! It was something I looked forward to. When you’re able to develop training that has a global appeal, it’s very rewarding.”
Creasy, 61, said he started out as a sales rep, then became a trainer, then a business manager, then a district manager who also excelled in marketing oral contraceptives.
“In my last seven or eight years I was the director of the sales/training department and we developed and designed all the training materials globally. My last few years I was fortunate enough to travel to different countries, particularly Asia. We had a strong business presence there to help us understand how to develop training material that was relevant to different cultures. I was able to travel and conduct, what we call a needs analysis. The materials we developed needed to be relevant and understandable to different cultures.
“If I’m developing a training manual that is not understandable to someone in Singapore, I needed to make sure what I developed was relevant to the culture. That is a perfect fit for being here at a community college, because we have nontraditional students here. They desire to work in advanced manufacturing just as we have those who want to go into medical school. So we have to develop training that’s appropriate and relevant. The training might be different if I’m developing training for a pre-med student as opposed to someone who is going to be working for Cormetech or Merck.”
According to Creasy, students have a right to a variety of educational experiences that help them make informed decisions about their role and participation in a multicultural society that work toward respecting, valuing and celebrating diversity in the workforce.
Being uniquely qualified for his role as director of workforce development at Cleveland State, Creasy explained, “I have to relate to the students, I have to relate to the college administration, but I also have to relate to industry. So my experience in industry prepared me for this. As a sales rep, I had to relate to doctors. I also had to relate to my management, to promotional guidelines, our regulatory department, our legal department and our medical department. So having to establish those relationships helps me do this job, because I do interact with many different departments in the community.”
Creasy, who as a teenager was selected as the “honor camper” of the International Youth Camp with the Church of God of Prophecy, attended Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City. He said he was 25 when he applied to medical school when something unexpected happened that changed the trajectory of his career.
“I worked in the operating room for a group of open-heart surgeons at St. Thomas (hospital) in Nashville while waiting to hear about medical school,” he said. “I didn’t get in. I had to have a job, so I started interviewing. I interviewed for a pharmaceutical company. I had never sold anything and didn’t know if I COULD sell anything.”
According to Creasy, when he went on the interview he was suddenly asked to sell something that he was familiar with.
“The only thing I was familiar with was sutures, because I worked with sutures every day,” Creasy explained. “I started talking about the features and benefits of sutures — how it worked, why it had different colors, that it had to feel right so the knots could be tied. So I began to sell him and he was very impressed! Then he hired me.”
After more than three decades with Pfizer, Creasy and his wife, Kathy, decided to make Cleveland their home. The couple has been in the City With Spirit for three years.
“Kathy works at Church of God of Prophecy as leadership director for Children’s Ministry,” Creasy said. “Our oldest son works for Comcast in Philadelphia. He develops androids. Our youngest son is a lawyer in Philadelphia. He works for a firm that handles railroad litigation.”
Although retired, Creasy has stayed busy as Cleveland States workforce development director and as an aspiring author. He is currently completing his first self-help book.
“Earlier I decided to go back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling psychology,” he said. “I saw clients at a Peacemaker’s Center in Pennsylvania. I’m writing a book about it. It’s just about ready to go to print. It’s titled, ‘Staying Married: The Politically Incorrect Guide.’ It’s basically my experience as a counselor to help couples deal with challenges and issues to help them stay married. Sometimes, of course, things have to end. I understand that.”
As far as living in Cleveland is concerned, Creasy responded, “It’s a growing town and blessed in many ways. There’s definitely a spiritual component here that one can appreciate. There’s a lot of industry here. Industry is very interested in moving to Cleveland.”
In addition to cultivating a culturally sensitive learning community, Creasy, a man of faith, said, “I think all creation speaks of God’s power and handiwork. I’m always amazed at our differences and yet, basically, there’s a sameness there as well — even in the midst of that diversity.”