It’s not unusual for Professor Peter Sorensen to see a few of his former students at Monarch Landing senior living community. Now fellow residents, they nod hello from safe social distances.
He sees his current students on a video conference screen because, for the time being, in-class instruction is not possible.
The distinguished and multi-awarded scholar is chair and a founder of the master’s and PhD program in Organization Development at Benedictine University in Lisle. This is the institution’s first doctoral program and, in fact, the first on that level at any Benedictine college or university. It is also one of the earliest in the field.
When his students from across the U.S. were physically attending classes, Peter made the 15-minute drive to work from the retirement community into which he and his wife Nancy moved five years ago. Now, Monarch Landing is not only his home, but also his workplace.
However, he is anything but retired. On the contrary, he spends 70 hours a week immersed in at-home university life, preparing, instructing and “learning all the things that can go wrong with a computer,” he quips.
“Overall, I am extremely lucky. Each day, I get to chat with some of the most accomplished and contributing people in the field and with students who are, or soon will be, making their own contribution,” said Peter. “Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed,” he added of the shift from teaching onsite to teaching online.
Focused primarily on strategic management and international organization change and development, the program Peter helped pioneer at Benedictine has produced executives and consultants with major global corporations.
“We are making plans for alternative futures,” he said, noting that during the 2008 economic crisis, a number of Benedictine scholars’ research projects and dissertations dealt with the success or failure of corporations’ response to the changes. Today’s climate will most certainly inspire similar studies.
While much of his time is devoted to academia, Peter enjoys life at the Naperville community he and Nancy chose as “part of their preparation for the future,” he said. His praise of staff at Monarch Landing is second perhaps only to praise of his wife.
A former assistant director at CNA Financial, Peter met Nancy when she was hired there. “I met a very special person. That was over 50 years ago, and Nancy is still that very special person,” said the man who earned his PhD on a GI bill after serving in the Army.
Monarch Landing’s staff members top the list of Peter and Nancy’s reasons for loving life at the picturesque community near acres of native prairieland and convenient crossroads. “They are just fantastic! How do they all remember your name and who you are?” he ponders.
“During these times you have a chance to reflect. And you begin to realize how you really care. If you don’t see [members of the staff], you start to worry. And then you see them again and everything is all right,” said Peter.
“And you get the impression that the feeling is mutual. We really think it is.”