Tandy Shuck helps train leaders in the community
By Glenda Winders // Photography by Dasee Johnson
Tandy Shuck thought she was going to be a doctor. She also thought she was going to live in Pittsburgh. Luckily for people who live in Johnson County, neither of those things happened.
After growing up in Tipton, Shuck was a junior pre-med student at Hanover College when she realized medicine wasn’t where she wanted to spend her career. Instead, she graduated with a major in psychology and a minor in biology. That led her to a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Connecticut College, where she worked with children who had behavioral disorders, and that led to an internship at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh.
“I really enjoyed that and thought I would live in Pittsburgh forever because I liked the experience there and the area,” she said.
But during a trip home to Indiana to visit her brother and his family in Franklin, one of her nieces changed her mind.
“I was putting her to bed, and she said, ‘I miss you, Aunt Tandy.’ That’s all it took. I wanted to be closer to my nieces, so I could watch them grow up.”
She landed a job in the counseling department at Franklin College and has worked there ever since in some capacity — adjunct faculty in the psychology department and creator of a new-student program for freshmen before she went through the Leadership Johnson County course.
Developing the program
She graduated in May 2001, and was offered the job of executive director that August. Bonnie Pribush and Diane Black, who organized LJC in 1993, told her that there was only enough money in their account to pay her salary for six months and that her mandate would be to make the previously college-supported organization self-sustaining. Shuck took the challenge and ran.
“It was a little bit of a calculated risk,” she said, “but I never looked back. We’re been able to grow the organization since that time, and the people I meet along the way are incredible.”
At that time, the group only offered the Signature Program for adults, with the first class graduating in 1995. Since then, Shuck has developed the Youth Leadership Academy, half-day and full-day workshops and “Leadership to Your Door,” which delivers leadership training to a company’s workplace. The class currently underway is the 29th, and some 850 people have completed the course.
“We help some leaders find their voice,” Shuck said. “Sometimes participants come to us not fully realizing they are leaders. We help others find their passion and how they can use their leadership skills to help an area of the community about which they are passionate. And we help other participants find their purpose — the thing that makes them excited about living in this community.”
People who apply come from all walks of life and have ranged in age from 21 to 83. They all make a commitment to spend nine months (part-time) working on themselves as leaders, using 50% of the time on leadership skills and the other 50% on community awareness. The cost is $1,750 and scholarships are available.
Working in small groups, they do projects that benefit the area. One past class started the soup-bowl event that is a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, while another raised money to help get a vehicle for Johnson County Senior Services and some have done renovations with ASSIST Indiana.
“We believe that those are the laboratories where they are going to put their leadership skills into practice,” Shuck said. “We want them to know how to do a grassroots effort in accomplishing something good for the community so that after they graduate they can go and replicate those initiatives to make our community even better.”
The program kicks off with a retreat, which Shuck believes is crucial to forming the foundation of a class “family.” Here, they discuss leadership theories and determine what their individual definitions of leadership are. Using the Myers-Briggs personality inventory, they divide into their project groups and discuss their different personalities and how they might enhance the experience of working together — or push one another’s buttons and work out solutions without raising voices or calling names.
Since Johnson County is largely a farming community, they spend one day visiting two farms and learning about agriculture and the modern technology that goes into successful farming. Another day they take a historical driving tour and guided scavenger hunt around the county to learn about where they live.
“We believe that to help create a vision for the future, you need to know what is in the past for your community,” Shuck said. “We think it’s important for them to learn about the history of Johnson County and the incredible people who have gone before us.”
This year, for the first time, Shuck and leadership studies consultant Carolyn Goerner have added three one-on-one coaching sessions where program members will be able to ask whatever personal, professional or LJC-related questions they have. Shuck said this is an attempt to help the whole person be better than when they came in.
Six years ago, with the Signature Program going well, Shuck thought they could do more. She approached the board of trustees with her ideas about providing opportunities for more people, and the Youth Leadership Academy for high school students was launched. Students apply when they are sophomores or juniors and go through the program as juniors or seniors. They can be from public or private schools or be home-schooled as long as they live in Johnson County. The idea is essentially the same except they work on their project as an entire class.
Also launched at that time were women’s retreats, half-day and full-day workshops open to anyone, wherever they live and usually sponsored by the company where the women work. At one such recent event, speakers came to address the group on the topics of wellness, vulnerability and how to set boundaries. Participants did yoga, had chair massages and networked with one another.
“Tandy is always considering how things could be better, even when they’re already excellent.” Goerner said. “Her vision for the future of LJC is inspiring. When I became acquainted with LJC in 2013, the Signature Program was the main event. The growth since then has been phenomenal, and Tandy is the heart and soul of that growth.”
Something else new this year is a mentoring program with Franklin College students that is facilitated by Goerner. Students are paired with LJC graduates who have similar career passions and are working in the fields in which they plan to go. Another first-time activity this past autumn was a talent fair where companies could meet students looking for internships and jobs.
In her role as fundraiser, Shuck organizes the group’s special events, such as “Mix It Up” in March and “Bourbon and Bluegrass” in the fall.
“It keeps us hopping,” she said, “but I don’t do it on my own. We have eight staff members, as well as board members and volunteers who help out. We’re blessed with lots of hands that make all of this possible. We’re also grateful for all of the sponsors who believe in us and invest in leadership.”
Some of the volunteers are LJC graduates who want to remain involved with the program.
“One of the things that sets us apart from other community leadership programs all over the United States is alumni engagement,” Shuck said. “Of graduates who still live in the area, 50% to 54% contribute by serving on a committee, coming to events or making donations.”
A life of passions
As if she weren’t busy enough, Shuck currently serves on Aspire’s business advocacy council, and in the past, she has been involved with the Franklin Chamber of Commerce board, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Center Grove Education Foundation, Turning Point and the Johnson County Community Foundation. She has served in several capacities at Dress for Success Indianapolis, a local chapter that she and her sister co-founded. And her work doesn’t end at Johnson County’s borders.
“Tandy is also a presence state-wide,” Pribush said. “She has served as president of the Indiana Leadership Association and been a driving force on their board. Through her efforts, Leadership Johnson County is recognized as one of the premier community leadership programs in the state. Her ideas and initiatives are often models for other communities. Since these programs are generally not in competition, Tandy is able to collaborate — her favorite mode of operation.”
While work is her passion, her family is still No. 1 on her list of priorities.
Twenty years ago, she married Mike Waddick, an engineer at Rolls-Royce, after meeting him through a radio dating service. Concerned that some health issues might not allow her to have children, they planned to adopt.
“We decided there are lots of children all around the world who need loving parents, and we thought we could do that for someone,” Shuck said. “I had always wanted a daughter, and we found out that a lot of little girls in China at that time needed homes, so that’s where we decided to start our search.”
They applied for the adoption, but the day the caseworker came to do a home visit, Shuck learned she was pregnant with son, Connor, now in the honors college at IUPUI. The only change they made in their application was to ask for a toddler instead of a newborn, so their children wouldn’t be the same age.
“Friends said, ‘Now you don’t have to adopt,’” she recalled. “Mike and I looked at each other and said we never really had to adopt. This was our choice, so we wanted to move forward with it. We knew there was a little girl somewhere out there waiting for us.”
The little girl, Savannah, is now a junior pre-vet major at Albion College in Michigan. Later, the couple had Cameron, now a junior at Center Grove High School.
The family loves to travel together, exploring new places and trying new foods. They had a goal of visiting all 50 states by the time the children graduated from high school and would have made it if they hadn’t been stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were able to fulfill their ambition last year.
Shuck’s personal favorite pastime is reading.
“I read a lot of books about leadership,” she said, “and I love to read fiction that is about people’s lives and relationships because I think a good relationship is at the center of a majority of the good things that happen in life.”
A while back, she set a goal of reading 100 books in a year and ended up reading 150.
Most days, however, find Shuck in the cozy green cottage on campus that has housed LJC for just over a year. Her team converted the upstairs rooms to offices and the larger public spaces downstairs to conference rooms where they can work with program participants and improve the county in which they live.
“I believe that the vitality of a community and the development of its leaders are closely linked,” she said. “A group of trained leaders can motivate and inspire others to take action to enhance the quality of life for all people living in that area. We love what we do, and we’re glad that we’re making a difference.”