16:06 PM

Bellevue University Alumna Continues Connection Through Professional Ties

Since Brandy Wallar graduated from Bellevue University in 2021 with a master’s degree in professional studies, her connection to the university has remained strong … grown, even.  

When she was promoted to interim president and CEO of New Visions Homeless Services – roles that have since become permanent – Wallar sought out the opportunity to continue working closely with the “amazing team and programming” at Bellevue University.

“One of my missions in my organization is to have everyone who enters our doors leave in a better place, including our team members,” Wallar said.

So, she reached out to Bellevue University to learn more about its education benefits program for employers and their teams. New Visions Homeless Services is now ready to launch this program, providing up to $5,250 per year in tuition assistance, for all of its employees.

“After connecting with Jerry Dempsey (senior director of strategic partnerships at Bellevue (University) about this program, we found out there were several other ways to partner to have an impact in our community,” Wallar added.

She explained how New Visions Homeless Services operates two campuses, one in Council Bluffs and another targeted toward veterans in Omaha.

“Bellevue University’s focus on serving veterans resulted in several of their team members visiting our campus and ultimately supporting our veterans on Veterans Day with brand-new backpacks filled with essential items,” Wallar said. “I was very impressed with Stan Hawkins, director of veteran services at Bellevue University, during one of our visits and asked him to serve on our board of directors. Stan recently accepted a position so he can continue to use his experience not only from Bellevue, but also as a veteran himself to better the lives of those who served our county.”

New Visions Homeless Services’ connections with the university continue. During Wallar’s visit with Hawkins and Dempsey, they talked in detail about the need for mental health services.

“Stan and Jerry both reached out to me about an amazing opportunity where one of Bellevue’s generous donors offered to pay for individuals to go through the university’s Mental Health Technician Certification Program,” Wallar said. “One of my team members who previously experienced homelessness but who has overcome that crisis and recently bought her own home as a single mother was excited to take advantage of the program and started the classes last week.”

I was able to pull all these learning experiences together through Bellevue University's innovative programming.

Brandy Wallar, Bellevue University Alumna and CEO, New Visions Homeless Services

Wallar added that she’s since spoken with a local funder, who’s expected to fund a new position for this woman after graduation so she can focus on New Visions Homeless Services’ guests who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

“This amazing opportunity to expand my team was spurred on through Bellevue University’s dedication to bettering and strengthening our communities in more than just a traditional student and school relationship,” Wallar said.

While Wallar’s professional connections with Bellevue University have clearly made a big impact on the lives of others, her education from the university has affected her personally, as well.

Her time within the professional studies master’s program enabled Wallar to cherry-pick classes from different course catalogs. 

“Looking to become a CEO/executive director of a non-profit, this program appealed to me as you must have several skillsets and knowledge as a leader in a non-profit organization,” she said. “This program allowed me to take courses out in clinical counseling, human services and others that have proven to be valuable in building my skillset as a leader in my sector. As a non-profit leader, especially in homeless services, you need to have emotional intelligence and understand mental illness, all while balancing budgets, making ethical decisions, and developing policies and procedures around best practices in the human service field.  I was able to pull all these learning experiences together through Bellevue's innovative programming.”

Wallar added that she had just started her second semester at the university when the pandemic hit. Working in homeless services and food security, New Visions Homeless Services went from serving around 2,000 individuals a year to over 20,000. She was also in charge of expanding and starting five new programs during the height of the pandemic, all while being enrolled at Bellevue University and helping her own children navigate online schooling while she was still going into the office every day. 

“My professors and advisor were amazing to work with and very understanding and accommodating to my personal and work schedules,” Wallar said. “It allowed me to not withdraw from classes but continue my educational journey throughout the pandemic.”

Looking to the future, Wallar plans to continue building strong relationships with community partners like Bellevue University to break down barriers for people experiencing hunger and homelessness and provide long-lasting safe housing opportunities for those experiencing homelessness.

“I am blown away by the opportunities that Bellevue University has afforded not only myself but my organization in less than two years since graduating with my degree,” Wallar said. “I am excited to see the amazing things that our collaboration is going to do for our community in the future.”

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