Give It Forward Together with Denise Berger Ed.D.

I am so excited to welcome Dr. Denise Berger on the show this week!

Her dissertation was on Corporate Social Responsibility, “Doing it the Right Way!”

She walks the talk!

I have witnessed her integrative social conscious teaching style first hand as I have had the honor of being a guest lecturer at her “Leadership and Service” class within the Master’s program for Social Entrepreneurship and Change at Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education for the last three years.

Recently she has launched her new company Aliki Designs which has a give it forward together initiative with each jewelry piece. Listen to the show to hear more about this “altruism in action” vision that she and I align with:


Guest Commentary


I am appreciative of and humbled by the invitation to be on Dr. Denise’s podcast. When Dr. Denise and I were talking, I shared my favorite ancient Greek quotes: “a society grows great when old people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never enjoy.” This quote establishes a foundational intention for my work and in my life. It helps me to lead with gratitude for the potential of what is in the now,and the meaningful impact we can have – in the present – on the future. This thinking dovetails elegantly with what Dr. Denise mentioned as her values: awareness, self-love and altruism. I believe our shared values is what created the synergy for our ongoing conversations – both as co-creators and as conversationalists.


Yes, that does sound lovely, doesn’t it!  Ideal, utopian, and just neat. And let’s be even more frank. I get to have these views because I won the birth lottery and have had access to privilege my whole life. So, I have not lived at the bottom of the proverbial pyramid where lofty self-actualized goals come sparingly. By the same token, I have not led the elite silver platter life either. I have worked hard to earn my stripes and gain knowledge and skills through discipline, responsibility, long hours, collaboration, and tenacity. And I have had my share of bumps and bruises. I have experienced gender inequality in the workforce and personal and professional betrayal – the scam, the lie, the arrogance, the empty promises.


Alongside these experiences, none is more poignant and demanding of any of us to grow and learn than tragedy. As I mention in the interview, I was in the World Trade Center on 9/11. In the podcast, we do not go into the details of that day extensively. For me, the more poignant story comes from the choices I made afterwards in striving to live with greater awareness, meaning and purpose.  It is when we all have been emerging from such devastation that the ancient Greek quote above has resonated. My life was spared on 9/11. I was on the 103rdfloor in a meeting. I left the building and proceeded to the ground as soon as the first plane hit the tower. I didn’t hesitate. I was methodical. I was keenly aware of the intuitive state I entered and the conversation in my head. Time slowed down to allow me to be attentive to these inner voices. I have often reflected on these inner workings. But, in all honesty, I was lucky. Truly lucky…. because, I had many friends and colleagues that did not make it out that day, and I cannot say that my inner voices were the only ones kicking in. No.  Instead? Timing. Luck. My good friend was in the first tower. That tower was hit first because that plane took off from the airport at a point in time that brought it to New York about 17 minutes earlier than the second plane that took off from a closer airport that hit my tower. I was a block away from the building when that happened.


Since that tragic day, and (strangely… so strangely) the luckiest day of my life, I have been acutely aware that I must live life purposefully. I think about my legacy and how I can inspire others to leave their own meaningful legacy. I have shifted careers. I stepped aside from global Fortune 500 business, pursued a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, and seek to elevate leaders to their full potential. (Note: if you have a pulse, you are a leader.) I consult with teams. I advise individuals. I help individuals and organizations develop leadership efficacy, strengthen culture and operational effectiveness, and build meaningful impact in society. I volunteer to support the growth of non-profits. I am a graduate level professor in leadership studies. And now I am an entrepreneur, having started AlikiDesigns. My jewelry is hand crafted, Greek inspired and everyday elegant. All pieces have a GIFt (Giving It Forward together) component to key organizations that I have vetted, and every piece comes with a positive intention.


One of the collections, near-and-dear to Dr. Denise and me, is Aliki One. The special pieces, which were carefully curated, are universally tied to Lama Tenzin Choegyal’s work running an orphanage in the Indian Himalayas. He is a change maker, who brings hope and potential to disadvantaged youth by giving them housing, private education, career opportunities and love. Genetiki, Karthia and Siban bracelets set intentionality in the world toward elevating consciousness and collective impact, creating togetherness while respecting individuality, and defining universal inspiration and the infinite potential of one humanity. We GIFt 21% of purchases in this collection to Lama Tenzin’s projects. To learn more, visit the website and on instagram @alikidesigns.

Denise Berger, Ed.D.