Ashley Luse ’10 has become accustomed to exchanging her heels for steel-toe boots throughout the work week as she shifts from the boardroom to the job site.
Luse is the president of Luse Contracting Group, where she is working to structure financing in order to become the fifth- generation owner of the 99-year-old specialty contractor, a role she never envisioned for herself as a business major at Calvin.
“I came to Calvin planning on majoring in math,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my math major, but I was strong in math.”
When an interim class with then-business professor Margaret Edgell piqued Luse’s interest, she shifted her focus. “I started in business immediately after that,” she said.
‘SEARCH FOR DEEPER MEANING’
“My major was something that Calvin uniquely led me to,” she said. “I was attracted to Calvin’s emphasis on using business as a tool for social good. I became interested in economic development, social enterprise, and impact investing.”
The concept drove Luse to start a new club at Calvin, Global Business Brigades, through which she and fellow club members went to Panama to consult with microbusiness owners. It also led her to Uganda to conduct research for her honors thesis. “I loved my time at Calvin, and I was nurtured and encouraged by several professors there,” she said.
After Calvin, Luse went to work in the financial industry and earned an MBA in finance at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “It just didn’t satisfy my search for deeper meaning,” she said. “I was intent on having a career that matters, that makes a difference.”
It was during her time in graduate school that an assignment changed Luse’s career journey. “I worked with a Kellogg professor to publish a case study inspired by my family’s business, which influenced my later discernment into the company,” she said.
Begun by her great-great-great uncle in 1923 as a small roofing contractor on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Luse Contracting Group is the oldest mechanical insulation contractor in the Midwest.
In her role as president, Luse is responsible for the growth strategy and profitability of the business, which runs more than 100 union field employees on commercial and industrial construction projects across Chicagoland and southeast Wisconsin.
Central to her work has been understanding how to operationalize the company’s “Cultural Cornerstones” into the business, how to take values that are intangible and make them tangible. She explained: “Our company’s mission statement and core values—family, trust, humility, and generosity—are inspired by our faith.”
Every so often, Luse looks back on her “Worldview Paper” capstone assignment from Professor (Peter) Snyder’s “Strategic Management” course. She says that the assignment is an example of the way Calvin helped her examine the purpose of business through a Christian lens.
“The call to stewardship as a Christian has really come alive for me as the leader of this business,” she said. Luse feels a responsibility as a caretaker of her family’s legacy, the health of the business, as well as the well-being of her “work family.”
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be here, I admittedly might have been a
little disappointed,” she said. “I thought that to use business for the greatest good, I had
to go to extremes. But all along Calvin was preparing me for this very role. I’m certain that if I tried searching the world for satisfying work, I would probably never find anything as satisfying as what I am doing right here.”