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Keeping Up With Cannabis Compliance with Christian Kennedy

Seattle University is proud to present a series of blogs showcasing our MLS in Compliance and Risk Management students’ Capstone presentations. The Capstone requires the student to create and submit a comprehensive paper or project for presentation in the course, which showcases the student’s competence in compliance. It is also for use in the student’s professional portfolio.

Christian Kennedy’s presentation is titled, “Keeping Up With Compliance: Solving for Change Management in the Rapidly Evolving Cannabis Landscape.”

Christian’s Journey to an MLS

Christian began her MLS in Compliance and Risk Management in August 2020. Christian spent much of her career in biopharmaceutics, which is a field in which she would greatly benefit from a Master’s degree. She had already been working in global patient safety, which is a compliance arm within biopharmaceutics, and held many positions of responsibility. The question was, she says, “How do I find a Master’s program that speaks to risk management, compliance, and regulations – and that also gives me that lift to help me advance my career in the company?”

Discovering the existence of an MLS degree was like a lightbulb going off, and Seattle University rose to the top of the list of options. “The first thing that really impressed me was the availability,” she notes. Her questions were quickly and efficiently answered by SU staff, and they paid her individualized attention. Being back in school was a thrill for Christian. “I was well-welcomed and it was a great journey,” she reports. 

Christian’s current position is Director of Information Security for Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) at a large semiconductor company called Wolfspeed, which is based out of the Research Triangle in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. She joined the company nearly two years ago, starting as Senior Manager of Integrated Risk Management. Five months later, she became Senior Manager of Information Security GRC, then just before her 1st anniversary, was promoted to Director.

Seattle University MLS Capstone Project

Christian was fascinated by developments and complexities in the cannabis industry, and chose to utilize her capstone project to further study the history of how it had evolved, devolved, and re-evolved over the years. “Our law of life is change,” she says, referencing a memorable quote by John F. Kennedy. “A lot of what the MLS at SU did was cover the past, present, and future applications of law … we are guardians of change.” How will the nation manage the upheaval and change that comes if cannabis becomes legal federally?

Christian says there were multiple pivots throughout the process. In the end, she wrote a research paper that evaluated three different change-management methodologies and settled on one she deemed most appropriate.

She charted what the cannabis landscape looked like in 2022, when she began the project. She explored the different laws, from medical to recreational, from state to state, finding layers of complexity. Interestingly, she says, we are seeing the same kinds of individualized and complex legislatures across the country when it comes to compliance regulations. She broke down the key distinctions between each change management methodology: Lewin, Kotter, and Prosci. 

Exploring Different Change Management Methodologies

Out of these options, Lewin was simple and easy to execute – but perhaps too simple. Kotter had the opposite problem of being overly complex. Meanwhile, Prosci focused most on the human element involved in the change-making process. 

  • Lewin – simple, focused, easy to execute, but with question of scalability 
  • Kotter – urgent and engaging, but potentially lacking in crucial detail and relevance
  • Prosci – phased, inclusive, and with checkpoints and other productivity markers

Interested in the Prosci methodology, Christian outlined a roadmap for moving forward: define what success looks like, choose a change management tool, and develop a change management process. The sustain phase within the change management process section ensures that implementation can work in the real world and for the long haul. In case you haven’t guessed already, the Prosci methodology is Christian’s pick.

“When you have a big change coming, it can be overwhelming, and we have to figure out a way to communicate it to leadership to get sponsorship,” Christian says. Working in phases and metrics is the most practical, and the Prosci methodology struck the right balance between comprehensible and comprehensive. 

Applying the Seattle MLS Capstone Project to Professional Life

If cannabis does become legalized, this methodology can greatly impact and benefit businesses. “I do believe that the Prosci method gives you what you need in a more consumable fashion. It provides better modes of communication and engagement on a consistent level, and ultimately prepares you for success with your project managers and leadership.” It was an unexpected final outcome, but that is what research is for.

“I can see in my professional life, we are now having conversations around the subject of change, with some big initiatives we are working on … Being able to phase approach like this has garnered some better conversations and willingness to engage.” As many new technologies develop within the cybersecurity industry, this Prosci methodology can help pave the way for successful change. “I never thought that this Capstone project would be something that I could take into another industry that is very different from cannabis and have it actually still apply. I’m still able to use this tool today.”

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