Applying The Aligned Values Framework™ in Higher Education

belonging core values diversity education equity inclusion leadership mastermind Mar 12, 2024

Case Type: Education

Client: Kirstie Wheeler, Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music

Their Mission: Meet students where they are when they walk through the door. Help them continue their education and nourish them as a whole person.

Their Values: Love, Honesty, Education



Crystal Lily Creative is a consulting agency specializing in inclusive branding, leadership development and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) services, founded by Crystal Whiteaker. Kirstie Wheeler, an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music, faced unique challenges in her classroom due to the institution's exceptional international diversity. This case study delves into the challenges Kirstie encountered and how Crystal helped her find solutions using The Aligned Values Framework™.



Berklee College of Music prides itself on being one of the most diverse colleges in the United States, attracting students from around the globe. However, this diversity brought its own set of challenges. Kirstie noticed that including such a diverse group of students in the classroom often led to issues that impacted emotional regulation, identity development, and the ability to interact effectively with both content and peers. Kirstie needed a comprehensive, flexible, digestible framework to address these challenges.



Kirstie Wheeler was introduced to Crystal through a business mastermind group and recognized the value of their DEIB approach in The Aligned Values Framework™. Kirstie decided to integrate it into her DIY Marketing course at Berklee College of Music. Since Spring 2022, she has dedicated class time to each aspect of The Aligned Values Framework™ with her students.

  • Shared Reading: Students are provided with reading materials to understand the concepts of DEIB and The Aligned Values Framework™.
  • Reflection: Kirstie encouraged students to reflect on how the framework related to their own experiences and values.
  • Discussion and Call to Action: Classroom discussions centered around the framework, leading to actionable steps for students to implement the principles of DEIB in their personal and professional lives.



The Aligned Values Framework™ provided a more reflective approach than other branding and marketing frameworks. It encouraged students to examine their biases, values, and the inclusivity of their missions and visions. It also emphasized attracting clients and collaborators who align with their values.

What stood out was how open and receptive the students were to these discussions. Following Crystal’s guidance, Kirstie created an environment where students felt safe sharing their thoughts, emphasizing the concept of a "brave space." This generation of students wants to engage in these conversations but often need more structure to do so effectively.

The outcome has been remarkable. Students become better at articulating their values, understanding their brand, and recognizing the importance of inclusivity, while cultivating deeper self-awareness and human-focused leadership skills. The Aligned Values Framework™ positively impacted their personal and professional development.

Kirstie shared: "Crystal clearly lays out the vision of where a project is heading and breaks it into manageable pieces. Her work is innately centered in a realm where discord is omnipresent. Crystal's attention to detail and careful planning of sequence and how to leave space open for questions and disagreement allows people to move through in a way that challenges them to think without leaving them feeling judged. It allows those who are in disagreement to process the information in their own time, acknowledging where they are and gently moving them to wrestle with changes that may need to be made in their own lives and in their role as a team member. 

Crystal consistently meets deadlines. When I piloted Crystal's workbook with my Marketing for the Indie Musician course every detail was attended to prior to the deadline. Crystal consistently provided answers to questions that came up, checked in for feedback, and always delivered on time. The budget for students was outlined and met prior to our pilot semester. 

In the initial pilot program, I had a student who had very negative experiences with DEIA+ work in the past. Crystal emphasized the importance of each person's lived experience. She was able to help me navigate this situation with the student which ultimately led to this student thanking me for bringing Crystal and her work into our classroom. The student was able to open herself and become introspective without feeling judged or that there was only one conclusion required.

Crystal's compassion and ability to hold space for those who are processing the difficult realities of DEIA+ is amazing. She presents concepts, ideas, and structures that allow for each person to explore their own needs and establish next steps forward."


Student Reflections:

“It is fitting to say that we are constantly adapting to the social environments and shaped through experiences and connections. By finding what inspires us, we could not only be aware of how we interact with others but also improve our work efficiency and find the right palette of the customers.”

“I think if you are rooted in both your role and identity you're able to tackle things that need to be done more efficiently and with more purpose. I think you're "iffy" on your role and identity, it can be detrimental to your business and you might not be super focused on what you're trying to achieve. I think the questions they asked were really helpful in starting to try and identify all of that.”

“I thought the idea of learning more about yourself and biases by analyzing your relationship to former experiences and coworkers was a really substantial exercise! I also think it's wise that she extends it to both environments and connections you did and didn't enjoy/value. (In terms of core values, I also think that asking others to describe you seems highly informative, and likely often sobering!)”

“The act of identifying bias within myself as well as in my role and organization truly stood out to me and showcased a few insecurities about my work and my identity, because of how bias and prejudices are usually associated with external factors or bias within your community or society. The process of laying out all biases regarding all the different factors laid out in the question made my values and morals very clear to me and left me with a very positive understanding of my role in my community as well as where my goals are placed and how they align to my biases and personal identity.”

“Honestly, I hadn't thought about how deeply my personal values can effect my brand, and further how I can use them to HELP my brand as well. For example, I am openly a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even though being open is awesome as it is in terms of already influencing people and showing inclusion in the industry, I realize I have a chance to take it a step further. Donating ticker sales to programs who help LGBT youth, talking about issues online, and incorporating it more into my image are all steps I would willingly take to help with inclusion, my career, and inspiring the next generation.”

“This reading made me think about how it's important to acknowledge your position of power when it comes to having a lead role in your business, especially if it's your band or artist project. As the leader of a band I feel like I often have to think about how I make other people who are involved in the project feel, and it's really important to be conscious of how your words, actions, and values may have a different weight simply based on your role in the project. And as someone who collaborates on projects where I do not have a leading role, I've found it to be helpful to acknowledge that I may not be the decision maker in that situation and that I should allow the leader of that project to make executive decisions while standing up for myself and offering input where it is appropriate or warranted.”

“This [framework] honestly gives me a lot of inspiration because I typically don't see many other companies as striving to make a great change in the world. I believe in such, and I hope that more others do too. I found this chapter especially helpful because while I'm realizing and solidifying my main core values, I'm having trouble summarizing them in a more palatable and captivating way that still captures a wide variety of values. I really enjoyed having the template at the end and think keeping these ideas in mind as I continue to consider my brand strategy is going to be really helpful and also keep my goals consistent.”


Crystal's work with Kirstie Wheeler at Berklee College of Music exemplifies the transformative potential of DEIB frameworks in education. By integrating The Aligned Values Framework™, Kirstie enhanced her students' abilities to navigate diversity and inclusion challenges, fostered a more inclusive environment, and empowered them to use their newfound knowledge in their future careers.

Kirstie's testimony underscores Crystal's work, which fosters team alignment, buy-in, and a culture of self-awareness and belonging. The Aligned Values Framework™ enhances inclusivity by promoting compassion, facilitating challenging conversations, and honoring boundaries.

This case study demonstrates the importance of incorporating DEIB frameworks into educational settings to prepare students for a diverse and inclusive future. Crystal's partnership with Kirstie Wheeler at Berklee College of Music showcases the positive outcomes that can result from such initiatives.


“Crystal is amazing. She asks the hard questions and helps you work through the hard answers. Crystal understands that inclusion is a necessity for every human to have a voice at the table. She lives her work at the very core of her being and is one of the most genuine people I know. I was able to dive deeper and keep clarifying what is most important to me and that translated to my messaging becoming more clear. Crystal has made me a better human and [educator]. I fully recommend Crystal if you're ready to do the work!” –Kirstie Wheeler, Educational Consultant and Associate Professor, Berklee College of Music

Would you like to bring The Aligned Values Framework™ to your students? Reach out to discuss educational partnerships.

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