Creating an awesome work environment Giving back to the communities in which we live and work Uncategorized By Susie McCormick February 29, 2024

Rogé Karma Inspires Others with His Wellness Journey

Associate Adds Mindfulness to Nelnet’s Wellness Offerings

When a person makes a seemingly small life change, it’s often not until later that they realize the full impact of that change. When that life change becomes a major shift that brings others along in their wellness journeys, it can take a person by surprise.

That’s what happened to Nelnet Business Services Account Executive Rogé Karma, who adopted mindfulness in 2017 out of a desperate need to make some life changes. Here’s his story.

Change is Needed, On Every Level

Karma had been raising five children in a stressful situation—a son closely followed by four identical quadruplets. He said, “I was always, even through the high school years, stressed out over trying to make ends meet and in my head, thinking, ‘How am I going to pay for college?’” When Karma started at Nelnet in 2017, all five kids were in college. He found himself “miserable and miserable to be around.”

With Nelnet’s benefits, he decided maybe it was time to talk with somebody. In the first meeting, Karma told his therapist about the quadruplets and the chaos in his life. As the therapist handed Karma a mindfulness book, his reaction was, “‘I don’t need mindfulness. I need help. I’ve tried this meditation stuff. It doesn’t help.’ But I took the book, and I never really got to thank him because he retired or stopped practicing there. I did start reading the book and reading the science and research behind it and sort of said, ‘Well, let me just try this.’”

Karma said he went through the book’s entire eight weeks of practice. “I noticed a big change in my ability to react to stressors. Then I would have these bad days, or two or three days in a row, and I’d be like, ‘Oh no, I fell off the wagon, if you will,’” he noted. With mindfulness making such a noticeable difference, he began to prioritize making time for it.

Not having a healthy way to manage stress had led Karma to be overweight. “It all goes in when you’re that kind of person. You’re eating whatever you can: McDonald’s or whatever is available. You’re not being mindful of what you put in your body.” His chiropractor told Karma the back issues he was having were from being overweight. Karma, who loves food, said he couldn’t change that, but he had to be mindful about carbohydrates and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

He admitted to being cost-conscious with five kids in college. Karma said when Nelnet started having health insurance goals, he missed the waist circumference goal. With that affecting his paycheck, he signed up for coaching. His coach talked with him about weight loss, exercise, meditation, and mindfulness, and Karma was able to go from weighing close to 250 down to as low as 211 pounds.

Karma noted that, again, money was a motivator for him. He began tracking all of his wellness-related activities as part of Nelnet’s wellness program so that he could earn enough points to receive $450 per quarter in his Nelnet Health Savings Account. “All that tracking means that you do more steps, you take the stairs, you go for a 20-minute walk. It kind of keeps you honest. All these things helped me get into better shape and lose some weight—and helped with being calm and mindful,” said Karma.

Approaching Life Differently

Karma saw a change in the way he handled stress in all areas of his life. “When I started with this company, I used to react terribly to stress, like an upset client or an email, and I’d be in a high stress, almost antagonistic mode to solve the problem. In that book, it says that when you’re in that mode, you do much worse at problem-solving. I think I do a much better job now because I’m in charge of keeping my clients happy.”

“My kids look back now and say I’m such a different person from who I was,” said Karma. “They were in travel hockey and doing all these things, and I was trying to get them to these things and pay for them, and worrying about college. I was just reacting to everything, living as a reactionary person.” He added that living like this is a common thing people do, and it makes them feel helpless and like they have no control.

Since he began practicing mindfulness, Karma was also involved in a serious car accident in which he and his family were hit by a person who ran a red light. As a self-proclaimed New Jersey tough guy, Karma said he immediately felt anger boiling up. Karma said he started breathing and was able to look around, calm down, and realize what had happened and that they were all OK. By breathing, he was able to stay calm and go over to find out if the other person was OK. “An old version of me would have gone over there and started screaming,” said Karma.

Becoming a Wellness Leader

When asked if he ever envisioned himself being the wellness leader he now is at Nelnet, Karma unequivocally said, “Nope, not at all. I didn’t even think twice about it.” He added that, “It was Nelnet Business Services President DeeAnn [Wenger]’s idea.”

Karma said it was 2020 and he was doing mindfulness and really liking it. Nelnet had a wellness challenge going on with points, and he had been meeting virtually with an accountability partner. They agreed to start five minutes early before the first virtual division meeting with some mindful movement. Rogé said, “I was in my Southern California backyard with the palm trees and waterfall, and everyone loved it.” Soon Monday Mindfulness became a pilot Karma would do weekly for Nelnet Business Services, and for the division’s Elevate and Campus Connect conferences—and eventually corporate-wide for Nelnet. Karma was also surprised to be recruited by various IT, marketing, or other cohorts to hold mindfulness sessions and brief talks about his journey.

Now Karma holds mindfulness sessions every Monday and Wednesday unless he’s off or traveling. Karma noted that associates and attendees at conferences frequently say, “That’s just what I needed.” He’s quick to point out that he almost always says, “I needed that, too.”

At Nelnet and beyond, thanks to Rogé Karma, hundreds—if not thousands—of associates and clients have been inspired to learn and gain the benefits of mindfulness.

Thanks, Rogé. We needed that.




Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer