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Welcome to MCEEA’s Faces on Campus campaign!  


Over the next year – we will be highlighting the career educators and employers who make up our great organization. Each week we will pay tribute to the individuals who devote their lives to helping students take that key first step into their professional career and the employers who welcome and develop them into the professionals they will become.  


We hope you enjoy the insights, stories, and laughs of the people of MCEEA.  


This week brings us to Eastern Michigan University (www.emich.edu). EMU, located in Ypsilanti, is a public university that is home to 20,000 students.  


Our interviewee is none other than MCEEA Past President John Carlson. John is the Senior Corporate Relations Manager at EMU and has held that role since February of 2016.  


Joe Bamberger: What's your favorite part of your job? 


John Carlson: Well, it's two parts, and it's so cliché, but it's being a part of the student’s story. And truly feeling blessed to be able to witness the journeys, of the aspirations of our students today. Because I can't help but go back and remember what my journey was, and who were the inspirational individuals, what was possible for myself in a time when I wasn't able to see it or even conceive that. And witnessing the student’s stories, and embracing their trust in me, and supporting them on their journey, whether it's helping with a resume, to figuring out what they aspire to do, making some connections, it's truly so cliché, but that's, that's my favorite part. And the other element is just Eastern is just such a great place. And what I love about it is the faculty and the staff, they care about students first. The students are first. And I have yet to meet anyone on campus that will not leap at the chance to be there for students. And I love that because, as you can imagine, not all institutions are like that. It can get a bit political, a bit territorial, but at Eastern, they know who the real heroes are. And those are the students. 


JB: If I'm an employer, why should I consider Eastern students as potential employees? 


JC: Why not Eastern? Here's the good news/bad news. In the State of Michigan, the education system is just one of the best in the country. You've got phenomenal options to choose from. And I think really what distinguishes Eastern, and as I work with students and the institution, there's a grit. There's an honest, even a piece of what I judge sometimes as an underdog mentality, it's having the grit and the prowess to want to fight because some of our students as first-generation students have been doing this their entire lives. So, I'll put it this way. There was a recruiter at the University of Michigan and the number one source where they recruit nurses was Eastern Michigan. And he said because Eastern Michigan students want to stay local. After all, they want to be by family. And they're not afraid of work. They aren’t as caught up in the ego of getting their master's degree and then getting their doctorate and doing global work only later to come back. They're ready now. And there's a piece there, that's just down and honest, of wanting to work on creating a new path that for some of our students are supporting their family members. They're not afraid to work. And there's a grit and a willingness to fight for your team. So, it's, yeah, it's pretty raw, pretty cool. 


JB: What's your what's your least favorite part of your job? 


JC: Right now - working from home. With that set aside, it's, I can't even believe I'm saying this, but in my role with EMU's University Advising and Career Development Center, UACDC, there is nothing. I’m truly gifted and fortunate to be a part of the team that I am with, at Eastern where we truly are better together. And I feel seen, I feel supported, I feel that my leadership gets me and encourages and supports me. So, anything negative I tell you will just be really an idiotic nuance that really no one cares about. But right now, it's working from home and missing the connection with amazing people that I work with. They're incredible. They care. 


JB: What major on campus, do you find is the hardest to connect with employers? 


JC: Good question. What comes to mind for tough majors is to connect with employers, are the programs where the faculty are disengaged. I'm going to go with that political answer. When the faculty are disengaged and are not willing to connect and collaborate with our department and building those partnerships because I can reach out to employers and have that dialogue around value proposition because everyone needs help. But it's a timing piece and finding the talent that's a fit for their culture, who they are, and what they do. And when we don't get the collaboration and the support from faculty, it makes us less than effective. I don't feel comfortable pointing out one program or the other, it really comes down to when faculty and administration are hesitant about collaborating to help build those relationships because we can bring them in. But if we aren't supported it loses a bit of that stickiness in those relationships. 


JB: What's your favorite event held on campus? 


JC: The job fairs. That is one of the most incredible value propositions that happens on any given day, on our campus, whether it's virtual, or if we have 120 employers who are on site for a job fair. I marvel at the fact of how many jobs are in that room at that given time. And looking at how much money is ready to be distributed. At that moment, from a student's perspective, looking at here is potentially a defining moment that will shift the trajectory of their lives forever. If they're just willing to say hi, willing to say yes and take that leap. It's magical. I didn't participate in them when I was a student, but when I look at them, it's truly magical. And, you know, the other piece I'll offer, is Eastern, during the holidays, they do such a beautiful job. They’ll offer a Thanksgiving meal for all the faculty and staff. And it's just beautiful. And it's just you feel, again, that community, that connection to a job, it's the real deal. It's like “wow, this is why I'm here, and this is why I stay.”  


JB: If you can offer advice to anyone getting into corporate relations or career services, what's the one piece of advice you would offer to them? 


JC: Just like anything, know what you're saying yes to. Because research shows, everyone cares. And everyone wants to help people. But that's not enough. It's finding out who you want to care for. Where you want to care and how you want to care. You need to realize the impact that you can have by giving a shitty perspective that, when it comes to career advice, you can screw someone's life up and cost them a lot of money if you don't know what you're talking about and don't understand the relationship between courses and the degree and the requirements. Just know what you're saying yes to. And if it's something that resonates with you? People need you. I would offer that no one likes someone who's committed to mediocrity. Don't play small. 


JB: How long have you been involved with MCEEA? 

 

JC: Since I came to Eastern, so it was 2016. 


JB: How did you become aware of MCEEA? What was your first experience? 


JC: Well, it was the conference in Frankenmuth, and I found out about it through my department. 


JB: How have you been involved since then? 


JC: Everything. In a previous life, I was part of an association called AGAT, which is the Association for Graphic Arts Training. And there were about 10 to 20 of us. And we did everything. We would hold this annual conference year after year. These people were just so good at their craft. And we had so much respect for one another. And we just loved AGAT, which really, what we were saying is we loved each other. And we loved working together. And we love what we were able to create and bring to an annual conference. When I came to MCEEA, I saw that same piece, this piece of family. And so that's that combined to this time in my life, wanting to lean into my leadership, is where it just jumped in. When Angela Shelby reached out and asked if I would serve next to her with her coming in as president-elect. And I leaped at that chance, I was honored to be seen, timing in my life was perfect. Wanting to prove and show up for myself, in my leadership that I've got this, I can hold the space for the greatness of others, let alone a statewide organization. And so that's what I did, and proud of what I've done. And bringing in that platform to see a family because it takes people kind of like cheers, you know, just wanting to go where people are your name. Now think it's real simple, just where you see, and you're known. And you're wanted in people's eyes, the eyebrows go up, shoulders go back, palms go up, people get excited when you walk into the room. And so, being a leader being now the past president, it's again, it's truly an honor to be supported, and to be seen in such a cause.  

 

JB - I think you kind of answered my next question as well, which is, What's your favorite part of MCEEA? So why don't you tell me if there is anything about MCEEA that you don't like. Or if MCEEA had limited time and funding what is something about MCEEA, you would change? 

 

JC - It's what you're doing Joe. Truthfully. You know a best-kept secret is only really, good for some things in life. And when you have an organization that is looking to connect, and to be more widespread in the state, it doesn't serve it to not be known. And so truly what you are doing, Joe is something that has been missing in my mind. And that's why I'm so grateful for the energy, your giveaway command, and just invite you to think about outside of your organization outside of your visibility. But what's the potential impact that the work that you and your team are doing, is having on employers and higher education institutions across the state? I invite you just to sit with that think about what is the impact that your work is having potentially, on one student, on one college, one employer who's looking to fill a job, and how you're contributing to that. So it's really getting one piece is getting the word out more widespread. And the other piece I would say that we're very strong in our education representation. It's becoming expanding our employer base Because, yeah, expanding our employer base. I don't know what that ratio is. But that's another opportunity that I see for us. And something that I'm working on right now I'm very proud of and my role as past president is taking the lead in, creating space for MCEEA, to be even more inclusive, and generate creating an initiative. So right now created a task team where we're formalizing an executive board role as a vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to kind of check us to be the voice of feedback. And reason. So. So everyone's welcome. Everyone's welcome. That's great. Yeah. So proud of that. It's what you're doing, yeah, thank you, Joe. 

 

JB - Absolutely. That last question on MCEEA, is there something that keeps you coming back year after year? 

 

JC - Well, this is what I do. What keeps me coming back? What keeps me coming back is we need each other. I need you. My judgment is you need me. Because truly without each other, in some ways, in my mind, we're nothing. You know, again, that best-kept secret is only really good for certain things, like a camping spot, maybe a restaurant, something you don't want the word to get out. Because you want to preserve that. But that doesn't work here. Because we need each other economies don't frickin happen. Success and thriving, doesn't just happen. It's when we're able to move beyond our fears, and our shadows to lean into one another. To say, Hey, what do you do it? Here's what we need. Because I've learned that leaders ask for what they want. So I keep coming back. Because we have to. And yes, to your point, it's I really like the people. Because we've created an environment, where all of you as welcome. So bring it, because playing small doesn't look good on you. And we need to find more responsive ways to connect the talent that's within our colleges or institutions, with employers like you and employers that you work with. We have to find better ways to do that. Because I don't think, well, we need to find I think we could do even better. And our state is we need it. We're hungry for that. And our lives and our economies depend on because without people what do you got? 

 

JB - Any parting words of things that I haven't asked or touched on that you'd like to leave with the readers. 

 

JC - Just thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Joe, again, for you and your team, to bring this awareness. It wouldn't happen without us saying Yes, we'll do this. Or I'm going to nominate my team whether they know it or not. You know, but you know, to MCEEA it's truly a gift in the state of Michigan. And yeah, I love everyone who's a part of it, and yeah, here's Let's fight. Here's to 2021. 

 

JB - Hopefully, things get better.  


Faces on Campus is a weekly interview series highlighting members of MCEEA conducted by Joe Bamberger of Emerge Consulting. Be sure to follow MCEEA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MCEEA.org 

Connect with John on LinkedIn

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