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 Baker College (https://www.baker.edu/), a private, non-profit college with its central campus located in Owosso, Michigan. Baker currently maintains six on-ground campuses with a large Online and Center for Graduate Studies campus. Baker College also has three specialty campuses. The Culinary Institute of Michigan (CIM) campuses are located in Muskegon and Port Huron, Michigan. The Auto Diesel Institute of Michigan (ADI) is located in Owosso, Michigan and coming in the Fall of 2022, the new Royal Oak campus. Founded more than a century ago, Baker College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to grant associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. They’ve been a leader in the online education space since 1994. As a non-profit institution, their goals aren’t financial. Quality education is their bottom line. That is why they offer a variety of financial aid options and carry some of the most affordable tuition rates around.
Our interviewee is Katelyn Richard – Employer Relations Specialist for the Northern Michigan, National and International Region. She works in the Career Services Division, assisting students and graduates with employment needs and finding internships, as well as assisting with various career advising functions including resume writing, interviewing, job searching, professional development and networking. Katelyn has been with Baker College going on 10 years, all of which she has served in a career service role.
JB - Along your career, what brought you to this background? Did you have a position in higher ed elsewhere?
Katelyn Richard - Actually, my undergrad is in K-12. I'm certified 6th through 12th grade English and history. I taught in the K-12 setting before entering into post-secondary. A Career Coordinator position came available at the Cadillac campus of Baker College. Instantly, I fell in love with higher ed as I still work in education, but just in a different capacity. I still work with the K-12 as well, kind of the best of both worlds. I have been working Baker College going on 10 years now and really, really enjoy the work I do.
JB - What would you say your favorite part of the position is?
KR - I'm a pretty big people person, I love meeting new people and hearing about their goals, aspirations, and what makes them who they are. That's probably the best part about this job is that I get to walk alongside people and encourage them, give them advice, show them what their potential is while making lasting relationships and connections.
JB - If an employer doesn't have a relationship with Baker already, what's your sales pitch? Why should employers consider Baker students?
KR - Baker College is a very unique institution. We are a private not-for-profit. We can provide programming in different capacities more so than for-profits can and our tuition is more affordable. Our programs and classes taught by professionals in those respective fields. This instruction model allows students receive a more well-rounded experience in terms of seeing components of the field before graduating. We also require an internship component for graduation. Most institutions have that as an option, but they don't necessarily require it for graduation. That's really our students' leg in the field, especially if they don't have any previous experience. I feel like our students are pretty well prepared to enter the market after they do an internship.
JB - With your student population and the current generation of college students, do you think there's anything they struggle with most?
KR - The biggest thing I have noticed is the change in approach to work from generation to generation. Gen-Z’s are very agile and are creative in their approach to learning information and communicating their interest and needs. Their idea of working is different from other generations. For example, the idea of being dedicated to an employer is not necessarily tied to longevity at an organization. There are far more job-hopping and small stints of work from the generation coming in to the workforce. They are entering workforce alongside employers who value longevity, time, and commitment to an employer. When you have those two forces, it's difficult to get the employer to see how they need to shed light on their industry in a different way to draw in this generation, but also get the generation coming in to understand that employers value commitment.
JB - In a pre-COVID time period, do you have a favorite event on campus?
KR - The structure of Baker is kind of unique as well because we have six campuses throughout the state of Michigan. Each campus kind of has its own region and does its own thing. For the campus that I am most closely associated with, we have an event that is similar to a tailgate that we do with students, both brand new and continuing students. Typically that consists of field games; we play cornhole and racquetball and all of these different activities they can do outside physically. We also have hotdogs, hamburgers, and chips, kind of like a backyard barbecue type of event. We do a tailgating event, typically in the fall of every year, and obviously, COVID did not allow for that to happen this past year.
JB - Do you have a least favorite part of your job?
KR - Certainly some things are challenging about the job, which is good because then you value the good things more when you come up against those things you don't really like. I would say the most difficult part of my job is when I'm working with a student who has this idea in mind of what they want to do where they want to go and that just doesn't work out for them for whatever reason. Timeframe, commitment, family struggles, access to opportunities. My driving force is that I always want to open up opportunities for students. I'm always trying to find more opportunities, new avenues because I hate to have those conversations with students of "it's just not gonna work out this semester."
JB - Is there a particular major or program on campus you find is the hardest to find career placements for?
KR - Yes. Although it is on the rise and has been for quite some time, we have a Bachelor's in Game Software Development. While gaming is on the rise, and you see a lot of these eSports arenas being built, and all of those things, to find employment and internship, it's highly, highly competitive. They're very few and far between, unfortunately.
JB - If someone's looking to pursue a career in career education and career services, what piece of advice would you give to them?
KR - I would say to not take things personally. When you're walking through an educational or career journey with someone, there's a lot of factors that come into play. Oftentimes, some frustrations are shared. You feel like you put your name out there for a student or a graduate and you try to plug them into all of these different opportunities. At the end of the day, if they're not motivated or energized, or passionate about that particular thing, you can feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. "Why didn't this work out?", or "how come I couldn't make that connection?" It's certainly not a personal thing against you or your abilities. It's more so just the nature of the game. I would just advise making sure that they know their students well, and their graduates well. Build a rapport with them, get to know what their passions are, what they're ultimately seeking to do so that you can really cater to that.
JB - How long you've been involved with MCEEA and in what capacities?
KR - My first interaction with MCEEA was probably back in 2013. I got to go to their conference on Mackinac Island. It was an amazing conference. I fell in love with the concept of it and getting all of those types of professionals at one table. I continued to participate in the yearly conference. Three years ago, I attended their conference at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. The president, at the time, had mentioned if anybody wants to get involved, they have opportunities for you to serve as a part of MCEEA. I didn't know you could serve. I thought it was a long-standing alliance and they had their thing. I was super excited. That was in the summer of 2017. That fall, I received an invitation to their Q1 meeting which was in my region. However, I didn't realize that it was a board meeting. They welcomed me at the meeting even though I was not on the board. At the meeting, it was mentioned that the region one representative for my region was actually not able to do that role anymore. They told me I came to the meeting at the perfect time to take over the region. I debated because I had a lot of stuff going on for my job and I was pregnant with my third child. I wasn't sure if I wanted to take this on as well. I got a chance to meet with the President at that time, and he explained what MCEEA is about internally, and what the goals are. I agreed to be the region one rep for MCEEA. That was about three and half years ago now!
JB - What keeps you coming back to MCEEA? What's your favorite part?
KR - It's kind of like anything, no matter what industry you're in, you have what you would consider competitors. It's no doubt that MCEEA is made up of several institutions that encompass the career educator side. Never once have I ever felt like that competitiveness ever came out. We just come together as professionals; we're all in the same field; we're all trying to do the same thing for our students and our graduates; we all want the same outcome. We want each other to be successful, which I think is awesome. What I do for Baker College is not the same that other professionals do for their colleges, necessarily, because my institution is different than the other institutions, and so on. What I like most about MCEEA, and why I like coming back and attending the meetings and being a part of MCEEA is that we have really good camaraderie. We're just able to share how we're feeling, what we're up to, and the struggles that we're having, because we're all facing them, especially since the pandemic. We're all facing them in different capacities. I just love that we're able to rally around each other and just support each other. That's really what an alliance should be.
JB - If MCEEA had unlimited time and money, what changes would you like to see or additional programming that we don't currently do?
KR - I think the struggle is the employer side, getting employers to see the value of MCEEA and what we can do. I am involved in a lot of pieces, with business development and economic development. Getting the employers to see that this alliance is helping them do different things, whether that's attracting and retaining talent, whether that's marketing their organization and highlighting what they do and how they do it and why they do it. Maybe just switching up our marketing approach, sharing more of what value we bring to employers by being members. That would take us adding things to our repertoire because I certainly feel like we have work to do on the employer side. Budgets are tight and employers are feeling that strain. So how we can help support them and encourage them to be members so that they can see the return on investment by being a part of MCEEA.
JB - Any final parting thoughts or topics that you don't think we've talked about already?
KR - I would just say that it's really important to me in the work that I do, that people feel valued, heard, appreciated. I feel like that is MCEEA's platform too. They certainly want employers, career educators, but ultimately, the talent that comes up behind all of that, to feel heard and valued and appreciated. I would just say that we're trying to make that more prevalent and have our voice as MCEEA, as an alliance heard because we want to help our communities, regardless of where we're located. We want the State of Michigan to be successful. We want generations to stay here and work here and play here. We want that. That's our overarching ultimate goal. If anything, just that MCEEA seeks to be known for our willingness to partner and collaborate with educators and employers on anything that supports talent and workforce development within the state.
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 Katelyn on LinkedIn