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 the University of Michigan – Dearborn (https://umdearborn.edu/) a public university in Dearborn, Michigan. UM-Dearborn offers over 100 academic majors and minors, 43 master’s degree programs, and 6 doctoral degree/specialist programs.
Our interviewee is Patti Martin – Experiential Learning Coordinator. She has been doing internship work at Dearborn for 27 years.
Joe Bamberger - For those that aren't aware of what your role entails, walk us through your responsibilities.
Patti Martin - My job is all about internships for liberal arts and sciences students. We have a brand new Internship Center in the college and my partner and I are working to create more opportunities for students. We work with the five internship coordinators who are specialists in their areas and ensure that students can find all the great resources available to them. I work with students, employers, faculty, and staff. It’s the best job in the world!
JB - Do you have a favorite part of the job?
PM – I feel it takes a lot of creativity and a historical perspective of this campus to do my job well, and that’s my favorite part. I have to think about internships for the whole college, not just one program. And I have to keep the employer’s perspective on interns in mind as well. I have a really long history in employer relations and that helps me see the big picture, outside of academia.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't have a relationship with the school, what's your sales pitch? Why should I consider your students?
PM - I am very proud to represent U of M Dearborn students! For 27 years I have heard uniformly great feedback from employers: Our students are hungry to learn and have a strong work ethic. The typical student works while going to school so they’ve already learned about how to hold a job. Our students tend to be realistic and ready to hit the ground running. I wish I had a nickel for every time a supervisor told me our intern was outshining the other interns!
JB - When you look at the current generation of students, is there something from a career readiness, career preparedness, job search, standpoint that they struggle with the most?
PM – I think I’ve been around a little too long to think that the generational differences are really that big of a deal. The hardest part is for students to understand how hiring works, where the pain points are for employers. Of course, there have been enormous changes in how hiring takes place, so that has impacted this generation a great deal. But the part that stays the same is giving students insights into the world that employers live in. Because my specialty for so many years has liberal arts and sciences, I can't help but comment on how different Liberal Arts and Sciences students are from students in professional schools. It's a much greater difference than anything I’ve seen from generation to generation.
JB - Do you find that there is a particular major that's the hardest for you to connect with career opportunities?
PM - Until the creation of our new Internship Center, I worked only with paid internships. It’s a whole new ballgame for me now, working with both paid and unpaid internships. Lots of doors have opened. For paid interns, I might have answered that question differently. I wasn’t finding enough opportunities for undergrad psychology majors who wanted clinical experience. I know employers who hire psychology undergrads in fields like market research, or assisting at-risk youth. But so often that isn’t what the student wants to do with their major. Now, there are some impressive unpaid internship opportunities, but even then the clinical ones for undergrads are too rare to fill the need.
JB - In a non-COVID year, do you have a favorite event on campus that's career-related?
PM - My answer has to be the career fairs. I love going to career fairs and talking with employers. That is, the ones who can afford the time to talk. I think it’s fascinating to talk to a recruiter who isn’t in high demand at a career fair, and finding out how to recruit students on their behalf. I also love talking to employers about the different majors they will consider, once you start talking about the student’s skills. That's where employer relations become so important in liberal arts internships. After a career fair I really enjoy having all these new connections.
JB - Do you have a least favorite part of your job?
PM - It's funny because the least favorite part disappeared when my job changed in March 2020. I used to have to tell students that if they get a job in our co-op program, they have to register for the co-op course even if they didn’t need any credit. That is no longer true. The thing that I liked the least evaporated with the changes my college made to the program.
JB - How long have you been involved with MCEEA?
PM - Since before it existed! MCEEA was made of two groups that joined together, and I had been a member of one of those groups since 1988, when I first came to higher education. I have been really, really lucky all these years to work in organizations that support professional development. And, of course, supervisors who supported me to not only attend conferences, but get involved on committees and boards. I've gotten a great deal out of it over the years.
JB - What keeps you coming back?
PM - I learn a lot. I think the perspective of how other schools are assisting students and employers, and the strategies of other schools, informs me as I'm working with my students, employers, and campus leadership. Knowing what others are doing helps you see outside of your own thing. That has served me very well. Plus, it's fun, great people. I have some friends that I met in 1988, and we get together several times a year. These are some of my best friends.
JB - Do you have a favorite event over the years?
PM - I would say the annual conference, but I can’t say one in particular. All events are opportunities to meet new folks and get back in touch with old friends. But the annual conference is always a highlight. I love learning about our profession. And it has changed over the years, so staying up to date is really important. I used to be very involved in planning and hosting annual conferences. What a lot of great memories, working alongside my friends.
JB - If MCEEA were to have unlimited time and funding, what would you like to see added to the programming or the services that the organization could offer?
PM - It would be a lobbyist in Lansing, who would represent the needs of experiential learning in higher education. We need much more attention on best practices in experiential learning. When the two groups came together, experiential learning became a little piece of career services, as opposed to a partner with career services. It would be wonderful if the bandwidth was there to address experiential learning not just as a kernel of career services activities, but as its own profession. I also would say, if the organization was wealthy enough, and we could drive down the cost to participants, that would be a dream. People could come and have subsidized hotel rooms, crazy free registration fees. Then even the schools without a professional development budget could send their staff. Wouldn't that be great?
JB - If someone is considering a career in career services, employee relations, the path that you've taken, what piece of advice would you leave them?
PM - The first thing that comes to my mind is that if you're new to higher ed, to understand that it operates differently. I think in other industries, maybe people know that that's the case. They might understand that healthcare is different from the airline industry, or that the automotive industry has its own ways. Higher ed can be hard to navigate in the beginning. Some people get really frustrated because they're expecting it to be run like a business. Faculty governance in higher education makes strategy and decision-making a whole different animal from other types of organizations. I love it though. I love that understanding the system you’re working in brings out some creativity to your job.
JB - Anything else that we haven't touched on that you'd like to leave with the readers?
PM - I must give praise to the MCEEA leadership. Now and even going back to the first MCEEA president, I think it was Lisa Phillips from Macomb Community College. Keeping together a professional association at a time when other professional associations start dwindling and even die out, that deserves some applause. I am very happy that the board is made up of volunteers and they're working really hard. I just think it needs to be said a lot, how much credit they should get for what they do that benefits all of us in our profession.
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