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 Wayne State University (https://wayne.edu/) a public research university in Detroit - Michigan's third-largest university. Wayne State consists of 13 schools and colleges offering approximately 350 programs to more than 26,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Our interviewee is Shawn Turner-Pewitt – interim director for Career Services at Wayne State. She has been the interim director since October 2019, but Wayne for four years.
Joe Bamberger - What role did you have before your current one?
Shawn Turner-Pewitt - Before being asked to be interim I was a Career Advisor focusing on Career Planning in Career Services at Wayne State. I had the opportunity to build partnerships across campus, and encourage new ways of engaging students. So that was helpful, I think in becoming the interim director.
JB - For those that might not be aware, what do you do in your role? What's the day-to-day look like?
STP - So right now, the day-to-day looks extremely busy, I spend a lot of time representing Career Services in collaboration opportunities, meetings or events. An important part of my job is to elevate our presence on campus and to also make sure that the students are aware of the resources and opportunities we have as well our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Additionally, I have been encouraged how we continue to reimagine how we partner and make connections on campus, with employers and the community.
Typically, a day like today begins with meetings with partners across campus. Also, I have made the effort to meet with student leaders. In fact, I've started to invite student leaders to attend some meetings that I have with our employer partners because they're part of the process. I believe the student perspective and voice is important. It is a great professional development opportunity for students, too. There are times when I am asked to share information about our department. I love the opportunity to share how our team is evolving, growing and committed to teaching and coaching Wayne State University students so they are prepared for the world of work.
JB - Do you happen to have a favorite part of your job?
STP – One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is when I get the opportunity to engage with Wayne State University students. I love working with students and it’s the reason I continue to work in Higher Education. I fell in love with assisting students in making the connection between their purpose, education and career choice. Probably a close second is being able to collaborate with my colleagues across campus and initiate new partnerships in the community.
JB - When you look at your population of students, do you feel the current generation struggles with something when it comes to job searching or career readiness?
STP - We have to remember COVID has had a major effect on how our students are learning and networking as well how employers are recruiting. Of course, students have experience using technology to communicate using social media platforms. However, I think it has been challenging for some of our students learning in an all virtual environment. We've been sensitive to the challenges our students have experienced. I am concerned about the digital divide that exists for some students. All students need practice utilizing technology for learning and pursuing networking/job opportunities. Students need to remember the importance of work experiences, everything from information interviews, job shadowing, internships and part-time employment (even if these experiences are remote). We have provided many opportunities for students to learn networking and job search techniques in this new environment.
As far as what students may need to know when it comes to becoming a part of the workforce, they need to know how to manage their career, they need to have a plan. They need to be self-aware. I think that's important. So what is it that you feel like you were put on this earth to do? Many students will come to me and they will say, "Well, I want to help people". That means they automatically think that's healthcare. Well, no, there are many different ways to work out your purpose. I just share with them my own story sometimes. I have a degree in history, my undergrad and my masters are both in history because I love history. But I always knew I wanted to help people. I was able to sort of run into Career Services. That, for me, became a way that I could help other people.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't currently have a relationship with Wayne, why should I look to connect with Wayne students? What helps your students stand apart from other institutions?
STP - Thank you. I have been very purposeful in sharing how amazing and well prepared WSU are. We have one of the most diverse campuses in the state of Michigan. Each our students bring a cultural wealth to an organization. They bring their background, their history, and their story to an organization which prepares them to do well at the organization, to work in a variety of environments. That's what I would like to share with employers. As we reimagine how we connect with employers, I also share with that we have many opportunities on campus for employers to connect with WSU students to build their professional portfolio through internships, student assistant positions, and work-study. Then there are student organizations across the campus where they're able to build partnerships.
JB - With all the events that your department coordinates and plans in a given school year, do you have a favorite?
STP - Do I have a favorite? Oh, my goodness. I think, especially in this new atmosphere, they're all my favorites. I have a staff that is really dedicated to, especially now, with all the changes that we've had to make over the last year to innovation and looking across industry and seeing what's happening, seeing what other folks in career services are doing, and then also what employer needs are. Anytime that we have an employer that can come in and share the same information that we have shared with our students, I think is super helpful. So anything we do to engage our employers is pretty important, so I can't say one in particular. We do have a resume and mock interview session each year, and we may attempt to do that this year, in a virtual format. I think we do a really good job at that. All of our workshops, have had increased student and employer. I'm really excited about that, but I couldn't pinpoint one in particular event because truthfully, I try to create an environment where my team can be as creative and innovative as they want to be. And how can we deliver that information that will keep our students engaged and career-ready? They may come up with a workshop on the virtual internship opportunities that we have using our online platform, or how to utilize handshake more strategically and leverage the information. There are many different events and opportunities for students and I have a great team who continues to create innovative career development events.
JB - Do you find in your experience there's a particular major on campus you struggle with the most to connect with career opportunities?
STP - I wouldn't say it's one, in particular, I think what we like to work on is letting liberal arts students know - because I was a liberal arts student - that there are many opportunities. When you go home, and you tell your parents that you're going to major in Political Science, "so you're going into politics?" Or if you say history you have to teach? Well, I don't teach history, but everything that I learned to get my degree in history, I use today. Critical thinking, being able to write, writing is really important as a history major. I think being able to help liberal studies students create their purpose in a way that will help them in their career and choosing a career that may be something different from what their major is, but still being able to be successful and utilize all that information that they gathered while getting their degree. It doesn't have to be a hindrance, because you're choosing something like philosophy, political science, history, or even biology, but sometimes students get stuck. It's not just about the major, it's about how do you creatively use that major to fulfill your purpose.
JB - Do you have a least favorite part of your job?
STP - I'm a new leader, so I'm learning a lot while I'm in this role. I have had a year of offering leadership. Now it's time for me to reflect. What did I do well? What challenges were I able to resolve with the support of my team? I can't do it alone, I have a great staff. As I'm coming to my second year, I will continue to innovate, I am working on my own professional development with a mentor. I am a mentee in the MI-ACE Senior Leadership Shadow Program. The least favorite is probably is feeling as if you never have enough time to do all of the projects that you desire. Other than that, I love my job, I'm still learning, I enjoy the fact that I can make a difference in someone's life through career education. I enjoy the partnerships and the collaborations that I have across campus. For me, the foundation of why I'm doing it is because I love students, and I want to see them fulfill their purpose and know who they are and go away from Wayne State Career ready to great things.
JB - Let's shift gears for a second. Let's talk about MCEEA. How long have you been involved? How did you first learn about the organization?
STP - I was first introduced to MCEEA after being hired at the University of Detroit Mercy Career Education Center as their Employer Relations Coordinator. It was my first job after getting bachelor’s degree. My former bosses, Cheryl McGriff and Elissa Clemens, were instrumental helping to consolidate the two organizations that would become MCEEA. I actually attended one of the first MCEEA conferences in Mt. Pleasant. My boss at that time had an integral part in planning the conference, so that was my first introduction to MCEEA. I've been with MCEEA for a long time now, a very long time. I have been part of conference committees, being committed to MCEEA has a good way to network with other professionals in the career education industry, meet employers and exchange ideas.
JB - You're currently serving in a leadership position as president-elect. During your time upcoming as President, what are some things that you're looking to accomplish?
STP - This past year has been a year of learning. I have been paying close attention to the leadership style of Buddy Henika and John Carlson. I believe it is important to broaden the scope of employers and career educators in our membership. I am humbled and I feel very blessed to offer leadership to MCEEA during such a pivotal moment. I hope to continue to increase professional development opportunities, Recruit, retain and diversify MCEEA membership and continue to create a MCEEA community of belonging where everyone has voice. As MCEEA moves forward it’s important that we do so grounded in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, committed to the growth and development of our membership as we stay focused on our mission as our guiding principle.
JB – I couldn't agree more. Let's go down a hypothetical path. Let's say your presidency starts with an unlimited budget and time for MCEEA. What would you use that time and funding for? What is some programming that MCEEA can offer that we currently don't right now?
STP - If I had with no limitations, I would host industry specific career fairs, learning opportunities and networking events. I would fund opportunities to build a process for career educators and employers to receive MCEEA approved credentials. These credentials would be industry driven and provide added value to our membership. Also, I believe it would a great idea if MCEEA hosted industry specific Career Fairs and networking events. With the announcement of our MCEEA Moving Forward initiative, I believe we will be able to engage career educators and employers with more innovative programming.
JB - When we look at the current membership, it's predominantly career educators. If you take the state of Michigan out of it, there are very few employer members. What are some things you'd like to see to increase the return on investment for employers, more diverse employers, more employers of different sizes and locations? What can we do to increase that part of our membership?
STP - We need to be intentional about how we reach out to our employers, share with them who we are, what we can offer and reimagine our manner of collaboration. Again, with our MCEEA Moving Forward initiative we are broadening the scope of employer membership. Also, we will begin to offer more Continuing Education credits during quarterly events and networking opportunities. We need to continue to expand our network space which are inclusive and diverse. Employers need to know that MCEEA is an organization committed to evolving and creating spaces for growth, development, recruitment and education.
JB - For someone looking to follow your path and pursue a career in career services, what sort of advice would you give them?
STP Take time to become self-aware. Discover what is important to you, what are your values, what do you like to do fun. Gosh, never let people tell you who you are, I think is probably the biggest thing. Enjoy the journey. I was very surprised that I was asked to be the interim director after my boss was about to retire. I never knew that was coming. That was a total surprise. So I said yes because, for as much as I thought I did know, I thought it was a great opportunity to learn some new things and stretch myself, in many ways. Which I have been, I have been stretched. I didn't go to school necessarily to be a Director of Career Services. Say yes to some things that might scare you, or might seem daunting, because it's worth it. Be open to new opportunities. Always be teachable, always keep learning. Always be gracious to others. It pays to be kind. It really does. And probably all the things that I tell my daughter: be confident, be kind, never give up, don't be afraid to say I don't know, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Most importantly, if you like connecting students to their passion and purpose as they pursue their education, you will enjoy being part of a career services team.
JB - I couldn't agree with that last part more. Life's a team sport, right? You must rely on the people around you.
STP –Absolutely! Having a team who is dedicated to the same mission and purpose is key to accomplishing great things. I believe to become an effective leader you must be compassionate, adaptable yet strategic. But most importantly, you have to like people and have a desire to see others grow and develop.
This has been a very challenging time for everyone yet it has proven the importance of the collective voice. I've been able to network and meet so many people I would not have been able to if it had not been for this new environment. We've been able to innovate. I've been able to reimagine the work that I do and the people that I work with, it's been amazing, sometimes challenging but amazing.
JB - As most challenges are. Shawn, I appreciate it.
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 Shawn on LinkedIn