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 we will explore Western Michigan University Career and Student Employment Services and their Career Development Specialist – Wayne Bond II. Western Michigan University (www.wmich.edu) is a public research university in Kalamazoo, Michigan, established in 1903. Wayne has been there for just over 3 years.
Joe Bamberger - What brought you to Western? Walk me through your career progression.
Wayne Bond II - I moved to LA after I graduated from Albion College in 2010. Unfortunately, some circumstances brought me back. In January, 10 years ago, I came back from a memorial for a friend. The next week, I heard about a job option at Western. I didn't have anything really settled out in LA. It's LA, I would never really advise living there full time, great to visit, but if you have Midwest manners, it's not for you and I found that out very soon. I was lucky enough to come back, I took this part-time job coordinating events for international students. I had two other part-time jobs on top of that, I busted my butt to the point by June, they asked me to apply for the in-house position for my job. I went from temp to part-time in-house. I did such a good job that they offered me a part-time contract that technically put me to 40 hours overseeing a Japanese teacher program that had just come in. I had two parallel contracts, which allowed me 40 hours to work with international students. Then by January, after a year, they had made the position full time because of me and my exploits. I stayed in that position until November of 2014, where I moved on to oversee the entirety of international student programs on Western's campus, so everything from orientation to semester events. International Festival, which saw roughly 5,000-10,000 people from the community in four hours, to an orientation where the budget was well over $100,000. It was a trial by fire, with each position. Then fall of 2017, I was beginning to realize that I was getting pigeonholed as just being an international student advocate, instead of being an overall student advocate, which was making it harder for me to progress. Initially, I had thought of being more in international relations. Now I've thankfully made the pivot into an overall student affairs advocate and administrator, which is where I feel will be the continuation of my career. But I do want to take a jump into academic advising at some point, I do want to work with student organizations on campus. Other opportunities within the Student Affairs student advocate spectrum are open for me, especially with how universities are going to be forced - and I do mean forced - to adjust and change in these next few years. That leads me to where I'm at today.
JB - Walk me through an average day in your role. How do you spend your time? What's the day job look like?
WB - Currently, I'm up about 6:40 every day to just really get a jump on studying everything. The workday starts around 8:00, starting to finally wake up. Emails are basically the bulk between 8:00 and 9:00. Student appointments and presentations and other programs start anytime between 9:00 and 4:00. I can have anywhere from 2 to 6 student appointments a presentation. I sit on a lot of committees for the university, as well as individuals who have sought me out for resources in the past, so I'm very stop and go. I can have four virtual appointments and then have to run across campus to do 8 different things. That's kind of really how I prefer it personally because it keeps me from being too much of a couch potato just sitting down and vegetating, especially now that I'm at home for the majority of my time. Then checking back on emails, at any given point. I do things, piece by piece. Over the last 10 years, I've realized that it's not necessarily as efficient to sit down and try and do one research project or one paper, or one proposal in the span of three or four hours, you don't necessarily give yourself enough time and you don't give yourself enough space to be able to walk away and come back and look at it. On a daily, I'll do a paragraph of a proposal, a piece of research, just because if I'm there for a too long one, my eyes are gonna cross and I'm not going to want to do it anymore. But I'm also going to miss a lot of stuff and that's come through the last 10 years of working in academics and just understanding that bulking and burning through something is great, but you're gonna miss a lot of stuff.
JB - What would you say your favorite part of your job is?
WB - The smile from a student when they actually get what you're talking about. Because that means they've actually learned something that they're excited about. Today, I had a student who graduated in June of last year, who spent half a year really kind of floundering. Just saying some suggestions of "alright, all these places that you interned for a while why don't you reach out for remote work?" And just to see him step back and think "why don't I do that?", and then start smiling because he's ready to get off the call because he's ready to start doing all these things. That is by far the best part of the job.
JB - If I am an employer that doesn't have relationships with Western, why should I consider Broncos?
WB - Broncos are tenacious. Broncos are the ones who aren't in it for the accolades. They aren't in it for themselves. They're in it because they want to be a part of something better. A lot of our students may have ended up here because they may not have gotten into the institution they wanted to get into. But they stayed because this is where they found their home. We're not this gigantic city where you can just get lost in the crowd. But we're also not small enough to where there's nothing to do. As someone who came around here when I was an undergraduate - granted, I went to another school because all of my friends went to Western and I didn't want to be that kid, and I wanted to leave home - the connection that no matter whether it was my generation, as millennial or the young Broncos I see today, there is a commitment to this area, what they're doing. Hopefully, if they're able to find that inspiration on campus, a commitment to the local community.
JB - When you look at the current generation that's on campus right now, what part of their career readiness or career search, do you think they struggle with the most?
WB - Knowing what's out there. Unfortunately, the generations - and this is starting with my generation, we had a lot of helicopter parents in my generation. Now we're running into situations where we have college students who have grown up in snowplow families where all of their issues and problems were paved out of the way for them. I've had times where I've had people who work at the university come and ask questions for their kids. They know darn well, I'm not gonna give you all that, your student needs to come here, and they need to talk to me about this. It's not going to do any good for them if you're doing it for them. And they know this because they work here. I've lectured a couple of people, but it really is not necessarily independence. There is a sense of independence, but I don't think this generation truly understands that grasp all around of that aspect of independence because we still get parents calling to see where their kids can get a job. Your kid should be doing this, especially if they're a senior. It's a combination of not knowing, but also growing up where a lot of your tough challenges were done for you.
JB - Do you have a favorite event on campus as it relates to career readiness job search?
WB – It would have to be the career fairs. I'm naturally a floor general, I picked up that trait, working oversight on orientations. Both personally for the office and the students, I would say, the in-person career fairs when we're able to get back to them, just because I also am an arranger. I love seeing my colleagues in roles that best suit them throughout the day. The individuals who are putting it on are dealing with all the top row stuff. With my experience, I'm just saying, "Alright, you guys deal with that. I'll help manage this area in all the other rooms. I don't want y'all dealing with the minuscule things. I'll be the floor general in this area." It allows me to be able to step into a role that I'm very comfortable with, support my colleagues, see other colleagues do things that they're naturally gifted at, and just see a student who walks in extremely nervous, walk out like a million bucks. The transformation from "I don't know if I even belong here" to "I can't wait to come back to another event like this" is magical. It really is.
JB - With your background in international students, how do you convince employers that given an international student a shot on an internship or a full-time position with knowing the cost and uncertainty of the visa issues? How do you overcome that obstacle?
WB - I always ask them what they're looking to do in a role and if the role was not managed as well, why not taking the chance of bringing in someone who has experience but from a completely different country and perspective. Thus being able to mitigate some of the issues you may have originally had with the individual who may not have worked out, while also being able to get an edge on a global spectrum.
JB - Is there a particular major on campus that you struggle with the most in finding them a career placement?
WB - History, I guess. I pick on history a lot, but unfortunately, especially now, it's not like there's a lack of teachers, but they pay for teachers hasn't necessarily been as prominent to encourage. That aspect of history is unfortunately down. Archivists are unfortunately down just because not many people are going to museums. Curators are unfortunately down. So, unfortunately, across the entire spectrum of history. Unless you are doing digital archiving for the Smithsonian, I don't know of anything for history.
JB - This has been my favorite question on these interviews because I haven't gotten the same answer from anyone. Some liberal arts, some dance and performing arts, and some physics math, as well as some vague ones like general business or communications. Not because there are no jobs in those but because the kids don't know what they want to do. They could do anything and work anywhere in any type of career path in any vertical. And that's the problem, that's where they struggle is finding direction.
WB - Yeah, and it's not necessarily always conducive to be able to help them focus. That's interesting because if I were to go back and do it again, I got my degree in wildlife biology. But I have this career. I encourage volunteering. That's my biggest thing. I advise volunteering in local locations, as well as with graduate students because the best way of knowing if graduate school or the field is even your thing is going to talk to someone who's well in the thick of it. If it doesn't scare you away, then yeah, this is definitely something you should do.
JB - Let's shift gears a little bit. How long have you been involved with MCEEA?
WB - Since I started working with career, so three years.
JB - Do you have a favorite part, I guess what keeps you coming back?
WB - The conferences were the best! The one that Sarah, my colleague, oversaw was dope, and I learned a lot. Someone gave a presentation on a whole gaming mechanism for getting students involved, which is brilliant because we laugh, but the university model is trying to still figure out how to address the issues of my generation when we should be thinking about how we're going to address the issues of a 10-year old that's in school right now. This is all going to come back to the workshop. The aspect of universities thinking they're too good to change is very frustrating. Thankfully, 80% of our administration's like boomers, so in the next 10 years, there's gonna be a huge vacuum of power, which I'm really looking forward to. But unfortunately, that mindset has put us in a situation where we are making changes that should have been made 15 years ago.
JB - If there was unlimited time and funding for an alliance like MCEEA, what sort of programming would you hope that we could invest in or change or focus on?
WB - A comprehensive internship platform where locations can post internships for all majors and one that is actually monitored in real-time. Meaning that if they're no longer looking for volunteers, interns, practicums, what have you, they take it down. That would be game-changing across the entire country. Currently, it's just jobs and I get it, but our students at this point, need an applicable volunteer experience. And if a statistician or a physics major can get a remote hour appointment every other week from one or two organizations, that is going to suit them far better than any type of workshop or trip or what have you. Especially because they can go into interviews saying, I did remote work in my field during a pandemic that shut the planet down.
JB - Anything else on your wish list?
WB - A green energy student centered facility to be able to hold various student events. Career-wise, unfortunately, we are going to be losing our main location for our career fairs. So a more comprehensive location for us to hold in-person career fairs. It's not going to be an issue for us now, but in 2022 we're gonna have an issue with that, because the Bernhard Center is supposed to be coming down in the next year.
JB - For someone considering a career in career services, what piece of advice would you give them?
WB - Visit your career office, you do have one on your campus. Volunteer with all the events or at least two events a semester because that gives you at least two to four hours of practical work experience. As well as it allows you to see some of their more hectic times. As well as it gives you a structured idea of professionalism, work ethic, and how individuals communicate.
JB - Anything that we haven't touched on that you'd like to end with?
WB - More on my wish list. More of a structured approach to educating first-generation and low-income students on FAFSA and the work-study. Its now is the most pivotal time for families to be filing for the FAFSA and the work-study. Unfortunately, if we are being completely honest about our demographics and our population, these individuals who in first-generation students who qualify don't even know. If we had a comprehensive education system that lets students know that, far more students would be able to work on our college campuses. Now that's not just Western that is every college campus. So that goes back to my wish list. I would throw all the money at that actually, to be completely honest. Just education materials to say if you're filing your taxes and you make a certain amount and if you think you're struggling to get your kid to go to college, chances are you might qualify for this financial assistance. So that's my biggest thing.
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 Wayne on LinkedIn