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 Ferris State University (https://www.ferris.edu/), a public university with its main campus in Big Rapids, Michigan. Ferris has 12,472 students. Two-year, four-year and graduate degrees are offered through seven academic colleges.
Our interviewee is Angela Roman- Director of the Center for Leadership, Activities, and Career Services. Angela has been at Ferris for 13 years.
Joe Bamberger - For those that don’t know you, aren't aware, walk me through what you do in your position?
Angela Roman - As the director, I lead the vision and the goal-setting strategic planning for a department that oversees multiple different functional areas. We have activities like your traditional Homecoming, Bulldog Beginnings, or welcome week activities and campus programing board. We oversee all student organizations including Fraternities and Sororities, student volunteer center, leadership development, and, most importantly, the Career Center.
JB - Sounds like a lot of variety.
AR - It is a fun variety. Yes, my day changes every day. That's why I like the role that I play.
JB - What would you say your favorite part of your role is?
AR - My favorite part is planning new things. We just started a new First Year Coaching Program. I developed the program, wrote for a grant, received a grant, hired peer coaches, trained the coaches, and we have about 1,400 first-year students in this coaching program. This is our first academic year. It's been a ton of fun doing something new and learning something new.
JB - That's great. Do you have a favorite event or activity on campus as it relates to your role?
AR - Oh, gosh, trying to be career-specific, it would be the Career and Internship Fair. Absolutely. There's nothing like seeing employers come back and we have a ton of Ferris alum that come back as employers to recruit our students. I've been at Ferris long enough to recognize the names and be able to connect with them. It's fun to hear their life after Ferris stories, and hear them sell what they do to our current students. I like seeing our students be a little nervous and vulnerable and being able to say, you look great, I'm glad you're here, and you're going to do fine. I like that interaction during that event. For activities, Homecoming. I've done the homecoming parade almost every year. I have my little spot in the parade. I direct traffic, but I get to see all the students, all the student organizations come through the parade lineup, and I get to cheer them on and get them excited to start the parade, so that's my second favorite.
JB - When we talk about career readiness and job hunting for students, do you think that this current generation of students struggle with anything more than another?
AR - I base it on what employers tell me and employers continue to tell me the degree is good and our students at Ferris are very good with their job-specific skills. So, our degrees are teaching students what they need to know on the job. But, things like essential skills, transferable skills, our students need to work on them. Skills like communication, conflict management, are starting to rise to the top, being able to have a difficult discussion with someone. Things like leadership, just basic leadership skills, and computer troubleshooting. I think if a student can get active on campus and learn those skills and practice those skills, that really sells them in a well-rounded way to employers.
JB - If I'm an employer that doesn't have a relationship with Ferris, why should I consider hiring a bulldog? What's your pitch?
AR - Oh, yeah, that's an easy one because I think we do a good job sharing this. We are absolutely career-oriented. We are hands-on. A large percentage of students are required to have an internship or practicum. It's over 75% of programs that require some sort of hands-on experience. We have 200 student organizations, more than half of our student population is in an organization. We have a ton of student employment and service opportunities. All of those things a student does at Ferris makes it so they hit the job running, and employers tell me over and over again when we get a Ferris student, they are ready to go on day one.
JB - It's good to hear. Do you have a least favorite part of your job?
AR - Least favorite? You know, email? I would love to spend all my time working on projects but the reality is a lot of that time is on email and answering questions, quick questions. Yeah, I am going to stick with that answer.
JB - From an employer engagement standpoint, thinking back over your time at the university, is there something that stands out to you that an employer has done, whether it's an event or an activity, or continues to do that you think, really resonates with students the most?
AR - Yes, one employer comes to campus annually and brings a ton of equipment for our Engineering Technology College and students can go out into the parking lot and get hands-on experience with that equipment. They really love it. The employer will have an information session, we'll spend all day where students can come or schedule a time to meet with them and go through and learn about their company and their equipment. Then they'll do on-campus interviews. It's a couple-day campus visit for the employer. Information sessions go over pretty well. It gives students a chance to ask more questions than they would be able to in a career fair or an interview. It's more relaxed in an information session. I would say an employer who does a variety of things on campus is the one that students will be drawn to.
JB - How long have you been involved with MCEEA?
AR - Ah, probably since my time beginning, 13 years ago when I started at Ferris. I come from workforce development, I worked 10 years at Michigan Works Service Center before coming to Ferris in the role of the Director of the Career Center. I also connected with all the other Career Center Directors in our public peer institution in Michigan, and a lot of them are connected to MCEEA, too. We have a lot of commonalities.
JB - What keeps you coming back year after year?
AR - What I like about MCEEA is that it's regional, it's our area. I can just pick up the phone and talk to these people if I need to. Great support. We all support each other, which is wonderful. We share resources, ask questions. There are often times we ask, have you worked with this employer? What do you think about this employer? Are you seeing students with resumes that have this on it, and we're questioning that. It's a great support network for our daily work in the Career Center.
JB - If your organization had unlimited time and funding, let's hypothesize what would be some things you'd want to see added to programming or fixed or adjusted in some way.
AR - Are you asking for at Ferris or related to MCEEA?
JB - Related to MCEEA.
AR - I think regular roundtables with career service professionals and then perhaps add a few that have employers in them. I've been to a few over time, haven't been to any recently, but those are always well done when we have a topic to come together on and chat about so that I don't have to pick up the phone 10 times. I know that I have this space that I could ask my burning question, and everybody would be in the same location. Then professional development. I am a learner and I love to attend professional development opportunities. So, if there were free, professional development opportunities, interactive, and then anything that would offer some sort of formality in that training, like a certificate or continuing education, or a one-year-long cohort of career service professionals that would go through a program. An example is NACE, which has a career coaching certificate. It would be fun if MCEEA had a low-cost or free option that was more regionally tied to career outcomes and career coaching, and you go through it with a cohort of people for a year. I think that would be really helpful.
JB - Well, I do know, to answer a part of that question, we are looking at adding SHERM and PHR credentials or education units to our conferences. That's been a request that's been heard across the organization.
AR - It's not easy to add some of those things. Even if you said we'll give you a certificate of participation, but something tangible that we can take with us just so it looks legitimate on our resume or portfolio.
JB - That's a great suggestion. For someone considering a career in Career Services, what type of advice would you leave them with?
AR - I got into the field accidentally. I stayed in the field, because I truly believe everyone, no matter what their interests, skills, abilities are, that everyone should be able to find joy in working a job. It's even better when you go to a job that you love every day. That you enjoy working with the people that you work with. That you are driven and motivated to do good things. So, for a Career Services person, my advice is if you have that passion to help people in their career, it's so rewarding, but it's different for every individual. You can't stop learning, you have to keep reading. Trends change all the time. You have to keep up on what industries are growing, which ones are fading, which ones are on the horizon. Then understanding different cultures, different ethnicity, different family systems, different skills and abilities, learning styles along with an interest in connecting that student to their dream career. Don't stop learning.
JB - Any final thoughts you'd like to share or anything we haven't had a chance to talk about that you were hoping to mention?
AR - No, you asked some good questions. I really enjoyed this. I'm happy to share my time with anyone who would be interested.
JB - Awesome, we 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 Angela on LinkedIn