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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.

We kick things off at Albion College – located 30 minutes east of Battle Creek. Albion College (www.Albion.edu) is private liberal arts college with an annual enrollment of approximately 1500 students.

Our first subject is Troy Kase – Director of the Career and Internship Center. Troy began his tenure at Albion in February of 2013.

Joe Bamberger: What would you say is your favorite part about working on the Albion campus?

Troy Kase: We care. You know? We've said it in different ways, but that's the big thing, we care. We care about our students. I was chatting with a faculty member yesterday about a student and there is just this common thing that I see on Albion's campus - we are trying to help the students, and we truly care about each and every one of them.

JB: That's awesome. What would you say, from a Career Service professional standpoint, you see as the biggest struggle that students face? Specifically, on your campus.

TK: It was conversation I was just having less than an hour ago. It's getting students out and networking - having conversations with employers. It is a very threatening experience. And I'm going to, I hate to say this, because it's going to sound like I'm bashing their generation, but their generation is more comfortable typing and texting than getting on the phone and conversing with people. And you know, those students who master the networking, that master getting advice from professionals in the field, and of course, they are building the network at the same time, those students that master that, they're made, they're set, they're going to get a job, I have no concerns about them.

JB: What would you say? When you look at Albion students specifically makes them stand out versus maybe other campuses in the state?

TK: Well, it's - I'm going to give an answer that I think is going to be similar among a lot of small campuses - these students, they're problem solvers, they're communicators. And, you know, we all like to say that, but the reality is, their biggest class might be 35 students. They are forced to be accountable for the things that they do. They are forced to be able to communicate and practice communicating in a class. Of course, we all like to think that our students are the best. And I think our students are amazing at problem solving. It is that level of accountability, we challenge the students. Albion is not an easy college, academically, so they are forced to build their intellect and problem solving skills while they're here.

JB: At the risk of making you sound redundant, if there is an employer that doesn't currently have a relationship with Albion what would be your sales pitch - why they should invest time and energy on  your campus? 

TK: Because we can give them individual attention. We are a small campus, we are a flexible campus. If an employer calls me up and says, “can I get this email sent out to these majors”, we can do that. “Can I do this presentation?” Yes, we can do that. “Can I connect with these faculty?” Absolutely. And I've had other campuses comment to me and say, it’s really interesting how you can talk to these faculty and get them on board with this. And we have strong relationships with faculty, and it's kind of a natural part of our environment on campus. So, most of the time when we want to connect an employer, to the students to faculty, we're able to do that.

JB: That’s great. Kind of a positive, negative question here, what is your favorite part of your role? What is your least favorite part of your role?

TK: I've got a lot of favorite parts. And I'm going to break that one up, because it's between two things.  My favorite part is, Albion, has really done a fantastic job of reaching out to underserved students and helping them out. And I love being involved in that. I mean, it's an incredible feeling to be able to help somebody out that maybe hasn't had a ton of chances prior to Albion College. And another one, this one sounds weird. And I know it sounds weird to a lot of people, and perhaps you've even heard this before for me is - I love working with students on their resumes. Because it's not about writing a document, it's about helping a student discover who they are, discover their strengths, discover those transferable skills that they gained from whatever job it is, the communication skills, problem solving, teamwork. It's helping that student see themselves as somebody who is going to be successful, and how they can articulate that success with an employer.

JB: …and least favorite?

TK: …Apathy - dealing with students that, maybe are struggling with motivation. And then I think that it's more about confidence than anything. But that is the part that throughout my career has been most difficult to deal with. And I'm reminded by a few professionals, including my wife, you can't want their success more than they want their own success.

JB: Absolutely, totally agree. Couple of fun questions here - what major on campus is the hardest to market for employment?

TK: You know, it's not your typical humanities major. I think that the most difficult - and this one's a little off - physics can sometimes be a difficult one. Because you've got this degree that has taught them incredibly strong skills and abilities to go out into the scientific world. But it's not an engineering degree. They have these strong skills, but they don't have that title to go along with it. So there's this bridge that we've got to make, and I'm going to get myself in trouble with a physics professor saying this.

It's just that it's not automatic. We've got to help that student articulate where their skills are, and what the employers are looking for. And we also have to educate the employers. And that part's difficult, because we may not have the employers here.

JB: Of all the employer sponsored events that you've participated in or seen happen on campuses, what is the most unique?

TK: You know, that wasn't a recent one. We had a company years ago when I was on my previous campus that would walk into the business building, and they would bring doughnuts, they would bring chips, and they would literally - and this was a bold move, worked out well - they would literally walk up and down the faculty office halls and offer food to the faculty. And it was bold this would not work on every campus. It would work on our campus, I know. But it worked really well for that employer to build relationships with faculty. And you know - that employer at some point, they were able to bypass career services which, that's not a bad thing. If you can go right to faculty and ask them to get in contact with students. That's wonderful. And they had developed those relationships, and it wasn't horribly creative. I think it was more bold than creative.

JB: What is your favorite career event that you are involved with on campus?

TK: Probably any one of the career fairs including Job Pursuit (http://jobpursuit.org). To see students gaining these skills, they're practicing these skills, and that is honestly where I focus a lot of attention with students is, this isn't about getting that job or getting that internship. That's an important by-product, if you will, of what might happen, but the important thing is you're out there practicing these things. And then of course, when they land a job as a result of that with one of those employers. Yeah, that's incredibly rewarding.

JB: For the employers that aren't aware, tell us a little bit about Job Pursuit.

TK: Well, Job Pursuit is an extremely unique fair, and that's one of the things that I like about it, because it's not just a career fair. It is two hours of a normal career fair, But then it's four hours of interviewing in the afternoon. It's an intimate fair, where the employers and the students really get to know each other. And that what makes it unique. You know, it's not thousands of students walking through hundreds of employers. These are real conversations that are taking place, and students and employers deciding if it's a good fit.

JB: Let's shift gears here, let’s talk a little bit about MCEEA. How long have you been part of MCEEA?

TK: I think that I have been a part of MCEEA ever since I arrived at Albion. I didn't know what MCEEA was because I moved from a very different part of the country. So, I joined and probably my first event I think was with Federal Mogul. It was at a Christmas event, and I was just so impressed with that event that I thought this is probably an organization that we should be a part of. So, I guess it's been seven or eight years.

JB: Do you have a favorite MCEEA memory?

TK: Favorite MCEEA memory? Well, Laurel Draudt and I presented a couple years ago. So that would probably be it. And we presented on the perspective from the student - what they're looking for with the employers. So, it was an interesting presentation, because here we are, telling employers what students want and, it was natural to get a little bit of pushback at that event, but we were just the messenger. Because we did surveys and conversations. And, to summarize it, students want from employers, what employers want from students. If you think about all the communication and everything, that's what students are looking for.

JB: What, what keeps you coming back to MCEEA, year after year?

TK: The opportunity to network. I mean, networking with other career services professionals, of course, that's helpful to learn about best practices. And, of course, we need to network with employers. That's every single one of us, we need to know employers, we need to have somewhat of a relationship with an employer so that we can call up that employer, employers can call us up and help each other, we all have really the same goal.

JB: What's one thing that you wish MCEEA offered or provided that it currently doesn't?

TK: From a school perspective - it'd be nice to have more employers. And that's the big thing. And I know that that has been discussed a lot. Because I think the ratio needs to be fixed.

JB: Any final thoughts?

I’d like to see more people see the benefit of the organization, the more the better. The more we have of us communicating, the more we will all realize our goals.

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

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