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10 within 10

Meet the 2018 10 Within 10

In a wide variety of ways, young alumni put their stamp on the world

Contact: Heather Smith


By Regina Zebell
Adapted from Centralight Summer 2018

The 10 Within 10 alumni awards program this year recognizes its fifth class of young graduates who honor Central Michigan University through work in their career or community within 10 years of receiving a CMU degree.

This year's slate of CMU Chippewas makes a difference in human resources, sports management, entrepreneurship, sales, communication, cybersecurity, public relations, medicine and more, and in organizations ranging from a bank to a baseball team and from a newspaper to Nestlé.

You can nominate a recent grad who's doing amazing things for next year's 10 Within 10 awards.

Here's an introduction to this year's honorees and what their CMU experiences mean to them:

What has been your coolest moment since graduation?

I took a trip to Europe with three close friends and spent five days traveling Ireland coast to coast and seven days sightseeing in Great Britain.

What are you proudest of?

Receiving my bid from Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. The experiences and values I gained during my time as an active brother have helped me greatly personally and professionally. It taught me that when you surround yourself with people who hold themselves to high standards, you, too, grow to be a better person.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Have a healthy disregard for the impossible. I learned this in a weeklong program, LeaderShape, which the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute holds every year. Whenever you face challenges in life — whether it be school, a job or family — there is nothing you can’t overcome. If you have a healthy disregard for the impossible, you can achieve anything. Go for it.

What has your work life taught you?

Say yes to opportunities. Even if you aren’t 100 percent sure what will come from it, you will learn something about yourself. Saying yes has led me to live in five cities outside of Michigan — Philadelphia; Lincoln, Nebraska; Los Angeles; Kansas City; and St. Louis. I have gained lifelong friends, seen our beautiful country coast to coast and learned best practices that I use almost daily. Just say yes.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Take my mother on a vacation. She hasn’t been on a real vacation in a long time. Her focus is always her family and their needs coming first. I’m a proud “mama’s boy” and would love to give her the opportunity to relax. She deserves it.

What has been your coolest moment since graduation?

I teach a program at MSI called “Live from the Heart.” We livestream an open-heart surgery being performed at a local hospital. Students from all over the country can watch this surgery live and talk with the entire surgical team throughout the procedure. The students can ask the surgeon, anesthesiologist or the perfusionist (operator of the heart-lung machine) about their role in the operating room — all while watching this world-class team work on a heart.

What are you proudest of?

I’m leading the charge in accessibility and inclusion in education. I believe meaningful science engagement should be accessible to learners of all abilities. I’m passionate about making museums welcoming for everyone, being a fierce advocate for my brother, who has disabilities. I’m proud that I have helped in some small part, within my sphere of influence, to break down systematic barriers of oppression that prevent all people from feeling welcome in museums.

What advice would you give new graduates?

“Be a “yes” person. Take every single job, every opportunity, every connection you can. I said yes to new jobs, responsibilities and challenges and also to late nights, long commutes and changing uniforms in Ubers in between jobs. It has all been worth it.

What has your work life taught you?

Radical empathy. This job and this workplace have exposed me to such diversity, and I think of the museum as a microcosm. I truly believe that the way we move forward and get better is to practice radical empathy.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

I’d really love to be having pizza at The Bird.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

My senior year, I took an evolution class with Dr. Bradley Swanson. He allowed rebuttal for points back on the exam. I was excited to write my rebuttal; however, he wanted the rebuttals to be turned in some time later. I couldn’t wait that long to make my case. I realized that showing up at Dr. Swanson’s office would be pretty selfish, so I offered him a deal: I wouldn’t accept any points toward my exam if he allowed me to make my case right then in his office. He accepted.

What are you proudest of?

“Being chosen as a chief resident for Yale Diagnostic Radiology.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Pursue a subject beyond what you have talent for. Pursue the field that you find yourself willing to go above and beyond for.

What has your work life taught you?

No job is perfect, and all jobs make you endure a grind that, while you are in the middle of it, can seem meaningless. It’s always good to take a step back and look at what you’ve accomplished.

What influences at CMU helped you succeed?

All my professors were ready to help when I needed it. I also got lucky with some great roommates (one of which I was blindly matched with on Day One) who continue to encourage me through the years.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

Leadership Safari. If I made one right decision at CMU, it was a decision I made before I even arrived on campus. Coming from a small town, I was looking forward to meeting people from different backgrounds, experiences and circumstances. Leadership Safari did just that for me. It was an incredible experience, and it made me confident that choosing CMU was the right choice.

What has been your coolest moment since graduation?

Seeing those I met at CMU putting their stamp on the world as alumni. There are so many alumni doing incredible things and positively impacting those around them. Keeping in touch with them throughout their journeys and hearing the passion, challenges and how they overcame them is so cool for me.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Every overnight success story was 10 years in the making. Things don’t happen overnight, so don’t expect them to. You have a long life ahead of you; don’t try to shortcut it.

What has your work life taught you?

“I’ve learned not to worry about money but about the opportunity right now. Chasing money, especially early in your career, is usually a bad choice. You are much better served by building up your skills and knowledge. Taking this longer-term career view pays off in more money and more happiness.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Eat a Goober Dog from Dog Central. If you haven’t had one, next time you’re in Mount Pleasant, take a chance and order one.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

The first semester that I anchored on News Central 34, the student-run newscast, I also was part of the Adopt-a-Grandparent program through the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center, and my adopted grandma would tune in to the nightly newscast at 5 p.m. to watch me.

What are you proudest of?

Euromonitor announced its 14th office would be in Seoul, South Korea, and because of my background working with companies across the Asia-Pacific region, paired with my management experience in Chicago, I got the position as team manager.

What has your work life taught you?

No one really knows what they’re doing. Everyone is just trying to figure it out as they go along. Even those who have several degrees and decades of experience have moments of self-doubt and uncertainty. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

What influences at CMU helped you succeed?

Being a Leadership Advancement Scholar provided me with countless resources through the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute. I learned so much from not only my professors, coaches and mentors associated with the institute, but also my peers in the program.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Get more sleep!

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

Honestly, the day I signed my major. I had no idea what direction I wanted to go or what I wanted to study. I shifted paths quite a few times. Finally, a friend suggested I consider public relations, and I soon discovered it was the perfect fit for me.

What are you proudest of?

I’m proud of having several of my articles and photographs picked up by other publications or media outlets on a national level.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Seize every opportunity, but never settle.

What has your work life taught you?

It is incredibly rewarding to do something you have a passion for and excel in. It never feels like a day of work. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and because of that I’ve learned to live in the moment and be grateful for everything — even the challenges — each day brings.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Focus more seriously on music, magically land a recording contract (because it’s that easy, right?), buy a tour bus and perform around the world.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

Walking into my residence hall on move-in weekend. Knowing that CMU was my new home, with my new family to come and the life-changing experiences waiting for me, was more impactful than I could have imagined.

What are you proudest of?

Being able to help grow the integrative public relations program by implementing a new and improved curriculum during my last year on the IPR Council. Post-college, I am proud of being able to build our marketing and development program, including gaining over $4 million to grow and expand our services for the community.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Connect with your community and find a new home. After I graduated, it was a difficult transition from having my closest friends barely a mile away from me at all times to having them many miles and hours away. Staying in touch is important — but so is finding that new community.

What has your work life taught you?

Upon graduation, you have at least 45 more years of work ahead of you — that’s a long time! If you spend it doing something you hate, you will regret it. Learn what you are passionate about and get involved.

What influences at CMU helped you succeed?

My greatest influences revolved around the programs I was involved in and the mentors I had alongside them. Jim Wojcik, my adviser when I was president of CMU’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, continues to play a significant role in my life. The Alternative Breaks program had the most significant and profound impact on my life and my career trajectory.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

Volunteering with the Naval Sea Cadet Corps and the hospitality department. I was able to meet students with similar interests and campus faculty who offered me some of the best career advice.

What has been your coolest moment since graduation?

I met my husband at CMU just before he enlisted with the U.S. Air Force. Just months after I graduated, I joined him at his overseas duty station in Misawa, Japan. I left all I knew to live in Japan, a beautiful country full of adventure and traditional culture. Moving overseas has changed my life entirely. I earned my first post-undergrad job with the American Red Cross, and from there I knew that it was my destiny to serve our military members overseas. I have the honor of working alongside our armed forces, but I also have the opportunity to travel the world. To date, I have visited seven countries.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Allow your education to broaden your prospective job opportunities. Finding a job after graduation can be stressful, but it should not be limited to what is only “inside the box.” Get involved in professional leadership committees within the community or within your job.

What has your work life taught you?

I may hold a degree in my hand, but I will continue to learn about my field of study and more. I’ve learned to take risks in areas that are challenging to me, to assist in becoming more knowledgeable and to never be afraid to ask questions.

What influences at CMU helped you succeed?

My professors, counselors and peers came from a variety of places with different scholarly and personal backgrounds. The one characteristic they all had in common was kindness toward others.

What is your fondest memory of CMU?

“The day I met a beautiful girl on campus who would later become my amazing wife and best friend. Overall, I enjoyed spending time with friends, barbecuing at nearby Island Park and tailgating before football games.

What has been your coolest moment since graduation?

After graduation, I supported cybersecurity programs across the federal government. One of the coolest projects I supported during this time was a multinational effort to disrupt a global computer botnet, which businesses and consumers around the world estimated to have cost more than $100 million.

What are you proudest of?

Using the foundation of knowledge I obtained from CMU. I am proud to live an enjoyable life with my wife and family while maintaining a productive career.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Develop short-term and long-term career goals and identify a mentor to support you through the process to achieve those goals.

What has your work life taught you?

I’ve learned the importance of looking ahead and preparing for change. When well-prepared for change, opportunity exists to create a competitive advantage.


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