A Familiar Face on Campus: Josh Palmer

February 4, 2020

You may know Josh Palmer as the guy who helps run the Talent Gateway program. But Palmer does more than help students develop soft skills and engage in experiential learning from the TG challenges, he pushes himself to get out of his comfort zone too. 

Josh Palmer in Ecuador
Josh Palmer in Ecuador
Josh Palmer has enjoyed pushing himself to have new experiences; one of his most recent adventures was in Ecuador.

Talent Gateway is designed to challenge students to get out of their comfort zone and learn new skills. It's brought new challenges to Josh Palmer’s life too. Since starting at UM-Dearborn two years ago, he’s moved to Hamtramck, started working a side gig at the Eastern Market Brewing Company, started graduate school, traveled to Ecuador to learn how the education system works in another country, and made his go-to grocery store Al-Haramine International Foods, even though he didn’t know what half of the items on the shelf were the first time he checked it out.

“At first I felt a little intimidated walking through the aisles. I didn’t know what a lot of the food was and the options were much different than a traditional store I was used to,” he said. “But feeling uncomfortable is what helps us grow. I started going there regularly since it’s walking distance from my house, and now I feel much more familiar with my community. 

Speaking with Josh recently, he shared how his new adventures have helped shape him as a person and what’s still on his to-do list.

When it first was introduced, the Talent Gateway — since it was a new idea —seemed a little abstract. When you applied for the job posting, what interested you in it?

I didn’t fully understand exactly what the Talent Gateway was when I applied. But I knew it was something innovative we’d be further developing to help UM-Dearborn students  improve their soft skills and reflect on personal, academic and professional goals. That hooked me. I had done some career services work as an undergraduate and I was extremely involved. But, as active in student life as I was, I didn’t always think about how what I was doing would apply to life after college. That’s why I really like the Talent Gateway. It’s helping students make meaning of their experiences and it shows them why things they do now are important for their entire career trajectory, not just the first job. Reading the students’ reflections after completing challenges, you can see when they really make a connection to how an experience can have a long-term lesson. And that’s pretty cool to see.

What Talent Gateway challenge is on your to-do list? Many of our students have done the “Religious Exploration” challenge. I would like to do that too. I went to a private school growing up and lived in a neighborhood that lacked diversity. That’s one of the reasons I’m pushing myself to have new experiences now — I need to push myself toward growth. I would like to connect with someone to set up a time to visit a mosque during prayer to explore another religion and culture. 

You moved into your Hamtramck home last year. What’s your favorite part of living there?

When it’s nice out and I sit on my balcony, there’s so much to take in. It’s great. I hear the chimes from St. Florian Church. There’s the call to prayer over the loudspeaker from the Al-Islah Mosque. You hear and see children playing together and speaking Arabic, Polish and English. And it smells great because the Kowalski Sausage factory is across the street from my house. The Hamtramck sign says “The world in two square miles” and it’s the truth.

 I hear that you are a bartender at Eastern Market Brewing Co. What do you like most about that?

Our craft beer is great, especially if you enjoy New England IPAs and sours. But it’s more than that; it’s the people. I’ve met people from England, Australia, Mexico, Mozambique, and most of the 50 states and you also form friendships with the regulars. The EMBC staff is like a family and I am excited for the family to expand to a new community when the Ferndale Project opens this month. 

It’s also a way to get involved, but that goes back to the people too. We are excited to get even more involved in the community through new quarterly projects. 

Typically when you look in any brewery, you see a lot of guys that look just like me — but with better beards. I am a white, straight, educated, middle-class man. That comes with an enormous and embarrassing amount of privilege. So it’s important to not just recognize it, but to use that privilege to help others in a non-savior-y way. So EMBC started doing Friday Eve Chats at the Detroit taproom. The first one was called The State of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Craft Beer and a diverse panel of people in the brewing community had the floor to say whatever they felt needed to be said. It was then opened up to attendees for a dialogue. And half of the proceeds from sales went to the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. I like working with an organization that is tied to the community and that’s civically minded and look forward to this month’s chat at Focus Hope. 

So you’ve met people from all over. But you decided to be the person who goes somewhere new when you traveled to Ecuador this summer. Why is that? 

The more I’ve made myself get out of my comfort zone, the more I’ve wanted to try exploring new places and cultures. When I had the opportunity to go to Ecuador last summer, I immediately jumped in. I visited schools — both primary and higher education — to see the differences in our education systems. Education is where my heart is. I also went to local markets, tried new foods, improved my limited Spanish, and walked on the actual equator — did you know that your body pulls to the side when walking on it?

It’s pretty incredible to think about all of the new experiences I’ve had in the past couple of years. I’m grateful for the Talent Gateway for getting me to this place, the experiences that have challenged me, and the people I’ve met along the way. This community is special.

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