Talent Gateway turns campus into home for political science student Sara Neuenschwander

4/9/2018

Neuenschwander is one of six students presenting at the (M)Talent Showcase on April 18.

When Sara Neuenschwander was a child, she admired her grandfather’s college class ring. He told her he wore it to remind him of his collegiate journey—he was a nontraditional student who worked midnights to support his educational dream.

Neuenschwander proudly wears a class ring too, inscribed with 2018 B.A. It represents how she decided—even when juggling three jobs—that she was going to return to school, focus on her education and earn her degree.

Along with her ring, Neuenschwander is proud of another honor she plans to wear on graduation day in April—her maize (M)Talent stole.

“The ring, just like my grandpa’s did, signifies the journey. But the (M)Talent stole means so much to me too because the Talent Gateway turned UM-Dearborn from just a place where I was earning my degree into a place I consider home.”

The Talent Gateway is an online-based learning initiative that empowers students to drive their own development.

“It provides students, like Sara, with self-driven opportunities to leverage their personal, professional and academic experiences to develop competencies that employers seek, such as critical thinking, creativity and innovation,” said Talent Gateway Director Laurie Sutch.

Neuenschwander is one of six students presenting at the (M)Talent Showcase on April 18. The presentation will earn participants the (M)Talent distinction, which will go on the students’ official college transcript and identifies characteristics of ingenuity, initiative and leadership these students will bring to the workplace.

Neuenschwander, a political science major, said as someone who’s worked full time since 2003, she felt like she had these skills prior to participating in and engaging with the Talent Gateway. But through the Talent Gateway, she’s re-evaluated her professional abilities, identified strengths and weaknesses, and honed in on Talent Gateway professional development opportunities.

“There were Talent Gateway challenges on paying attention to people’s attitudes and reflecting on how attitudes affected others. There were challenges on expanding your network. There were challenges to observe and reflect on your work environment,” she said. “There were so many challenges that you can choose from—and the more challenges I did, the more I fell in love with this campus. I was no longer a working adult taking college classes. I was a student, who worked to pay my way through college.”

Now a full-time employee in the Office of Metropolitan Impact, Neuenschwander said skills sharpened through the Talent Gateway helped her stand out among her peers when applying for the OMI program coordinator and administrator position. 

While at OMI, she’s done support work for grants, helped prepare the campus’ biennial engagement inventory, co-facilitated the volunteer effort for the Concert of Colors, writes the OMI newsletter and assisted with the campus-wide Engagement Day.

Neuenschwander has always wanted to help others through advocacy, communication and education. Now, at the close of her undergraduate collegiate journey, she is doing that work.

“This university has changed my life. The Talent Gateway was a big part of that—it challenged me, gave me a place to reflect on what I’ve done and allowed me to see my growth,” she said. “It guided me to where I am right now. Along with this class ring, I have a job I love and soon I’ll earn my (M)Talent stole and diploma. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I’m exactly where I should be.”

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