Unlocking talent: New Talent Gateway director says experience, reflection are keys to success

10/3/2016

Laurie SutchWhen Laurie Sutch was a teenager, she knew she wanted to gain confidence, learn more about other cultures and get out of her comfort zone.

To do this, she decided to study abroad. So, after raising the money herself, she traveled to Norway with the nonprofit organization Youth For Understanding and lived with a host family.

As a way to sort her thoughts, she wrote about her experiences in a journal. Later, when reflecting on what she wrote, Sutch saw how it transformed her and helped her grow.

“In school, I was a bit shy and didn’t always speak up—even when I had something to share,” said Sutch, who started as the Talent Gateway executive director on Sept. 6.  “When I was abroad, I realized that I could start fresh. I could be anyone I wanted. I saw it was good to try new things. And when I did that, my confidence grew.

“I didn’t completely realize it at the time, but that experience was my transformative moment. It changed the course of my life.”

Sitting in her new workspace—with a friendly “Laurie’s office” sign pointing out its location on the second floor of Fairlane Center North—Sutch said that is why she wanted to help lead the Talent Gateway initiative: She sees it as a way for young minds to have transformative moments.

The Talent Gateway—which had a campus wide launch Sept. 23—is a voluntary, self-directed student-focused program. Students in the Talent Gateway Online Community can participate in discussions, webinars and learning modules and engage in “gameful learning” by choosing to complete online challenges that ask students to reflect on the connections in their academic, personal and work life, and then receive feedback from a mentor.

For many, Sutch said, college is a time to start fresh, find new interests and reinvent yourself. But how to do that can be difficult if students aren’t sure where to go. She said the Talent Gateway takes the guesswork out because everything is centralized.

In addition to the virtual presence, the Talent Gateway also has a physical presence on campus in Fairlane Center North, where students will find staff—including Sutch—dedicated to assisting them with understanding campus resources, obtaining a mentor, and identifying and landing co-op and internship opportunities, career development and job placements.

To better guide students, Sutch said they aren’t putting the focus on questions like: What is your major?

Instead, the Talent Gateway takes a broader approach by asking students more reflective questions like: What kind of impact do you want to make? Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn more about?

Sutch said reflection has helped guide her career and encouraged her to try new things. She became a sergeant in the U.S. Army. After completing her undergrad, she finished graduate school in a year. She coordinated an inaugural distance learning pilot project for U-M Ann Arbor. And for more than a decade, she served as a director for U-M Ann Arbor’s Library’s Academic Technology Group.

“There is power in reflection. It provides a chance to identify growth opportunities,” Sutch said. “The goal of the Talent Gateway is to help you become the best you that you can be. And I’m looking forward to helping our students navigate their paths.”

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