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Release Date: 
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Five HFC employees earn EMU master’s degrees at the same time

Photo of 5 employees (2 men, 3 women) in graduation attire
The five new EMU master's degree recipients, left to right: Andrew Campbell, Rachel Martin, Jaime Paffenroth, Kelsea Solo, Christopher Mocny.

In early May, five HFC employees earned their master’s degrees in educational leadership – higher education/student affairs (HESA) from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in Ypsilanti.

The five colleagues are:
• Andrew Campbell, HFC Part-Time Academic Advisor
• Rachel Martin, HFC Academic Advising Intern/College Advisor for Ecorse Community High School
• Christopher Mocny, HFC Student Orientation Intern
• Jaime Paffenroth, HFC Enrollment Associate III
• Kelsea Solo, HFC Enrollment Services Manager

“We were all a part of this program, but we started at different times,” said Solo. “We began as classmates, then became friends, and then became co-workers!”

Solo wouldn’t have known about her position at HFC – which she began in January – if it weren’t for her classmates telling her about it.

An alumna of Southgate Anderson High School, Solo graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) where she earned her bachelor’s degree in arts and humanities with a minor in educational studies.

“Like many people in higher education, I kind of stumbled into it, not knowing it was a career option. My positive college experience and relationships with my own advisors inspired me to want to do the same for other students,” said Solo.

HFC: A Family Affair

In Paffenroth’s case, she worked at HFC for three years before enrolling at EMU. HFC runs in the family. Her mother, Lorraine, is the HFC Advising and Student Success Manager.

A Canton High School alumna, Jamie Paffenroth earned a bachelor's degree in organizational communications with a minor in practical writing from Western Michigan University (WMU). She also has a certificate in academic advising from EMU.

“It has been wonderful to form friendships with other young professionals who have similar interests and goals,” said Paffenroth. “Their support in school and at work has been very helpful as we all navigated work while taking grad classes. To have classmates turn into co-workers who then became good friends is special, and I am grateful.”

Paffenroth enjoys one-on-one interactions with HFC students.

“It has been very rewarding to help students with their needs and ease their fears by connecting with them and having conversations,” she said. “Many students I have worked with continue to update me on their lives. It is a great feeling to know that I helped them get to where they are.

"After a year of working in enrollment, I started my master’s degree. Graduating from college is a huge accomplishment, and I would not have succeeded without the proper support system. Being able to provide that support for students who may not otherwise have it is powerful and can truly make a difference in their lives.

"If it weren’t for HFC, I might not have found my passion in higher education. I will always be grateful for the time I’ve had here.”

A second career

Higher education has been a second career for Martin. The Detroit International Academy (DIA) for Young Women alumna earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations from Grand Valley State University (GVSU). She began working at an advertising agency but realized it wasn’t the right fit for her.

“I was waiting for Fridays and dreading Mondays. I missed being on campus every day with my friends and the support services available. About three months into my job, I called my academic advisor at GVSU and told him how I was feeling,” said Martin.

Martin asked the advisor how he got started in his field. She learned he went through a similar questioning period after his undergrad days, prompting him to earn his master’s degree in higher education, which enabled him to work with college students.

“I paused for a minute. I didn't even know that you could get a master’s degree in higher education. I asked a bunch of questions, and when I got home that night, I started doing research,” she recalled. “But it wasn't an easy step. I started my graduate application to EMU three times, and deleted it out of fear. The idea stuck with me, so I finally decided to do it. It was the best decision I ever made!”

EMU’s HESA graduate program

EMU’s HESA graduate program offers a practice-based experience to prepare the next generation of practitioners in higher education. The hybrid program – with both online and in-person components – meets in the evenings and weekends to accommodate working adults.

“I liked that this program was very practical and hands-on, with an emphasis on gaining experience while you are studying. It is designed for the working professional. This degree will allow me to move into a leadership role one day,” said Solo.

HESA prepares professionals with a passion for working directly with students, fostering student success and development. Graduates might work in offices such as orientation, Greek life, residence life, TRIO programs, diversity offices, academic advising, student activities, alumni relations, and international affairs. Many students admitted to the HESA program secure graduate assistant positions across EMU, gaining valuable professional experience while completing their degree.

Classes include student development theory, law of higher education, history of higher education, and college student sub-populations.

“The types of students we see entering higher education today are not the population we have called ‘traditional’ in the past. It is important to recognize these changes and learn about our students and their needs so we can support them effectively,” explained Paffenroth. “The program taught me to be more aware of the disadvantages many students have and the adversity they face in trying to obtain their degrees.”

Among the best higher education graduate programs

Martin called this program one of the best higher education graduate programs in Michigan.

“I like the fact that the program focuses on ‘why,’ and we reflect on what led us to higher education,” she said. “Some of my favorite classes include Intro to Student Affairs, Career Advising, Academic Advising, and College Student Development. I was challenged, but I learned a lot about how colleges operate and various methods to help students on the collegiate level. I feel prepared to use what I have learned to work with students.”

Martin continued: “I truly love HFC! It has opened my eyes to how important community colleges are. I feel a huge sense of community every time I am on campus, which is very important for our students. Lorraine and the advising team are wonderful. I am blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them!”

Success working with EMU graduates

Lorraine Paffenroth knows all five recent EMU graduates personally, because they work together.

“It has been a pleasure to have the young, creative, and innovative energy that these newly minted professionals bring,” she said. “I love their fresh ideas, their willingness to tackle any project with enthusiasm and determination. I have especially enjoyed turning Andrew and Rachel loose on a project and allowing them the autonomy to define it, create it, and see it through its implementation.

"The fact that they have been professionally educated in Student Affairs Leadership and Academic Advising is bonus! This is the fourth semester that I have worked with interns from EMU’s program. Andrew is one of two that I have hired after completing the internship. I look forward to continue working with students from EMU in the future.”