Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Cass County sophomores attend SMC Career Awareness Day

11/19/2019 - 1pm
Alison Wright, Edwardsburg

Over 500 Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg and Marcellus sophomores attended Lewis Cass Intermediate School District’s Career Awareness Day Nov. 15 at Southwestern Michigan College.

Students, divided into a dozen groups of 45, toured the Dowagiac campus and experienced five half-hour sessions with SMC faculty.

Participants explored social work, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, early childhood and elementary education, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), business, information technology, accounting, marketing, sports management, nursing and related health careers, automotive technology, construction, robotics and welding while gaining hands-on experience checking oil and tire pressure, hammering nails and administering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

In the health services wing, students heard Karen K. Rose Simulation Lab Coordinator Amber Villwock converse with cloud-based manikin Alex, then tried on vision-disorder glasses simulating cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Shelley Todd

“(Instructor Shelley Todd) could turn (Alex) on and I could control him from my phone at home. He can carry on a conversation all on his own, or I could talk through him,” Villwock said. “He has a camera in his right eye. Students can watch video from a patient’s perspective of how they responded.”

To illustrate STEM’s breadth, students learned of some specialized jobs, such as zymologists (fermentation science), (chewing) gumologists, volcanologists, microscopic dentists, pet food tasters, flavor chemists, nasalnauts, space psychologists, fireworks designers, food scientists, laughter therapists, ethical hackers, animal therapists and snake milkers. Venom extracted is used not only in snake-bite antidotes, but also drugs for high blood pressure, heart attacks and blood clots.

Math instructor Tri Nguyen started college imagining himself as a doctor, surgeon or pharmacist, then changed course, influenced by seeing professors in action. There are dozens of sub-disciplines,” he said. “There’s not one kind of engineering, but electrical, mechanical, chemical, materials, industrial, environmental, computer, nuclear and mining.

“I have a friend who’s a mining engineer,” Nguyen said. “He has worked 14 years for Getman Corp. in Bangor. Another friend mines data for the Federal Reserve. A high school friend made a great career being an actuary.”
Actuaries use math, statistics and financial theory to compute and analyze risk, such as for the insurance industry. “Skills STEM majors develop are highly marketable,” Nguyen said.


Math/Science Department Chair Ria Thomas hoped to become a mechanical engineer starting college. “I have a cousin who climbs redwood trees in California and researches drought effects,” Thomas said. “Another cousin in computers helped do Toy Story animation. I wish I had known about Imagineers when I was your age.” Imagineers research and develop ideas for Walt Disney Co. theme parks, attractions, cruise ships and resorts.

“Dr. (Douglas) Schauer’s chemistry students research ways to use plants to absorb heavy metals out of water,” Thomas said. “They have presented research in San Francisco, Denver and Orlando. It’s unheard of at a community college. People who saw their presentations thought they were graduate students.”

Psychology is like engineering in its myriad options. Instructor Christy Tidd as a business psychologist consulted for corporate clients such as American Airlines, S.C. Johnson and Coca-Cola. Psychologists “are in hospitals, K-12 schools and conducting research at universities,” Tidd said. “A lot of animal trainers are psychologists.”

Criminal Justice Director Don Ricker’s program encompasses law enforcement, courts and corrections. The former detective’s students in 2016 helped Cass County authorities crack a cold case. A 1977 Edwardsburg homicide, initially ruled a suicide, sent the victim’s nephew to prison for a drug-related shooting.

Michigan’s five-time SkillsUSA champions recently competed against six other states in Minnesota, garnering seven awards, including a large trophy for best attitude and good sportsmanship.

Criminal Justice is one of seven bachelor’s programs which transfer to Ferris State University while remaining on SMC’s Dowagiac campus along with accountancy, business administration, business administration-professional track, computer information technology, elementary education and human resource management.

Business instructors Leon Letter, Jim Benak, Chip Weeks, Christine Stiles, Eric Clayborn and Ritch Reynolds illustrated law, economics, accounting, information technology, sports management, marketing and concepts such as supply-and-demand using chocolate.

Chocolate could eventually be a climate-change casualty. A shortage is predicted because cacao trees, on which, cocoa beans grow, can only survive in humid rain forests.

Students were asked to refresh the iconic brown-with-silver-letters Hershey wrapper. One student designed a triangular candy bar, while another featured landscapes painted by Bob Ross.