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Thomas Lorenz speaks to Elkhart Area Career Center students about SMC's sports management program

SMC Hosts 110 for Broad-Based Business Day

Published on December 7, 2022 - 11 a.m.

Lawrence’s Van Buren Tech Center, Elkhart Area Career Center, Coloma and Lawton students explored career possibilities Dec. 2 at Southwestern Michigan College’s Business, Information Technology, Graphic Design, Accounting and Sports Management Day.

In addition to faculty members’ expertise, 110 participants heard from students, particularly three members of the 2021 cross country team which revived SMC intercollegiate athletics after 25 years.

Gavin Smith of Decatur, Thomas Lorenz of Hillsdale and Ben Gillesby of Cassopolis spoke. A fourth of Professor Dr. Ritch Reynolds’ students, Justin Dickerson, was at the Esports Arena.

Smith’s campus job is operating the shot clock at basketball games four times a week. This spring he completes coaching certification, intending to transfer to Western Michigan University.

“This place is very affordable,” Lorenz said, “and I wanted to get away from home. I found a place for myself with the cross-country team even though I was a sprinter in high school. I pulled a muscle in my quad senior year, missing going to state. Instead of getting down, I helped teammates push themselves,” including a freshman who finished fourth.

“I chose sports management because when someone on your team does something great and comes back to tell you, that’s the best feeling in the world,” Lorenz said. “This program takes you out in the world to engage with experiences, meeting new people and networking,” like he’s doing for a broadcasting internship.

“A two-year degree will only get you so far,” said Reynolds, who designed the program in 2016. “You can go on and get a four-year degree because the field is highly competitive. Being Tigers GM is a cool job, but you don’t start at the top or get there without sacrifice.”

Dickerson, gaming club president, and Associate Professor Eric Clayborn explained what goes in the glassed-in Barbara Wood Building space with student-built computers showcasing SMC’s IT program.

“Our Rocket League team is in the playoffs,” Dickerson said. “I volunteered on the sidelines for volleyball games. I’m interested in becoming a sports agent.”

“We offer scholarships. We’re always looking for new talent,” said Clayborn, an SMC/Ferris State University graduate. “I never thought I’d say this, but we want to pay you to play video games for us. We offer two-year degree programs in help desk and networking and a one-year cybersecurity and system administrator certificate.”

Assistant Professor Andrew Churchill discussed other IT aspects, such as cybersecurity and financial technology (fintech), such as cash-transmission apps.

Churchill, who holds three master’s degrees, said, “My grandma, a poor farmer’s housewife, got her GED in her 50s and told me to ‘study computers,’ but I didn’t start learning about IT until my 30s. You can use your hands and head without getting filthy dirty. My first job in middle school I made $5 an hour pressure-washing pig barns. There’s a bright future for people who can communicate complicated information to diverse audiences.”

Professor Jim Benak and Assistant Professor Edward Derbin highlighted business, accounting and economics.

“A business certificate is a great add-on to graphic design because you’ll need to know how to manage your own business,” said Benak, who entered academia after 20 years in hotels. “Business skills are transferable. Odds are you’ll start in one thing and change careers. Foundational business skills set you up to be successful, from entertainment and sports to veterinary medicine because they need managers to operate.” His wife is a veterinarian.

“There is an endless supply of opportunities in something as broad as business,” Benak said. “With retail and service industries, the stereotype of sitting in an office 40 hours a week is not true. Employers like people who know different things and have experiences. Finding well-rounded individuals is one of their challenges.”

Derbin, of Niles, a former Chrysler cost accountant, said, “You don’t have to be a math genius. Accounting is more advice than number-crunching. Demand is very high because you can work in any industry and it’s recession-proof.”

SMC offers four options — a two-year associate in applied science accounting degree, which can lead to a bachelor’s through the Ferris State partnership; an associate of arts degree in business for students continuing to bachelor’s degrees; an AAS in business; and the one-year business management certificate.

Assistant Professor Sam Walker, an SMC graduate, worked for Indiana making videos training state employees to respond to biological terrorist attacks and for Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsay.

SMC offers an associate in applied science degree in graphic design technology, adding a new interactive design course this fall.

Walker highlighted such career paths as art direction, advertising and UI/UX design (user interface/user experience with touch screens proliferating), animation and illustration, evaluating each in terms of earning potential and projected demand.

Applying to SMC is easy, fast and free at https://www.swmich.edu/admissions/apply/

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