Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni Series Part 5

Ryan Bye, Class of 2011

B.S. in Geography, M.Ed in Higher Education Administration

Higher Education/Residential Learning Coordinator

Ryan Bye (2)


What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated? 

“My career plan in college was to work in the public administration field. I thought about working as a city planner, GIS, those kinds of things. However, in my junior year, I was working as a second-year Resident Assistant and I discovered that I could have a career working with college students. I was loving my experience at NAU and I knew I wanted to help ensure that future college students had an equally as amazing and transformational experience as I did.”

How did NAU prepare you for your career? 

“NAU allowed me to become the person I am today. While at NAU I was able to take classes that taught me how to think, work with a diverse group of students that allowed me to develop problem solving skills, and I was able to explore my passions.”

Where are you now? Please tell us about your current career, job location, and pros/cons.

“I am currently working as a Residential Learning Coordinator at Valparaiso University. I oversee a residential hall while serving in a variety of other collateral roles across the campus. I graduated two years ago with my M.Ed in Higher Education Administration and love working in this field. I plan to someday serve as a Dean of Students (maybe at NAU – what do you think Dr. Brandel?). Everyday I have the opportunity to work with college students who are preparing for their vocations. It is truly an honor to help students on their path for excellence. This field also allows me to feel engaged in a community and have fun while I’m doing it!”

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“Try new things, get involved, and dream big. There are amazing opportunities at NAU and some really great faculty and staff who will work with you to accomplish your dreams. Set your bar high and you will be amazed at what you are able to accomplish.”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“It is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived. I have traveled quite a bit since I graduated and the beauty of NAU’s campus and the surrounding area is just as breathtaking as it was the first day I stepped on campus.”


Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni Series Part 4

Marlin “Colby” Smith, Class of 1980

B.S. in Earth Science, Minor in Journalism

Retired Airline Pilot, School Bus Driver

colby smith

Colby climbing Mt. Humphrey, taken in 1977

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?

“I started NAU majoring in Forestry. By second semester I switched to Music Education. A year later I switched to Recreation Resource Management. After a semester or two of that, finally switched to Earth Science and graduated with that major.” 

How did NAU prepare you for your career?

“I think any experience we have prepares us for life. My minor was in Journalism. I have always been an advocate for myself and my family. Advocacy requires some investigative writing. My education in Earth Science (Geology and related fields) provided some insight to the geography that I not only flew over as an airline pilot, but that I enjoyed traveling about (by land) with my family on many personal vacations. Learning to learn, or finding the best way to study can help in any career training episode. Meeting new people, making friends creates a lifelong bond of people to network with.”

Where are you now? Please tell us about your current career, job location, and pros/cons.

“I live in the Midwest near Madison, Wisconsin. I’m retired from the airlines, driving a school bus. I also drove a school bus in Flagstaff while attending NAU, so in that regard I guess my career path has come full circle. While my degree was in Earth Science and Journalism, I ended up in the Transportation field, something I have always enjoyed. (I joined the USCG shortly after graduating.) The pros include doing something I enjoy, traveling, seeing many places, meeting others, time off and being financially secure. The cons involved missing some family events and holidays, and being away from home. Towards the end of my airline career I became burned out with the politics and time away from home. But was able to retire early, and now spend time volunteering and doing other things that I again enjoy, while being able to spend more time with family. As for driving a school bus, I enjoy the kids, and have a good part of my days, along with weekends and summers, free! This allows me the time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and then travel during the summer. “

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“Make the most of your time in college. It is most likely your first opportunity to live away from home, while still having somewhat of a safety net of the school atmosphere around you. Get involved in clubs and activities. Socialize with your classmates. Attend a local church and/or join others at the campus religious centers. Go to class and participate. Get to know the adults on and off campus. Many of these folks can provide mentoring that can help you land careers!”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“I loved the surrounding area. I spent a lot of my free time exploring the nearby forest roads and visiting the other nearby communities. Camping and hiking with my college buddies. Flagstaff had a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast.”

Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni Series Part 3

Brenden Pitt, Class of 2003

BSEd. History/Social Studies & Secondary Education, M.Ed. Student Affairs with Counseling Emphasis

Resident Services Manager at The Guidance Center

brenden pitt

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?

“I didn’t really have a career plan during college. I wanted to become a high school social studies teacher and live abroad. While doing my student teaching I applied for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. I was accepted and from 2004-2007 I was taught English as a foreign language in a Japanese high school as the only non-native Japanese teacher in the school. My experience living abroad made me want to work with international students in a college environment, so I came back to NAU to earn my Master’s degree. Once I graduated, my career path changed again and now I am working in mental health as a case manager and group home supervisor for the severely mentally ill.”

How did NAU prepare you for your career?

“That’s a hard question to answer because I’m not currently working in either field I studied for at NAU.”

Where are you now? Please tell us about your current career, job location, and pros/cons.

“I’m currently employed by The Guidance Center in Flagstaff. My title is the Resident Programs Manager and I’m responsible for a group home that houses SMI & homeless adults. I enjoy the work as I am embedded with the people I work with and assist on a daily basis. The one con is the unit must be staffed 24-7 and so making sure there is coverage and the constant feeling of being on-call can be a bit draining.”

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“I know many people have probably told you this, but it is very true: Get as much experience in your field as possible during your college days. It will be very helpful in getting a job once you graduate and also will give you an idea if that’s a career field you want to go into. The mistake that I made was that I didn’t get enough experience prior to graduating and that made finding employment more difficult after graduation. As someone who reviews resume`s for job openings, I would recommend experience as well.”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“I would say my participation in Greek Life and as a new student orientation leader are my two favorite parts of NAU. Many of the friends and connections I made in those areas continue to be my friends today.”

Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni Series Part 2

John Clark, Class of 2012

 B.S. in Finance, Minor in Enterprise Systems

Retail Fulfillment Analyst with Nike

John Clark

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?
“My plan changed quite a few times during my college career (as did my major). Leading up to graduation I saw myself staying in Flagstaff and working in the Real Estate industry. However, I landed a job with an IT consulting firm and decided to take that instead.”

How did NAU prepare you for your career?
“The classes I took in both Finance and Enterprise Systems were invaluable to my career. These include database, programming, finance with excel focus, and all classes that forced me to stand in front of people and present. Todd Johnson is the professor to whom I believe I owe my career! Aside from the classes, NAU offered me many connections to get jobs while in school that gave me a strong resume that led to the career I have today.”

Where are you now? Please tell us about your current career, job location, and pros/cons. 
“I live in Portland, Oregon and work for Nike. I love my job. I am constantly working on the cutting edge of eCommerce/retail/supply chain solutions. The work/life balance is unmatched – it certainly doesn’t hurt that I get to play basketball over lunch! The cons are few, but it can be tough to make changes happen quickly in a large company. I’ve found that acting on initiative and vetting out ideas/solutions with quantitative data makes a huge difference.”

What advice do you have for current NAU students?
“Join every club, honor society, service group, etc. that you even remotely interests you. Do more than you think you’re capable of. It’s better to give up some activity or club because you’re stretched thin than to look back and feel you did less than you were able to. Take local internships (where you often have more opportunity to be creative and make real changes). Learn to quantify your experience for your resume and job sites like LinkedIn. Accept jobs/tasks/etc you don’t think you’re qualified for and force yourself to adapt and grow.”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?
“The people. I met several life long friends through school, clubs, work and rec sports. I will always have a special place for NAU Flagstaff in my heart. Also, the views. I never got sick of the breathtaking scenery surrounding Flagstaff. I always look forward with great excitement to returning to Flag!”

Experience with Altitude: Leah Manak, Class of 2016

Read all about NAU Students getting hands-on experience and making an impact in Flagstaff and beyond! Each week a new student will be featured on Experience with Altitude with the hope of highlighting our many amazing students and inspiring the rest of us to get out and be the change we want to see in the world and in our own lives. NAU Career Development at University College:Let’s build lives, not just resumes!

Read the first Experience with Altitude post here.


Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni Series Part 1

From engineering to writing – NAU has it all. In our newest blog series, we will be featuring a wide variety of NAU Alumni. We’re calling it “Leap Forward with Lumberjack Alumni.” If you have ever wanted advice from those who have “been there, done that,” keep reading!


Jeffrey Roberts, Class of 1974

Bachelor of Arts in Writing, Master of Arts in American History


Jeffrey Roberts

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?

“My career plan during college was fluid, but what I really wanted was to be a college Professor. Yes, it definitely did change once I graduated! What’s that phrase – ‘The best laid plans of mice and men….’”

How did NAU prepare you for your career?

“NAU prepared me for my writing career because I had superb teachers, such as Dr. McGahee. I became disciplined in my writing.”

Where are you now?

“I am an independent author now, and I have been published in Fate magazine, UFO Digest, Government Conspiracy.com, and I have a short story coming out in Sci Phi Journal, around April entitled BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Also this summer I have a book coming out, a novella entitled CHERRIES IN WINTER, to be published by Kellan Publishing Co. It’s a science fiction historical romance, between 2016 and 1916.”

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“My advice for current NAU students? …don’t take yourself too seriously, and study hard – all the while enjoying it!”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“My favorite part of my NAU/Flagstaff experience? The “countrified” atmosphere, tons of friends that I am blessed to have known; and the wonder of seeing people, places, and things I would never have experienced otherwise! My mind was broadened and my life enriched at NAU. Those memories will be with me for 1000 years!”

Jeffrey’s books, THE HEALER, is available on Amazon (http://amzn.to/ZDv24p) and IN THE SHADOW OF THE HOUSE OF GOD, will be available everywhere around March.


Margeaux Anderson, Class of 2012

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering

Strategic Project Manager

Margeaux Anderson

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?

“My plan in college was to line up a job for after graduation. I interned with a few companies over summer breaks and ended up getting a full time job offer from two companies upon graduation.”

How did NAU prepare you for your career?

“The science and engineering classes helped me prepare by honing my critical thinking skills. These skills have helped me realize that there is more than one possible solution to a problem. Additionally the EGR classes helped me learn the best place for me is in management and that I have a natural management style that lends itself to organizing and motivating people to accomplish a specific task.”

Where are you now?

“Currently I work for Desert Paper and Envelope in Albuquerque, NM. My position here allows me to use my natural project management skills to help all of the different sectors of the business as well as learn new things such as hiring. I never would have thought I would be in charge of hiring and new employee orientations!”

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“My advice for current students is to really explore job opportunities and internships while you are in school. Not only can this let you test out what your career field will actually be like, but it will help you build a network of people to reach out to when you are looking for a job after graduation. Most professionals can relate to what it is like to be a student looking for a job or an internship and are more willing than you think to sit down with you and help.”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“My favorite part about NAU was the snow. I remember how surprised I was to see people ski to class my first semester!”

Life Lessons from Eva Putzova

The following blog post is a speech Eva Putzova, Flagstaff City Council Member and Director of Strategic Planning at NAU, gave at the NAU Delta Epsilon Iota Induction Ceremony.

Eva Putzova-2


I rewrote the speech I’m going to deliver to you tonight three times. In my first draft I had some generic ideas about leadership and community involvement that would have made you yawn. But then I went for a run. And I thought to myself—I’m just going to share with you exactly what I think.

What a concept, right?

I will not pretend to have an authority to advise you on anything. Rather, I will reflect on my own experiences that are authentic and tell you what I have learned. After all, whether we are 18, 30 or 60, we are just winging this journey we call life.

So here it is.

In 2012, the Flinn Foundation rejected my application for their prestigious leadership program. But what they gave me was priceless. They gave me time I would have otherwise spent traveling to Phoenix. Instead, I spent the following year planning my campaign to run for the City Council.

  1. Lesson number one: When one door closes another opens up. But it’s always wise to have a plan B and you will never be disappointed.

Before I launched my campaign I talked to a couple of very important people about my candidacy. They told me I was unelectable. That my progressive politics was way out there, that I had a foreign name and accent which are not American enough to win elections, that as a former president of Friends of Flagstaff’s Future I had no chance.

I asked myself “What is the worst thing that can happen?” The answer was “that I would lose.”

In November I won a seat on the Flagstaff Council with the most votes a first-time candidate has ever received in the Flagstaff municipal election history.

  1. Lesson number two: Take risks, follow your instincts, follow your heart. People will always have opinions but nobody truly knows your potential. Maybe not even you. Do or do not. There is no try. And always remember lesson number 1.

The election night was somewhat anti-climatic for me. While the outside world could have perceived my victory as surprising, deep inside I knew that those thousands and thousands of doors I knocked on during the campaign, that the overwhelmingly positive reaction to my campaign platform among my key constituency, and the funds I was able to raise all together should deliver a positive election result. Canvassing and talking to people about how policies like living wages could transform their lives was the most rewarding part of the campaign.

  1. Lesson number three: It’s the process of doing something you believe in that is personally the most satisfying—more than the actual outcome of your efforts. But it’s only in retrospect that we gain this insight. So try to live in the moment and enjoy the ride.

As a child I was quite active in school—always organizing my peers and volunteering to lead activities and projects. But my childhood and early adulthood were far cry from the resume-building lives of young people today. Unstructured play and exploring various art forms early on, socializing with friends in my teen years, and focusing exclusively on academics later on dominated my formative years.

I had a lot of free time growing up.

Shortly after I moved to Flagstaff, while still in mid-20’s, I joined the board of the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council. I wanted to be involved in the community and because of my background in economics, I thought that would be a good match. They probably let me in, thinking as a young foreigner I was politically harmless and would support whatever was put in front of me. While I learned quite a bit about local politics during this time, my heart was not in it. I was professionally well suited for the organization but traditional economic development was not my passion. In fact, I did not know where my inspiration would come from. I didn’t even know I was supposed to find it.

But then in 2008, passionate, former NAU professor Sandra Lubarsky invited me to join Friends of Flagstaff ‘s Future to replace her on the organization’s Board of Directors. And I found myself. I found my passion, my cause, my calling, my tribe. I was 31 years old. And ever since I’ve been inspired over and over to take on new challenges that all relate one way or another to the concepts of environmental sustainability and social and economic justice.

  1. Lesson number four: Don’t worry about building your resume. Give yourself permission to just “be”—enjoy, and allow yourself to discover what inspires you. It’s never too late to find yourself. You will be finding yourself, or versions of yourself, over your entire life.

Thank you and be kind to people you encounter on your journey discovering yourself.

Our Refreshed Mission – Guest Post by Emily

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that this April will mark two years since I moved to Flagstaff to lead NAU Career Development at University College. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun! The team has been through a name change, a few staff changes, six career and job fairs, and so much more. Recently, our team met to revisit our mission. We made a few subtle wording changes that I am really excited about, affirming our commitment To empower students and alumni to confidently navigate their careers as citizens of an evolving and global world.

So what does this mean? I’d like to start with the word EMPOWER. At NAU, we believe that you are ultimately in charge of your career. We will give you tools, guidance, and support along the way, but ultimately each student must determine the path that their career will take. Career decisions can be scary, no matter how long you’ve been in the workforce. However, our hope is that each of you can proceed with CONFIDENCE, knowing that if you are true to your values, strengths, and interests, any career decision that you make will be an important part of your career journey.

Which brings me to the word EVOLVING (going a little out of order). Contrary to many myths, no one’s career is a straight line. The old concept of the “career ladder” has been replaced by the far more realistic “career lattice.” Gone are the days when most people stay in one career, within one organization, for their entire lives. Careers today may involve many jobs, and lifetimes may involve multiple careers. We will each move up, but we may also move laterally or down. Some us may step out of the paid workforce for a period of time to be with our families, or to experience new things. At times we will “lean in,” and at others we will “lean out.” Many of us will be working later in life than our parents or grandparents. Some of us will work from an office, some from our homes, some from exotic locations, and everything in between. Jobs that we think of as “stable” today will cease to exist, while jobs that we haven’t even dreamed off will become a reality.

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, we are living in an increasing GLOBAL world. Boundaries between nations are far more fluid than they’ve ever been, and we are fortunate that within our own country we are blessed with a diversity of people, cultures, climates, ideas, and so much more. We deliberately chose the word CITIZENS, because at NAU, we hope that our students will not only to think of themselves as individuals, but will recognize and appreciate their place in our complex universe.

So what does all of this mean? The most successful individuals, and more importantly, the happiest ones, will be able to NAVIGATE the path in rain or shine, (or snow!), when it’s smooth and predictable as well as when it becomes bumpy. Wishing you a Happy New Year as you navigate the path forward!


Stress-Free Strategies for Finals

Finals are afoot and the promise of winter break seems so sweet. If you’re thinking of doing this:


…don’t! Because NAU Career Development is here to help you. Check out our strategies for staying stress-free during finals:

Start early and plan ahead.

Unless you have a photographic memory, pulling an all-nighter before the final won’t lead to success. Create a study plan! Check out my template for planning your studying here.

Be sure to take breaks and exercise. Did you know that 20 minutes of exercise can improve memory retention and relieve stress? Take a study break, grab a friend, and exercise on Flagstaff’s Urban Trail System or stop by the HLC.

The key is to study smarter, not harder. If you are easily distracted, check out my list of Pandora stations in a previous blog post to keep you focused.

Switch it up! Study in different locations.

Cline Library will be open 24 hours during reading week and finals week (except Saturday and Sunday). You can also reserve a study room to stay focused!  If you missed the StressBusters this reading week, be sure to stop by next semester for a relaxing back rub to de-stress.

Stay healthy.

Stress and too little sleep can lead to sickness. Be sure to get adequate sleep! Check out NAU Health Promotion’s tips for staying stress free.


Don’t be a Turkey! Dig into the New Job Market!

Guest post by Jamie Paul

Program Coordinator for Campus and Community outreach

NAU Career Development at University College

US News and World Report says that this year “will mark the largest one-year hiring growth since the 1999-2000 school year!” Everyone seems to be hiring, and everyone wants you – the recent college graduate!  A few weeks ago we wrote about the some of the fabulous opportunities for recent grads to make an impact as Teach for America Corps members.  The next TFA application deadline is this December 5th, and this program is definitely a force for change in the new job market. Take a look at the various partnerships TFA facilitates with graduate schools and big names in the private sector that allow for deferred hiring or enrollment, and increased financial opportunities after completing your service.

Read on to find out how the TFA experience affected Andre and Mark’s post-grad careers and refer to our Part I blog post featuring other TFA alumni.


Andre Calderon Houston ‘99

NOW: I am an Instructional Facilitator in Seattle, WA, where I also Consultant with Youth Truth Student Survey on increasing student voice in schools.

THEN: I taught for 3 years at Lantrip Elementary. I stayed a 3rd year at my placement school and kick started my lifetime career in education. Being a TFA alumni has greatly impacted my career.  I taught for 13 years in TX and WA State and moved to instructional coaching over the last 4.  I continue meeting and working with TFA alumni doing inspiring work for all children.


Mark Meier – New Orleans ‘99

NOW: Teaching research writing at VCU, which prides itself on being a university that gets students of all backgrounds to graduate. My department, Focused Inquiry, is sort of like a mini-TFA within the university, though I didn’t pick it for that (unlike many of my peers). I was simply following a spouse’s career, applied, got the offer. I keep getting sucked back into teaching whenever I move and need a new job. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, but I’m also always drawn to something related to the environment. We’ll see what happens next.

THEN: I was shoved around a lot in general. Planned to teach high school science, instead got hired in second grade, then was moved to first, then was moved back to second. School had to fire three people at the end of the year, so I was glad to be one of them as the last hired. Got a job in second year teaching high school physics and physical science, which went much better. Turned down the offer to teach calculus if I stayed in New Orleans and went back to Boston, where the only job offers I got were to teach, so I did for two years in a charter high school. TFA made me more interested in race, education, and urban America in general, which partly sent me into sociology grad school. It also gave me the topic for my first novel manuscript, which may forever remain in manuscript unless I get lucky soon or publish it myself. I think TFA made me a better informed, more resilient person in general.


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