We virtually sat down with NMU alum, Kate Hooper, to chat about her experience moving back to Marquette from Madison, WI, as a Wildcat and her life now 10 years later. Like a lot of us, Kate feels more grounded and centered living in the Upper Peninsula. We can all agree that this place has a special touch which seems to calm the soul.
Kate is the Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for Northern Michigan University. While very passionate about her job, she clearly states, “I work to live, not live to work” which was something that resonated well with us. Kate also enjoys all things adventurous and loves to take in the beautiful sites that our own little oasis offers. If you want to learn more about Kate’s amazing experience at Northern Michigan University, why she chose the U.P. as her forever home, and how she learned to become a confident woman in the workplace, keep reading below!
Q: What degree did you graduate NMU with and in what year?
A: I graduated with a Public Relations degree back in May of 2010. So I did just celebrate my 10th anniversary from graduating from Northern, which is crazy!
Brittany: Congratulations, what a milestone! That is amazing!
Q: What was your first job after you graduated?
A: This one is kind of a two-fold, but my first gig after I graduated from Northern was a paid internship at a small marketing and PR firm in Madison, Wisconsin. My supervisor was actually a Northern PR alum and was the person who helped hire me. I remember going into my professor’s office to chat because you know how professors are at Northern. I did not know what I was going to do after graduation, and I didn’t know where my interests were. We started chatting and he had this big map on his wall from his students who would graduate and get jobs from the PR department. They would send them their business cards and he would tack those cards up on that map. He looks at the map and he’s like, “You know what? I just got an email from one of my students and they’re looking for interns”, and he pulled her business card off. And he’s like, “Why don’t you send her an email and see what it’s all about?”
So I did, and I went through the whole process and I got it! That just goes to show the Northern connection, right? It was such a good experience! With this job, I helped draft press releases, I developed social media content for the clients that they worked with, and I conducted a lot of research for client meetings that the PR people were having, you know, kind of my higher-ups. It really was a great learning experience for those 6 months after college.
I guess for my first real job, I moved back to the Upper Peninsula and I started working at the Country Village Banquet Center as a Banquet Coordinator. It was kind of sexy and cool because I was working with big-name brands like Culver’s and Oregon Chai, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t fulfilling for me. Consumer marketing wasn’t my thing. It was a great experience, but it wasn’t for me.
Brittany: You really can’t beat the Northern experience!
Q: What qualities did you learn at Northern that helped you transition into your internship and that first job?
A: I love this question and this is the one I was really like, man, going back and thinking, obviously you learn the things in your major, which is such a no brainer, but those are just to get your foot in the door. I would say I’ve got a few things that when I really look back, Northern helped cultivate these qualities. One of them is we did a lot of group work in my major. Group work is not the best thing, but every single job that I’ve had, I’ve had to learn how to work with different people, because everyone’s so different. There are so many different personalities, and at the end of the day, you need to get the project done. I am so grateful that I had all that group work because I really had good practice in that. I think one of the other big qualities that I did learn, especially within my major is how to be adaptable. I don’t think I quite got the grasp of that when I was a student, but my major really helped me to be adaptable and think on my feet. I wasn’t very adaptable in high school, and I stuck to a strict schedule, but that changed in college. The biggest thing that really helped me advance in my career is communication skills, especially writing. I’m a pretty strong writer, and I feel like that blossomed at Northern. I was really able to hone in on it and grow a passion for it.
Brittany: I also do a lot of group work as a Marketing Major! I agree that it helps to prepare you for a real job where you will be working with multiple people who each have different personalities. Being adaptable to that is key.
Q: Now that we’ve touched on your work life, what’s your life like outside of work?
A: Oh my goodness. Well, it looks different now, right? Because, sometimes I feel there are some days with this whole working remotely thing where I’m like, oh my gosh, all I did was work today, but that’s neither here nor there. Outside of the coronavirus craziness, I definitely work to live. My job is something that I’m really passionate about and I really love, but when I’m not working, I’m not working. You know, I’m not thinking about work. I try to have fun with my little family which consists of my husband and I, and our two and a half-year-old little girl who keeps us really busy! Our daughter knows what we mean when we say we’re going on an adventure, she loves that! We go on hikes, we bike, and we go to camp to be out in the boat and kayaks. We’re definitely those outdoorsy people, even in the winter, we have a little hiking backpack for our daughter so she comes with us when we go snowshoeing. We’re definitely the kind of people who try to appreciate nature and then spend as much time with family as possible. When not working, it’s all about my family. I do still enjoy learning and trying new things and that was definitely something that was fostered at NMU.
Brittany: I love how you mentioned that you live to work, not work to live. I think we can all agree that balancing life and work can be difficult, especially during an international pandemic!
Q: Speaking of being adventurous, is that what drew you back to the Marquette area?
A: Yeah, kind of, I mean, honestly, the reason why we loved Madison and why we stayed there for so long is because it was so different from the U.P. We got to try things that were different from growing up in the UP, like going to concerts and eating at different restaurants frequently. It wasn’t that big city vibe, but it was definitely that city life. I would say what really pulled us back was the lifestyle of Marquette County, which is much simpler. It’s calmer. I feel more centered here, like my head isn’t constantly on a swivel. I think nature does that to you anyway. There’s just something about being outdoors and being in a beautiful place that we live in now. We can go on hikes and we have access to water whenever we want. But really, being back with my family was the ultimate choice, and everything else is just a bonus.
Brittany: Getting out and enjoying the outdoors right in our own ‘backyard’ definitely helps us all to disconnect with the outside world and reconnect to our own world. We are all so lucky to have that option here!
Q: Roping it back to Northern, what was your favorite memory that you had at NMU?
A: This one is hard for me because I really had to think about this. The reason why I wanted to try this job in Admissions seven years ago was because I had such a great experience at Northern. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite memory because I really can’t say enough about my time at Northern. If I had to choose I would say my favorite memory was working as a Media Intern for the USOEC (the United States Olympic Education Center). It was the fall of 2010 when we hosted the Speed Skating Time Trials and the World Cup. It brought athletes from all over the country and all over the world. As a media intern, I got to help plan and organize the event with the USOEC. My main task was to work with the announcer who was going to be on the ice and write a script to make sure he was announcing the right event at the right time and in the right order. This was when Apollo Ono was really big, so that in itself was really cool! It was so fun to be on the ice with the announcer and see all the action while also working behind the scenes. I had a lot of responsibility and trust placed on me and my other coworkers who were also interns. When I look back, that’s something that I don’t think the USOEC and Northern, in general, realize just how powerful that was for a student. To know that they trusted me with that responsibility really helped develop my confidence and make me feel like I was prepared. When the event was finished, I was like oh my gosh, I can do this! I can roll up my sleeves and contribute to something. I’m not just a 21, or 22-year old girl who has learned some things in school. Like I’ve got skills and I can do this! The role I played and the way that it made me feel is why it’s one of my favorite memories. It was one of those moments where you have a lot of pride in where you are and where you’re from, and even where you went to school, like yeah this place is awesome!
And, that’s a wrap! Thank you Kate for taking the time to sit down and share your story with us at Invent@NMU. Stay tuned for more interviews on how people in the 906 stay balanced between their work life and their daily life!