Coach, NCAA Forum Nurture K Student’s Career Aspirations

Brad Bez ’19 says he has wanted to be a coach since he was in his first year at Kalamazoo College.

“I think I’ve always had it in the back of my mind,” he says. “But that was when I really started to pursue it and decide it was what I wanted to do.”

Future College Coach Brad Bez Squatting Next to Logos
Brad Bez ’19, an offensive lineman who aspires to be a collegiate coach, points out the Kalamazoo College athletics logo in a display at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis, where he was one of 240 collegiate athletes from across the nation to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum.

The Hornet football offensive lineman’s ambition is well known to Head Coach Jamie Zorbo ’00, who mentors his players both on and off the field. In keeping with the emphasis in the K-Plan on experiential education, Zorbo nominated Bez for the NCAA Career in Sports Forum at the NCAA’s national office in Indianapolis in late May and early June 2018.

Bez was one of just 240 juniors and seniors chosen from more than 460,000 U.S. collegiate athletes to attend the all-expenses-paid forum, which the NCAA says is designed to assist them in charting their career paths as athletics professionals.

Over four days, he got to meet coaches, athletic directors and athletic staff from colleges and universities across the nation.

“It was all networking and workshops: how to make a better resume, different ways to connect with people, more information about the different careers in athletics, and particularly college athletics,” he says. “There were so many things we learned how to do and learned more about.”

The history major and political science minor says the biggest benefit may have been meeting fellow college athletes who will be among his future professional peers.

“Initially a lot of us went there with the idea that we were going to try to meet people in a position we want to be in. So a lot of us were trying to network with the people who have jobs,” he says. “And by the end, we all realized it was way more important to network with our peers, to try to get to know them. For example, I want to coach, and I met a guy who wants to be an athletic director. So we got to talking, and I was like, ‘Down the road, maybe one day, we’ll cross paths and you’ll get to hire me.’ ”

Bez, who is spending the summer as an intern in the Michigan State University athletic director’s office, says the biggest takeaway from the conference was “you have to build genuine relationships with people. If they just know your name, that’s not really enough. You have to know who people are and they have to know you in order for that to be a productive relationship. For both of you it has to be genuine.”

That’s the sort of relationship he—and, he says, his teammates—have with Zorbo.

“I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to be around Coach a lot during my time at K,” he says. “Whether it’s calling me into his office to have an extended conversation or just encountering something and him saying, ‘Hey, if you want to be a coach, this is what you need to know,’ I’ve had a pretty in-depth relationship with him.”

He says Zorbo’s off-field efforts for his players also include making sure they get to know K football alumni who can help them in their athletic and academic pursuits.

“Through Coach, I’ve been able to build my own network and have these people who share a commonality with me,” Bez says.

With Zorbo’s example, he talks about coaching not in terms of wins and losses, but as a way of making a difference in other people’s lives—and his own.

“I think the best thing about coaching is the relationships you get to build and the effect you get to have on people,” he says. “I mean, when I look back on my life, aside from my parents and family, the biggest impact on me has been my coaches. Those people shaped me to be who I am. I think that would be a spot really suited to me to have an impact on other people, but also for them to have an impact on me.”

Major Day a Major Event for Sophomores

Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do. Many don’t or change their minds at some point early in their academic careers. Kalamazoo College, with a liberal arts curriculum embodied in the K-Plan that is designed for exploration and discovery, gives students a year and a half to sample various academic fields before choosing a major, and makes it possible for them to do so without sacrificing their ability to graduate in four years. This week’s Declaration of Major Day, the midpoint of their sophomore year, is a festive gathering where they formally designate their majors, minors and concentrations.

Major Day
This week’s Major Day will be a festive gathering where sophomores formally designate their majors, minors and concentrations. The event will be from 10:55 to 11:55 a.m. Wednesday at the Hicks Banquet Room.

The banquet hall at Hicks Student Center is packed as each department sets up a booth. Students go from table to table, committing to their fields of study and getting answers to last-minute questions. Wearing stickers declaring they made their choices, they are treated to pieces of “Declaration Cake,” courtesy of Dining Services, and share the big moment with one another and the rest of campus.

“It’s a real rite of passage for students because it’s a big decision and they’re finding their academic home,” said Associate Dean of Students Dana Jansma. “Instead of just processing paperwork, we make it a communitywide celebration.”

Jansma also said it’s also a way for the College to show that it believes every student at K is important, whether they have a record of distinguished scholarship or are newly committed to their academic path.

“We want sophomores to know we’re excited about their plans and their accomplishments,” she said.

K senior Shelby Hopper, an international and area studies and German major with a minor in political science, still recalls the excitement of her Declaration of Major Day.

“It was an opportunity for everyone in my class to come together and show each other what we were all passionate about,” Hopper said.

And it can be cathartic. Sometimes the act of making a decision can spur a rethinking that leads to a different path. If it does, no worries: Thanks to the flexibility of the K-Plan, the College will work with students to make a switch of major or majors as seamless as possible.

K-Plan Cultivation

Kalamazoo College students may not be in class during the summer, but they are busy cultivating their K-Plans, across the country and around the world, in externships and internships supported by the Center for Career and Professional Development.

This summer 109 students are taking part in the CCPD’s summer career development programs. The Discovery Externship Program, in its 12th year, offers 46 first-year and sophomore students the opportunity to test the waters of a possible career by living and working with an alumni or parent professional for up to four weeks. Externs and hosts agree that the intensity of sharing both workday and “porchtime” experiences leads to rich relationships and deep discovery about the reality of the working world. This summer discovery externs can be found shadowing alumni in hospitals and health networks, a maritime museum, an organic food truck, dentistry and veterinary practices, financial and consulting firms, a school in India and a farm in Michigan.

To ensure the educational quality of their workplace experience, interns enrolled in the CCPD’s Field Experience Program agree with their supervisor on a learning contract outlining mutual goals and objectives for their summer together. They commit to regular structured reflection about their workplace experience, and they receive evaluation feedback at the conclusion of the internship. This summer, 63 interns are spending at least six weeks working with alumni professionals, Kalamazoo area non-profits, social justice organizations, and a wide range of independently-secured experiences across the country. Most Field Experience Program interns receive a stipend to help defray the costs of their unpaid experiences.

Externships and internships challenge students to apply theoretical learning to practical situations and to examine assumptions about work and careers. One current student mid-way through her internship described her summer work experience as “both gratifying and challenging.” She said, “In many ways this internship is not meeting my expectations and is showing me how off-base those expectations have been. These past three weeks have helped me rid myself of assumptions I held, and have given me new ways of thinking about how work at a non-profit can be done.”

The CCPD is already at work recruiting hosts and supervisors for summer 2014. Alumni and parents interested in offering a workplace experience to a student may contact to request more information about becoming part of the Discovery Externship Program or the Field Experience Program.

Post-Grad Public Service

Arnold Campbell, Martha Campbell, Alex Werder, Aubry McIntyre and Amanda Stitt
Left to Right: Arnold Campbell, Martha Campbell, Alex Werder, Aubry McIntyre, and Amanda Stitt.

“Politics and Public Service: K-Plans and Career Paths” was the theme of the Week Six (Oct. 19) Community Reflection in Stetson Chapel. Co-sponsored by the Center for Career and Professional Development and Alumni Relations, the reflection hosted a panel of Kalamazoo College alumni working in the areas of politics or public service.

College Republicans Co-Leader Aubry McIntyre ’15 and College Democrats President Alex Werder ’15 began the Reflection with a mock political debate. They sparred over the issues central to this year’s presidential election, modeling “civilized political discourse” for the audience of students and alumni present for Homecoming weekend.

Arnold Campbell ’72 spoke about his meandering path from study abroad at K to the United States Foreign Service, where he currently serves as Officer and Chargé d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Malta. After studying abroad in Germany, he said he found his calling. “I no longer wanted to be a tourist in the world; I wanted to be participating in those other cultures, and that was because of what I’d experienced here.” His wife, Martha Campbell ’72, also held office in the Foreign Service after K, most recently as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Marshall Islands. She said her K education prepared her for a rigorous, demanding, and exciting job.

Lastly, Amanda Stitt ’02 read from an essay chronicling her journey in Michigan politics rooted in a few influential K classes. She founded K’s chapter of the College Democrats and opted to leave school during her junior fall to help with the 2000 election. Stitt served as former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s political director, ran a statewide nonprofit, and now works with the UAW. She said her K-Plan helped her develop the communication, networking, and leadership skills she would later need in the political world.

Community Reflection offers a unique forum for discussion, worship, performance, and community expression each Friday at 10:50 AM in Stetson Chapel. The campus community and general public are invited. [Story and photo by Elaine Ezekiel ’13]