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Locally Trained Student Becomes Local Business Professional

Alyssa Gapske

A highly-ranked educational path through the Portage Public Schools provided Alyssa Gapske, Western Michigan University (WMU) 2013 graduate, with the skills she is using right now in her professional life.

Gapske was a member of the reputable award-winning forensics team at Portage Northern High School. They recently boasted their 13th Class A state championship in 14 years. The experience sparked her interest in communications.

After high school, Gapske originally left town to attend college. It wasn't long before she realized that she could finish a well-rounded education and gain work experience right here in Kalamazoo.

"I was originally attending a larger university and quickly realized it wasn't for me," said Gapske. "I also missed being in Kalamazoo!"

She was drawn to Western Michigan University's ability to remain personalized amidst the rich course offerings and a variety of programs and majors.

"I knew it was the right fit," she said.

Gapske was a public relations major and textile and apparel merchandising minor at WMU. The strategies she learned in communications transferred to all aspects of her life.

"Though I didn't pursue a career in the apparel or retail industry, my minor gave me insight into human behavior, design, and culture, which is always useful," she said.

She began working as a communication intern in the office of alumni relations and marketing at WMU's Haworth College of Business during her senior year.

"Interning with the staff in that department and having the ability to work and communicate with faculty and high profile alumni, was a wonderful experience," she said. "I learned a variety of skills in that internship that shaped my knowledge of communication and marketing that I was able to carry with me."

Next, her experience as a bank teller led to being hired as the Marketing and Community Relations director at First National Bank of Michigan after college graduation. There she helped develop their brand as a community partner for local business.

"That position gave me the opportunity to be involved with a company focused on local service, something I'm very passionate about," she said.

Again, Gapske found the opportunity to transfer those skills into a new career, including coming back to WMU in her current role in the office of Alumni Relations and Marketing at WMU's Haworth College of Business.

"I'm thrilled to be part of the team that creates content for our websites, print material, newsletters, and a college magazine. I also manage the college's social media pages, work on our homecoming activities, and direct the Trailblazers program, a student-recognition program. I work with a wonderful team!" she said.

According to Alyssa, she never felt as though she needed or wanted to leave the area or be successful both personally and professionally. She thinks that this is the perfect place for young professionals.

"The cost of living is great and I don't feel like you're sacrificing any culture to be able to love and afford where you live," said Gapske.

Gapske grew up in an art-focused family. Her mother Patricia attended the WMU Gwen Frostic School of Art and is a sculptor and photographer. Since childhood she has experienced a lot of the art and culture-focused activities in Kalamazoo.

"I love that you can walk by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and see the beautiful art in the windows, and walk a few blocks further and see a show at Farmers Alley Theatre," said Gapske.

Beyond Downtown Kalamazoo there is so much to explore as well, including the College of Fine Arts at WMU, which has a lively cultural calendar of more than 1,000 professionally produced student performances and exhibits every year.

"As someone who has been a part of the Kalamazoo community for almost 25 years, I can truly say that this town has so much to offer someone of any age. I loved growing up here, am thriving as a young professional, and know my parents, who have lived here even longer, would say that they still continue to find Kalamazoo to be very engaging," she said.

As for the future?

"I'm excited to pursue an MBA in the future and continue to contribute to the WMU and Kalamazoo community!" said Gapske. "No matter your interest, there is something to do and a place for you in Kalamazoo. I'm always proud to say this is my city."

Check out Glitter and Grey, a blog collaboration by the mother-daughter duo and learn more about Gapske's fashion-related tendencies and her mother's photography.

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