Welcome to MSU: Newcomers share their stories

Looking to start a new role at this giant university? People from across the state, country and globe choose to make MSU their place to embark on new experiences. Change isn’t easy and it often comes with lots of questions. The WorkLife Office has been reaching out to incoming faculty and staff to help connect to resources, services and answer questions. The WorkLife Office team is also available for candidates to be able to learn more about the work, life, family and culture at MSU, or may be referred by a supervisor or academic leader in order to provide candidates with more thorough information on the university. Many newcomers set up a consultation with the WorkLife Office to get an introduction to the  campus community and ask some of their pressing questions. Newcomer or not, the WorkLife Office is here to help you navigate family, career, workplace, the MSU community and beyond. 

Information for newcomers and candidates:

  • Relocation and Community
  • Campus Connections  
  • HERC: Michigan State University is a member of the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) and the host institution for the Michigan Regional HERC (MI-HERC). HERC has a variety of resources and tools available, free to any job seeker, including; career advice, job search tips, resume and cover letter guidance and a job board for careers in higher education with custom searches and alerts. HERC is a resource for dual hire candidates.
  • Consultation
  • International Newcomer Resources and programs

Learn about new colleagues at MSU:

Ekrem OzluEkrem Ozlu, Postdoctoral Research Associate at Kellogg Biological station

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Ph.D. Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
  • Why you chose MSU: Research topic and opportunity.
  • Your hobbies: Chess, Soccer, and Hiking
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? Since I am working in Kellogg Station, I am not sure how involved I could be in clubs. But I think I would be very interested in Chess Club and/or soccer group.
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Arranging accommodation, getting familiar with area, and not having an official vacation break or getting away in nature before starting a new position. One exciting but maybe overwhelming point can be introducing yourself to colleagues but continuously feeling that I just join the position, even after months.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far?  I found my colleagues willing to help for anything, welcoming and warm atmosphere in the team working area.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I like the spring valley park near Kalamazoo. I am paying extra attention to pandemic rules so I have not had a chance to try restaurants or museums in person. 
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? I am exited to be here. Looking forward to be free to go to games especially the one against the Badgers.

Kiki KilburnDr. Katherine Kilburn, Assistant Director of Orchestras

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Interim Director of Orchestras at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York
  • Why you chose MSU: The MSU College of Music hired my husband and me at the beginning of the pandemic to come develop the orchestral music and conducting programs. This spoke volumes to their commitment to their students and to us. We are thrilled to be here.
  • Your hobbies: I took up sourdough (and kombucha) during early Covid times and it’s become a huge obsession. I love being outside: hiking, walking, running, snowshoeing, swimming, kayaking, basically anything where I can enjoy the beauty of nature and fresh air. I love baking, reading to and with my kids, practicing violin with my daughter, and travelling.
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans?  I’m already a part of the MSU mama’s group and I feel like my colleagues at the School of Music will be great friends once I can meet them in person. I’m always interested in book clubs, but rarely find the time to read things in a timely fashion! ☺ Ha.
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Not being able to meet my students and colleagues in person and moving to a new city where we’d love to get to know the culture, restaurants, etc., but feeling like we need to be so careful. 
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The students. Hands down. They are bright, curious, hard-working, and inspiring.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? We live by Lake Lansing so the lake and trails are wonderful to explore. So far haven’t been to a single restaurant or museum or park yet, but did venture into Playmakers which is amazing, and got take out from Maru Sushi!
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? My friends and family call me Kiki.
     

Mena AlversonMena Reyes Alverson, K-12 Educational Administration & Education Policy Program Assistant

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Lead Admissions Processor & Call Center Supervisor, Front Range Community College (Fort Collins, CO)
  • Why you chose MSU: My family moved to Michigan to be closer to family and MSU is well loved in the area and one of our nation’s top public universities.
  • Your hobbies: I love to spend quality time with my family, watch movies, read books. I love food (bake, cook, eat)! 
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? Things to do with my kids, a book club, or a group who loves to potluck or share recipes (food club? lol!), a group from different parts of the world (I grew up in the Philippines and would love to connect with other people from different countries).
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Training remotely has been difficult, but my team has been very helpful and patient. It also has helped me push my boundaries and open my mind to other modes of learning or training. The most difficult part of it is not being able to see and meet everyone in my team or the college. I’ve had to make connections and build relationships via zoom and email, which isn’t as easy as talking to someone in person.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The best part of working at MSU so far are the people. My department, college, and students have been so welcoming and have made me feel like a part of the family from day 1.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? This has been pretty difficult due to the pandemic, but my favorite restaurants so far are 102 Pho & Banh Mi (Okemos), Korean House (East Lansing – near the campus),  Ding Tea (also near the campus), and The Daily Scoop Ice Cream Shop (Mason). Favorite place that we’ve visited would be Mackinac Island.

Jay LoftusJay Loftus, Ed.D., Academic Specialist Global Health Studies Program (Curriculum) / Learning Experience Designer (Hub for Innovations in Teaching & Technology)

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Sr. Instructional Designer / Coordinator of Digital Learning – Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry – University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario Canada
  • Why you chose MSU: Reputation, the people, opportunity to work in a new program within a field I have extensive experience.
  • Your hobbies: I actually really enjoy my work and often in my ‘down time’ I continue to research and explore things that would be beneficial for our program. In the more traditional sense, I enjoy tennis and golf. 
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? This is a hard question to answer as I am still working remotely from Canada. Getting to know people in my departments has been nice. 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Working remotely from Canada and only knowing my colleagues via their Zoom profile. 
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The people have been so friendly and helpful. Based on prior and past experience working at a big institution, I never expected this level of collegiality. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? Not yet. But I am excited to eventually get to see Science Gallery Detroit and the Broad Museum. 

Ashley BarkerAshley Baker, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Assistant VP for Student Affairs, Chief Inclusion Officer and Deputy Title IX Coordinator
  • Why you chose MSU: MSU is a great institution and I was excited to be a part of the intentional commitment to DEI in athletics.
  • Your hobbies: Reading books, traveling, watching documentaries
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? Book clubs
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Not being able to meet people in person. Normally there would be flexibility for meetings, maybe a coffee shop or a walk throughout campus. Now, every introduction meeting is a virtual meeting.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? People have been very welcoming and helpful. Staff from all across campus have reached out to offer advice, assistance, and support. 

Zachary BehlerZachary Behler, Assistant General Counsel

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Shareholder - Foster, Swift, Collins, & Smith, PC – Lansing, MI
  • Why you chose MSU:  I have been working in the Lansing area since 2005 and when the opportunity opened up to join MSU, I really couldn’t pass it up.  There are a lot of interesting things happening on campus that I really can’t wait to be a part of.  
  • Your hobbies: Bird watching, fishing, redoing old houses.  
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans?  I think I would be interested in getting involved with some groups on campus.  Especially those with an outdoor slant.  
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic?  I think the funniest part of not coming into the office is that I have no idea how tall all my coworkers are.  I also know what more about how my coworker’s basements and home offices look.  The hardest part is building relationships without in-person meetings.  
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far?  I really have enjoyed a lot of the technology that I have been exposed to working as counsel for MSU Technologies.  
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I have been living in the area for a while, but with the current snowy weather, I have been going to Lake Lansing County Park to cross country ski a couple times a week.  
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you?  I graduated from MSU in 2003 and am a lifelong Spartan.  

Boonsiree NuvemanBoonsiree Nuveman, International Student and Scholar Advisor

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Immigration Assistant at University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • Why you chose MSU:The position at MSU is a step-up for me. I chose it for my career advancement. 
  • Your hobbies: Spending time with my husband and my son, watching movies, taking walks at a park.
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? I like taking walks on campus so once everything is back to normal, I’d love to go back to doing that. I also like to swim and we are trying to get my son into swimming, so, maybe looking for a sports center or a gym for that purpose. 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Onboarding entirely via zoom. Being in meetings on zoom constantly is exhausting, esp. when my eyes are so dry during the winter (I started in December). At the end of the day every day in the first month, I was so tired and didn’t want to do anything but laying down and closing my eyes. Another challenge is I haven’t met any of my colleagues in person, only via zoom. One good thing out of this is the team schedules weekly (or daily in the first month) meetings and I feel like I do get to know my colleagues faster than if we were open normally. Another good thing about working remotely is that I don’t have to commute … yet (I live an hour away from East Lansing). That is a plus! ☺
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? My team is great! In fact everyone in the Office of International Students and Scholars is great. They are friendly, welcoming, and professional. They are good at what they do, they care about students. I’m grateful to be part of the OISS. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? Even though this is the first time working at MSU, I often go to East Lansing to eat and shop. I love Japanese food and my favorite is Sansu and Omi. Every time I’m in town, I’d stop at the Oriental Mart which is an Asian grocery store to pick up Asian food and supplies. My family also likes to take walks on campus whenever we’re in town.

Barry DeCiccoBarry DeCicco, Data Manager/Analyst at the Center for Statistical Training and Consulting 

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): I worked in a variety of jobs:  Census enumerator, Senior SAS Programmer at Stratacent/VW Credit, Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motors North America the University of Michigan Health Center, the University of Michigan School of Nursing, Visteon (a Ford spin-off) and Ford Motor Company.
  • Why you chose MSU:  CSTAT offers me a chance to help a lot of people work better with data and statistical analysis.
  • Your hobbies:  Ballroom/Latin/Swing dancing (in the Long Long Ago, like 2019),.
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? I’m looking forward to meeting with the East Lansing R-Ladies in person. East Lansing R-Ladies is a non-profit, civil society community is designed to develop members’ R skills (R is a programming language) & knowledge through social, collaborative learning & sharing. Supporting minority identity access to STEM skills & careers, the Free Software Movement, and contributing to the global R community!
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? The social aspect; I’ve been on campus only twice since I started in September.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? Really good people. I have been pleasantly surprised a number of times, when people’s behavior exceeded my expectations.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I haven’t had a chance to eat at El Azteco; I last ate there as a grad student at MSU, when they were in the basement in the block to the south of their present locations.
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? I’m eager to help people.

Bonnie RussellBonnie Russell, Project Manager, MESH Research (Outreach Academic Specialist)

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Technical Project Manager, Wayne State University Press
  • Why you chose MSU: Michigan State University offered me the opportunity to work with scholars who are actively pushing the boundaries of digital scholarship, scholarly communication, and collaborative tools. MESH Research is devoted to advancing the ability of scholars to tell their stories in unique (and many times interactive) ways. It is exciting to work on projects like Humanities Commons and HuMetricsHSS, that are poised to have real impact within the academy. 
  • Your hobbies: Knitting, hiking, comics (particularly Marvel)
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? I am a huge fan of museums, lectures, and other opportunities to learn. I love to attend theatre and dance performances, the symphony, rock concerts, and to see indie and foreign films. Unfortunately, those things are unavailable to a large extent at present, but when they are, I would love to meet up with fellow Spartans who are interested in these kinds of outings. I would also love to know if there is a hiking club. 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? The inability to meet people in person. It is hard when there are no opportunities for casual conversation, lunches, and the ability to bond over mutual likes that may not be visible during Zoom meetings. The people I work with are wonderful, but I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone in person and being able to feel more connected. 
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? I have been impressed with the amount of communication and care taken of both students and employees. I feel as though there is a real interest in the well-being of people as people. Even though I am remote I do feel connected to the community and included as much as possible under the current circumstances. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet?  Not yet. I am in the Detroit area, so I am not super familiar with the E. Lansing area. 
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? I love cats, bats, dinosaurs, and Godzilla. 

Erin BrownErin Brown, Digital Marketing Manager at the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology 

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Before MSU, Erin spent nearly 13 years delivering results and growing consumer passion for brands like Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and JennAir, at the world’s largest appliance company, Whirlpool Corporation. 
  • Why you chose MSU: Erin and her family are lifelong Spartan fans so MSU is a natural fit. Erin is drawn to the positive culture and the diversity on campus. Being a data-driven marketer with consumer-first mindset, she finds the Hub an exciting place to create meaningful digital experiences. 
  • Your hobbies: On the weekends, Erin can be found tailgating at MSU, taking road trips to concerts or binge-watching reality shows and HGTV. She enjoys pedicures and game nights. She also loves cheering for her son at the soccer field or basketball court. 
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? Diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives. Programs + activities for kids / families 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? The hardest part about transitioning to a new position through the pandemic has been not having the opportunity to build organic conversations (and relationships) through the regular office environment and interactions. 
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The best part of working for MSU so far has been the people! Everyone has been very inclusive and supportive. Even through an entirely virtual onboarding, colleagues have helped Erin feel very welcome.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? Erin hasn’t been to East Lansing during the pandemic, but she does enjoys shopping at the Spartan Book Store and grabbing lunch from Pita Pit. 
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? Erin is an award-winning diversity champion who is passionate about creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace for all. She has led employee resource groups – driving strategy and impacting policy and culture changes. 

Jacob SimonJacob Simon, Adjunct Professor of Law at the Law College 

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city):  Teaching at MSU Law is just something I do on the side, I am an associate attorney at the Law Office of Susan E. Cohen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where I practice Family Law. 
  • Why you chose MSU:  I am a proud alum, and I love having the opportunity to share my passion for family law with MSU Law students! 
  • Your hobbies: Running 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? I have actually been a guest lecturer for a couple years before being recognized as an adjunct professor this year, and the only class that I teach is a class that I was a student in during my time in law school, so there was not a lot to the transition for me except for learning how to teach via Zoom. 
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far?  I love showing off my faculty ID card to my colleagues. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I have not been to campus in over a year… :/ 

Michael LindhoutMike Lindhout, Associate Director, International Corporate & Foundation Relations

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Acting Country Director, Peace Corps Nicaragua
  • Why you chose MSU: I wanted to engage in international work from my home of Michigan, and MSU was the natural choice!
  • Your hobbies: Surfing, cooking, carpentry, pickle ball
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? I’m interested in cooking. 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? I’ve sort of forgotten what it feels like to meet someone new in person ☺
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? Meeting (virtually) the amazing faculty and staff. I’ve had limited interactions with students, but look forward to more of that. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I’ve always loved a shroom burger from Crunchy’s, but will wait until after the pandemic to enjoy one in person. 
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you?I love anything related to Nicaragua or Central America. 

Kenny Barnt, MSU position: ADC Engineer III/Information Technologist III

  • Where you were before MSU (position and/or city): Associate Network Manager at Central Michigan University
  • Why you chose MSU: The opportunity to focus more on specific areas of responsibility and more opportunities for career growth, while staying in Higher Ed.
  • Your hobbies: Playing music (I’m a tuba player mostly), Photography (especially Drone photography lately)
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? My wife and I are looking forward to joining the Meridian Community Band, and I’d love to get back into rec league hockey.
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? Building relationships beyond my immediate team. Without physical presence, I don’t really interact much with people I’m not working with directly.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The support from my teammates and management, especially regarding career path planning.
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? Groovy Donuts is probably the most universally loved restaurant in this house so far.
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? I’m looking forward to getting to know more of you, and more of the community as things move toward whatever the new normal winds up being!

Sarah Dunkel JohnsonDr. Sarah Dunkel-Jackson, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA, Researcher and Assistant Professor

  • Why you chose MSU: I chose MSU because of the commitment to high quality and impactful applied research that enhances our communities. And, I really love Spartan Sports!
  • Your hobbies: I love playing and/or coaching softball, baseball, basketball, and lacrosse. I also enjoy cooking and playing music with my children.
  • What is a topic to connect with you with other Spartans? I love playing sports, cooking, conducting research, and learning about new things. 
  • What has been the hardest part about transitioning to a new position through a pandemic? I enjoy learning from and about my colleagues through various interactions—not only Zoom meetings and email. I must say, though, that I feel very lucky to have been so welcomed by our HDFS department and RADD Lab. They are a great group of humans from whom I am learning a lot. I look forward to meeting them in person for a lunch chat or walk around campus.
  • What has been the best part of working for MSU so far? The best part of working for MSU thus far includes the many opportunities to contribute and continue to learn. I’ve appreciated the opportunities to conduct research that enhances the lives of children with disabilities. I also appreciate the various professional development opportunities including webinars, trainings, speakers, and specialty groups. 
  • Have you found a favorite store/restaurant/museum/park yet? I grew up near East Lansing then moved to Ontario, Canada for several years. I do have several favorite East Lansing spots that I look forward to visiting once the pandemic is over.
  • Anything else you want Spartans to know about you? Go Green! Go White!