From marketing student to global go-getter

Pictured is Catherine Lemus standing outside in front of a tree smilingCatherine Lemus

Confidence—that is what Catherine Lemus, a senior majoring in marketing, has gained in the Haworth College of Business. 

“My professors have helped me grow and seek out unique professional opportunities, acting as mentors throughout my education. I am very thankful for their commitment to my success. As a student who transferred between colleges at WMU, I questioned where I would fit in. However, from day one at WMU Haworth, my professors helped me realize my potential and encouraged me to set aspirational goals!”

And Lemus has realized many accomplishments during her time at WMU, including:

  • Completing internships with Herman Miller, WMU and General Motors-Chevrolet, in sales analytics, social media, and marketing and advertising.
  • Serving as president of the student chapter of the WMU American Marketing Association and transitioning to virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Being selected as the American Marketing Association 2019 Social Impact Scholar, a national recognition for students creating positive change in the marketing profession and the world.
  • Representing the University as a 2019 Gilman Scholar, a highly competitive congressionally funded program supporting undergraduate students’ international education.
  • Serving as interchapter relations director and a character actress with WMU’s A Moment of Magic, a national nonprofit allowing undergraduate students to dress as popular characters and visit children with pediatric cancer and other medical vulnerabilities.
  • Being named an AdCraft Club of Detroit scholarship recipient.

In Fall of 2020, Lemus, also a Lee Honors College student, defended her honors thesis, “WMU Essential Studies: Creating Awareness for the New Required Curriculum.” The thesis was a yearlong project, which supported efforts to communicate with incoming students about the new general education curriculum required for all students. Greg Gerfen, instructor of marketing, acted as her thesis advisor, drawing upon his many years of industry experience to guide Lemus in her work. She created a marketing strategy for the curriculum and then created promotional materials, including a program overview, program graphic, online orientation module and promotional video. To date, more than 2,500 students have been impacted by her work.

Particularly challenging was evolving her initial marketing strategy to work within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic where in-person tactics were limited or wholly unavailable. “Professor Gerfen helped me understand how to approach such an open-ended marketing challenge and gave great advice on developing core messaging for such an influential program,” Lemus notes. “As the COVID-19 pandemic grew in intensity, I worked with him to adapt the approach to the virtual environment.”

Lemus’ flexibility in approaching challenges was bolstered in large part by her study abroad experience in Oslo, Norway, where she learned how to problem-solve, adapt and connect in ways that opened her up to a new way of being in the world. “The time I spent studying at the BI Norwegian Business School while living in a new country was extremely important to my personal growth,” says Lemus. “When I decided to study abroad, I did not know anyone else going to Norway from WMU, but I wanted to push myself and expand my global perspective. This was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I needed to put a lot of trust in myself and be flexible. This experience has shaped how I view my future career and personal life. I understand that the way I think by being raised in the U.S. can cause certain cultural biases. Meeting others from different countries and learning to work on teams with various cultural norms taught me to value others’ perspectives even more.” Learning about herself and from friends around the globe has built the intercultural fluency and empathy that Lemus now brings to every interaction and project.

One of the biggest challenges that Lemus has faced during her academic career has certainly been the pandemic itself. “Not being able to learn or work in-person has been difficult, though I know I am also building skills during this time. Over the summer of 2020, I had the opportunity to work as a virtual marketing and advertising intern with General Motors supporting the Chevrolet team. I never met most of my team in person, so I had to work to improve my communication skills in a completely virtual environment. I also successfully developed and implemented a virtual training program to launch the electric vehicle call-and-chat service, the Bolt EV Concierge. This new virtual program is now being used as a model for other call-and-chat services across the General Motors nameplates such as the HUMMER EV and Cadillac Lyric.” 

What’s next for Lemus? She will be joining digital agency PMG as part of the firm’s prestigious Graduate Leadership Program where she plans to use her marketing skills to help brands find success while she simultaneously applies the socially conscious mindset she developed during Bronco Alternative Breaks, service learning, her international experience and her courses, as she builds her career.