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Future educator, young leader in the literacy field and President of an innovative student organization: what can't Breyana Wilson do? As a special education student, Wilson explains what influences she has had in her life that led her to embark on this journey and how she landed at WMU.

Breyana Wilson, special education

Breyana, special education

Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference. For special education student Breyana Wilson, that person was her Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts teacher and WMU alumna, Stephanie Hampton.

“Every day walking in, she always has that rockstar energy—that’s what I call it. She’s always on top of it, always 100 percent,” Wilson said of the 2019 Middle School English Teacher of the Year. “She gets really excited about books. That’s one thing that’s always stuck with me about her, is her enthusiasm when it comes to literacy.”

Wilson says Hampton has a passion for introducing students to literature they wouldn’t necessarily read on their own, and has taught her about different genres, writers and poets—fostering a new career option she never imagined pursuing.

“I love to read because of her,” Wilson explains. She “instilled something in all of her students that I wanted to have for myself, and not only that, but to give to other students. And that’s kind of what pushed me in the direction of wanting to become a teacher.”

“Not only that, but she was a Western student, so why not go where the greatest was trained?” 

During her time on campus, Wilson has already made an impact, joining and becoming president of Future Teachers of Color, a registered student organization dedicated to bringing  together future educators of color at WMU with a focus on various topics related to career preparation, academic success, mentorship, community service outreach, and networking skills.

Recently, Wilson was also selected as one of Michigan Reading Association’s ’30 Under 30,’ a campaign that spotlights and celebrates rising Michigan innovators, disrupters and visionaries in the literacy field. 

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My career goal is to be a general manager or senior vice president of a professional franchise—preferably sports. Anything that allows my personality and work to shine.

Brandon Harlin, Intern at New York Giants

Brandon, sport management

As a kid playing on football fields around Highland Park, Michigan, Brandon Harlin grew up idolizing NFL players. Now he's working side by side with them as a communications intern with the New York Giants.

From managing media profiles and launching a new website to help players tackle press coverage, Harlin is seeing his dreams of sports management come to fruition.

"Just the ability to grab and coach players for camera time is cool; it's like I'm their PR coach," says Harlin, whose ultimate goal is to lead a sports franchise.

Harlin built a strong foundation for this experience through a previous internship with WMU Athletics.

"I can have an educated say in a lot that I do (with the Giants) outside of what I'm required. The WMU internship taught me hard work and to be a sponge for knowledge."

As his internship with the Giants progresses, Harlin is looking forward to gaining more experience and knowledge of the game and his position within a professional sports organization.

"I arrived (at Western) a boy from a small town with no clue where to go. Now I'm a man in the Big Apple with an actual path," he says. "I know this will unlock many more doors for me."

(Photos courtesy: Matthew Swensen)

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Call it a pinch me moment! Fashion merchandising and design student, Julia Lekander was sent to New York Fashion Week as part of a competition Western hosts for students in the fashion industry.

Julia Lekander, fashion merchandising and design

Julia, fashion design and development

Western's competition in fall 2022 was open to all members of the MODA registered student organization. Participants had to provide transcripts and a letter of recommendation as well as write an essay about why they would represent Western well at New York Fashion Week.

A group of finalists was chosen to compete for the grand prize: designing three to five looks for collegiate apparel, conveying what it means to them to be a Bronco.

A panel of judges made up of fashion merchandising and design faculty, Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications staff and students weighed in on each student's collection. They saw a wide range of styles, from retro patchwork overalls and corduroy jackets to jerseys and vintage vests.

“The students' designs blew me away with their levels of creativity they came up with. It was beyond my expectation," says Dr. Mary Simpson, assistant professor of fashion merchandising and design. "That speaks to the strength of both the academic program and each student’s commitment to their personal success.”

"Don't underestimate Western," says Julia Lekander, of suburban Chicago and the winner of the competition, who transferred to WMU for the fashion merchandising and design program. "It's a close-knit community where you get one-on-one attention. We get incredible lessons from our instructors. Even my small community college couldn't offer this intensive, one-on-one attention. Western is game-changing."

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Undergraduate testimonials
Graduate testimonials
  • Counseling psychology
    • Jazz McKinney (M.A.'14) is the executive director of the Grand Rapids Pride Center.

    • Marissa Slabosz is a graduate assistant at the McGinnis Reading Center.

    • Tatyana Smith is a Thurgood Marshall Fellow in the counseling psychology doctoral program.

    • Ryan White is a current doctoral student in the counseling psychology program. 

  • Counselor education
    • Navia Walker is a graduate assistant at The Kalamazoo Promise.

    • Robert Parsons is a doctoral assistant in the WMU Counselor Education Department.

  • Educational leadership

    Higher education and student affairs concentration (Masters)

    • Abosede Odukoya is a student and GA for Multicultural Affairs for Students at WMU.

    • AJ Wilson is a student and graduate assistant for the Seita Scholars Program.

    • Amie Sarabosing is an international student and graduate assistant for the Seita Scholars Program.

    • Derrick Jones is student and the associate director of fund management at WMU Student Finacial Aid

    • Eva Hughes is a student and the interim director of fraternity and sorority life at WMU.

    • Haley Summerfield is a student and the graduate assistant of RSO development at WMU.

    • Jonathan Pulley (M.A.'18) is a program manager on the education and employment team at Rocket Community Fund.

    • Kendra Coons (M.A.'21) is the senior student program coordinator in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue University.

    • Lisa Williams (M.A.'04) is the Principal at Ferndale High School and member of the WMU Alumni Association Board.

    • Mike Ozga (M.A.'22) is a residence hall coordinator at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI.

    • Terry Burleson is a student and the manager of recruitment and student outreach at Kellogg Community College.

    Higher education leadership (Doctorate)

    • Malia Roberts (Ph.D.'23) is the interim senior director of graduate college enrollment at WMU's Graduate College.

    K-12 principal and interscholastic athletic administration concentration (Masters)

    • Jason Misner (M.A.'11) is the Superintendent of Glen Lake Community Schools.

    K-12 leadership concentration (Doctorate)

    • Johnny Edwards is a doctoral student and the Assistant Superintendent of Operations at Portage Public Schools.

    • Vee Murugan is a doctoral student and graduate from the educational leadership masters program.
  • Family and consumer sciences
    • Mark Ybarra (M.A.'05) is an adjunct professor of family life education at Great Lakes Christian College.

    Child life

    • Maggie King is a student athlete and completed her practicum at John Hopkins All Children's Hospital.
  • John, educational and instructional technology

    John Wagner (M.A.'22, educational and instructional technology) is a media arts teacher at Education for the Arts through Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency.

  • Literacy studies
    • Daven Carter is a graduate research assistant at the McGinnis Reading Center and an elementary education alum.

    • Kristhyna Fermin (M.A.'15) is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant at the McGinnis Reading Center.
  • Nutrition and dietetics
  • Organizational change leadership
    • Sarah Miklusicak (M.A.'21) is the director of human resources at Lake Michigan Credit Union.

    • Trey Mitchell (M.A.'17) is the manager of organization development and learning at Bronson Healthcare.

  • Secondary education
    • Mackenzie Leonard is the host of "Enter the Music Crypt with Delta of Venus" on WMU's WIDR FM radio station.

    • Sarah Giramia is an English teacher at Linden Grove Middle School and a recipient of the Extra Yard for Teachers Award.

  • Special education
    • Melissa Rajter is an instructor, WMU Graduate College ambassador and student in the doctoral program.

  • Sport management
    • Thomas Delves (M.A.'19) is a producer for the Carolina Panthers (NFL).

  • Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)
    • Eric Thomas (M.A.'22) is a teacher at El Sol Elementary School in Kalamazoo.

    • Kawther Mohammed (M.A.'22) is an ESL instructor at Kalamazoo Public Schools.

    • Melissa Zalewa (M.A.'23) works with non-English speaking refugees and immigrant students in the United States.

    • Laura Frantz (M.A.'21) is an ESL teacher at Coldwater Community Schools.

    • Val Cusumano is a TESOL student.

    • Yaylin Lopez is a TESOL student and Spanish teacher at Pennfield Middle School.

  • Teaching, learning and educational studies

    Early childhood education concentration

    • Isabel Blair is the owner of Mi Casa es su Casa Bilingual Family Childcare.

  • Zyaire, elementary education

    "I would recommend the urban teacher residency elementary program to anyone because, in the best of ways, it pushes you outside of your comfortable zone and helps you become a holistic educator – shows you how to work with others from different backgrounds and connect with them to provide tools for them to be successful."