KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sometimes the path to a college degree is a winding one. Sarah Bular changed her major three times, but her persistence paid off and put her on the path to a fulfilling career in a field she loves.
Bular will graduate from Western Michigan University on Saturday, Dec. 18, with a degree in manufacturing engineering technology and a full-time job at Daimler Trucks North America. It's a far cry from where she started several years ago as a high school student in the small town of Sandusky, Michigan.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I started my college search," says Bular. She initially enrolled at Ferris State University thinking she would pursue a degree in pharmacy. "After I got into school, I realized I like working with my hands a lot more than I like sitting behind a desk or working in a pharmacy, so I wanted to do something where I can build stuff and work with things, constantly changing environments."
She decided engineering might be up her alley, along with a change of scenery. Bular toured a few other schools in Michigan and ultimately found a home in Western's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Her path still had a few bumps; chemical engineering, her initial major at Western, didn't seem to click. A little fine-tuning with the help of her advisor made all the difference.
"I told her what I like to do and what I wanted to do, and when we found manufacturing, I jumped into it. I wasn't struggling anymore; I was powering through like 18 credit hours a semester. I wanted as much time in the lab as possible."
The faculty and students in the manufacturing engineering technology program elevated Bular's experience, giving her the tools she will need to excel in her career.
"We really have knowledgeable professors and (teaching assistants) who are willing to take extra time to help you learn. When I switched my major, there were some things I didn't know, but there were people who were more than willing to spend extra time outside of class hours," she says. "They really want to see you succeed."
Bular also credits the networking and connections she cultivated in the engineering program for helping to build a robust resume that set her apart from peers in the field.
"I got my first job through the Engineering Expo, which was my first big career fair experience," she says. "I think Western—more than any other college I've been to—really pushes us to get out of our shell and be prepared for these kinds of opportunities. I was well-prepared for how to dress, how to fill out applications, my resume, things like that."
Since her first year at Western, she's completed internships at Domtar in Plymouth, North Carolina; Ahlstrom-Munksjö in Rhinelander, Wisconsin; Post Consumer Brands in Battle Creek, Michigan; and Daimler in Kentwood, Michigan.
"(Western) really set me up with all the resources I needed to be prepared to be successful in getting a job."
Her time as a resident assistant (RA)—which she counts among her most impactful experiences at Western—also helped her to develop critical career and life skills. And while it may not have seemed like it at first, her years of searching for a career that fit allowed her to help younger residents find their footing as Broncos as well.
"Western really put me in a good position to build my leadership abilities by being an RA. I really liked finding opportunities to be able to help students coming in. I knew what it was like to come in and not know where I was going, not really know what I wanted to do with my life."
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