KALAMAZOO, Mich.—You can't score if you don't take a shot. It's true both on the court and in life for Western Michigan University student-athlete Hannah Douglas, who will graduate on Saturday, June 25, with a bachelor's degree in food and consumer package goods marketing and a job waiting out west.
Basketball wasn't initially in the cards for Douglas, who excelled on the court in high school in the Detroit suburb of Walled Lake but hadn't been recruited by any major schools.
"I came here because I wanted to come as a student. I knew I was interested in business, so it was between here and Michigan State. But Michigan State was a little too big for me and too close to home," she says. "Western just feels like home."
Once she made it to campus, however, she wasn't quite ready to give up on her hoop dreams. She heard about tryouts and decided to give it a shot.
"I really was just going to see what would happen. Because honestly, I think if I didn't do that, I would have probably regretted it," Douglas says, remembering the surreal moment when she got the news she made the team. "It was awesome and I'm so grateful they allowed me to join the team—just a small town girl on a Division I basketball team!"
She didn't rack up a ton of points or see a wealth of game time, but Douglas' grit and determination inspired her teammates. They voted to give her the team's Passion Award, which recognizes the player who "demonstrates enthusiasm by encouraging her teammates, playing hard and maintaining a winning attitude," two years in a row, in 2021 and 2022.
"I'm so passionate about the game of basketball, but I'm also passionate about my teammates' success," says Douglas. "I really just enjoy putting a smile on peoples' faces—I feel like that is my purpose in life."
MAKING HERSELF MARKETABLE
Douglas is a planner at heart, which helped her manage a busy schedule as a DI athlete. She dove headfirst into her Haworth College of Business classes from the moment she arrived at Western, knowing she was interested in marketing but unsure which direction it would lead.
"I looked at all the professors and did my research, and food marketing is everywhere. I thought, 'I love food. I love marketing here. So why not just combine the two and start with the major?' It definitely was an 'aha moment,'" she says. "When I started taking the classes, I loved it. I loved the professors; I loved the curriculum—it just all fell perfectly together."
Douglas also took advantage of as many networking opportunities as her schedule would allow and also completed an internship with Eaton Corporation, putting her marketing skills to the test as well as learning digital marketing and doing some event planning.
"I was just trying to push my professional career as far as I could go with as much time as I had," she says. "I took any opportunity and went with it, whether it was a career fair, major mash-up, anything like that. I definitely owe it all to the (Haworth College of Business)."
A visit from Hormel Foods to one of her classes ultimately led to a job offer for Douglas.
"I will never forget how they talked about relocation and the way you can go in any direction throughout the company. That really stuck with me, because I hate being stagnant and I love learning," she says. A conversation with instructor Bob Samples, who worked at Hormel for more than three decades before entering academia, gave Douglas the guidance she needed to take the next step in her career.
"I just knew it was going to be a great job for me. It was a perfect fit, and I love the culture. I love the people I interviewed with. And then I got the call back saying I got hired; it was amazing. It just felt like it all came together."
She starts her new job as a food service sales representative at the company's office in Phoenix in July. Her first year will focus on training, learning the ropes from various mentors across the division. It's a challenge she feels ready to take on thanks to the skills she developed at Western.
"The (Haworth College of Business) is a great place to really push you in the direction you need to go, and I owe it all of my success," she says. "You definitely have to put in a lot of work, but you get out what you put in."
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