Western opens door to life-changing experiences for business law grad

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Will Roosien took a literal leap of faith to start his college career.

"I came here out of a desire to join the Skydive Broncos. That's what put me over the edge," he says.

That set the tone for his journey at Western Michigan University, jumping at the multitude of experiences available, including study abroad opportunities that ignited a passion for travel and international relations work that have reshaped his purpose as he embarks on a new chapter of life as a first-generation college graduate.

"I've had the opportunity to do things my relatives had only dreamed of: Learning new languages, jumping out of airplanes, preparing taxes in Alaska and traveling abroad," says Roosien, who recently earned a bachelor's degree in business law from Western and plans to live abroad and pursue further education in international studies. 

"I'm not the same person as before; I have new aspirations," he says. "I want to live a life of meaning."


Roosien served as president of the Skydive Broncos RSO.

Just as Henry David Thoreau endeavored to "live deep and suck the marrow out of life," Roosien was focused on immersing himself in as many experiences as possible. He came to Western with an ambitious list of goals: lead a club, study abroad, complete an internship and win a competition. He did all that and more.

In terms of club leadership, Roosien quickly rose through the ranks of the Skydive Broncos, serving as president and becoming a seasoned skydiver in the process. He also carved a path to leadership in Western's Geology Club, an experience he says "rocked"— literally. He helped the club plan trips to witness rock formations in other states and countries as well as host a punk rock concert in the WMU Student Center, and he represented the club in the Western Student Association.

Roosien also served as a team leader for Bronconess, a student-run wine brand through the leadership and business strategy program. Bronconess gives students the opportunity to learn on the job while also making a difference on campus by putting 100% of revenue into student scholarships.

"I love having an impact, and Bronconess allowed me to realize that," says Roosien.

He took that passion for making an impact and expanded it to the remote villages of Alaska while also feeding his travel bug. For two years, Roosien volunteered with a team from Western to assist in tax preparation for underserved populations in rural Alaska through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. 

“Visiting the area was very eye opening,” Roosien says. “It became apparent how the sheer vastness of our country promotes differences based on geography. By traveling across the barren tundra and seeing how another community lives, I was able to comprehend how we take simple things for granted, like access to mail delivery, tax preparation and even health care.”

Sandwiched between trips to Alaska his second and fourth years on campus, Roosien spent a year abroad at KU Leuven, a WMU partner university in Leuven, Belgium, east of Brussels. 

"Belgium was the best time of my life. It was my place of belonging; it was paradise," he says. It's also where he began studying philosophy and ethics and decided to change his major from sales and business marketing to a pre-law track in business law.


Roosien's team, Full Disclosure, took home the $10,000 grand prize in the second annual Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact.

In addition to being immersed in a different culture and delving deeper into international studies, participating in the Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact also played a large role in inspiring Roosien’s change in career trajectory.

"The Bronco Challenge for Sustainable Impact enabled me to identify a place in the professional world by which I can flourish. As a direct result of this challenge, I reevaluated my career path and gained a new understanding of the sort of professional I aspire to be."

The challenge tasks interdisciplinary teams of students with collaborating to develop a solution to an issue raised by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In tandem with his team members on Main Campus who had backgrounds in engineering and environmental and sustainability studies, Roosien helped conceptualize Seed, an urban gardening initiative aimed at closing equity gaps and improving nutrition and food security in underserved areas. It took the top prize.

"I went in wanting to prove myself as a thought leader," Roosien says, "but I also wanted to start thinking about how I could make a difference."

He found the project so valuable, he decided to take part in the challenge a second time in his final year on campus. This time, his team focused on a topic aligned with labor ethics—directly related to his new major. 

The team conceptualized a nonprofit called Full Disclosure, which gives consumers ways to track the labor practices of corporations they buy from or do business with. Roosien drew from two experiential-learning opportunities he also participated in his final year on campus: an internship and a study abroad program.

Through Western's Capital Intern Program, Roosien was placed with State Rep. Jim Haadsma, the chair of the Michigan House Labor Commission. While doing constituent outreach and policy research in Haadsma's office, Roosien gained new perspective on domestic labor policy.

In December of fall semester, Roosien also took part in the Sustainability in India immersive study abroad course led by Roosien's mentor, Dr. Tim Palmer, director of Western's Center for Sustainable Business Practices. 

Dr. Tim Palmer, Roosien's mentor, led the Sustainability in India study abroad trip.

"Tim Palmer is the light of my life at Western. He's the most important part of my time here. He's like a father figure to me. I've met with him every week pretty much since the time I got here, whether it was virtual or in person. He's now one of my closest friends."

With access to a number of contacts and partnerships Palmer has built through the years, students on the trip visit businesses and nonprofits in several Indian cities, exploring the intersection of business, health and human services, social responsibility and sustainability in an international setting.

"We got to go through the Darjeeling tea gardens there, and we saw some really striking things—some difficult problems but also some beautiful opportunities," Roosien says. "For instance, they have housing that exists for employees to subsidize their low wages. However, if those employees lost their jobs or became injured, the rest of their families were at risk of losing their houses."

The tea garden tour acted as a case study for the Bronco Challenge project, intensifying Roosien's interest in exploring labor practices and giving consumers a database to make informed decisions about the companies they are supporting. Once again, his team took top prize in the Bronco Challenge.

"While I have been curious about the broader world all my life, my experiences at Western and my travel in Belgium have especially opened my aperture recently and inspired me to think bigger," Roosien says. 

"This challenge was my first opportunity to do that in a career context, especially as I continue down a path toward international ethics and compliance work. In these positions, I intend to usher in a landscape where ethical practices exist at the forefront of business and society. And finally, by engaging in this competition, I have now begun the process of merging my passions and study interests into a career track that will carry me into the rest of my life."

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