Alumni Spotlight Archives


Mr. Ernie Telford ('69)

Mr. Ernie Telford graduated from NMU in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a minor in speech and theater.  The commencement speaker at his graduation was Michigan’s Governor at the time, George Romney, who is Mitt Romney’s father.

Luckily for NMU, Mr. Telford returned to campus for the Alpha Kappa Psi reunion in 2001 and he felt a flash of pride at the way the campus had evolved.  He recognized an opportunity to combine the resources that NMU has to offer with a contemporary insurance and risk management industry that is aging and eager to support educational institutions in preparing young people to enter the many interesting, challenging and lucrative aspects of the business.  Because of his generous provision of $300,000 in seed capital, NMU is now able to offer a Finance degree with a concentration in Insurance and Risk Management.  The Math department will be offering a minor in Actuarial Science in 2014 with opportunities to take actuarial exams.  The ultimate goal is to create a Center for Insurance Studies at NMU where students can major in Insurance and Risk Management and minor in Actuarial Studies (or vice versa), making them very attractive candidates to employers in the industry.  He has participated in the College of Business Mentorship Program and his ongoing support has created scholarships, internships and employment opportunities for graduates from the programs.

Click here to read more about Ernie Telford.

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Brian Kehoe ('10)

Brian Kehoe received his bachelor’s of science in Accounting in May of 2010.  Brian is also currently working towards finishing a degree in Chemistry as well.

Brian chose NMU mainly for the location; it was close to home and offered countless outdoor activities.

Since his recent graduation, Brian has worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Portland, Oregon as an Associate in their Tax Department. Working mainly on tax compliance and tax consulting, Brian works in helping companies maximize complex tax issues. Brian works in the Tax Projects Delivery Group for PwC.

Brian hopes to learn as much as possible in his job at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “My career is starting off at an excellent company, and I know it will lead me to whatever I may look to for the future. “

Brian recently passed the CPA Examination, which was a big accomplishment in direct relationship to his education from NMU. “Passing the CPA exam is a huge milestone in one's accounting career, and NMU played a huge roll in preparing me for the challenge.”

Brian is now living in Portland with his fiancée Jesse and kitten (whose name is coincidentally “Kitten”, of which they have not solidified a ‘perfect’ name yet). Jesse is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in Anthropology and a second concentration in Photography; Jesse would like to work in sustainable agriculture.

Jesse and Brian go on many adventures together including hiking Mount St. Helens and snow shoeing Mount Rainier in Washington. This summer, they are going to be exploring Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Shasta in California. They have also taken up Salsa dancing, “Which has been a fun addition to our routine, and is quite the workout.” They are also spending time getting to know the Portland scene by checking out new restaurants and breweries.

During his time at NMU, Brian worked between 25-35 hours a week at a local accounting firm gaining valuable practical experience in the field. The scheduling flexibility is something that he will miss from his college years. Brian is proud to be a Northern Alum and plans to be a supporter for life.

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Martin De Venuta ('73)

Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Martin’s NMU ties were formed when, stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base,  he took two evening courses in accounting. Work took him away and after leaving the Air Force, he attended a community college in California.  When it came to obtaining an accounting degree he “chose NMU because I could receive my degree quicker rather than attending a California Sate based college because they accepted all of my previously completed courses.  I was able to receive my BS degree in one year instead of having to go through two more years of college in California.  I did go to summer session at NMU in order to accomplish that feat”, he recalls.

Martin feels that NMU has served him well in giving him the right kind of accounting education.  Following his graduation from NMU, he worked in a series of jobs in various industries and multinational firms.  He says, “I have always been confident about myself because of the accounting education at NMU.  I was involved for over 10 years with the Institute of Management Accountants on the boards of several chapters and at the regional and national level.  I have always felt that it is good to give back your talents to the profession you work in and that is what started my involvement with the IMA.  I am currently very involved doing volunteer work sharing my accounting knowledge with various non-profit organizations as their Accountant or Treasurer or giving free advice to small businesses that are in their first year of formation.”  Martin received the 2007 Community Spirit Award from the Volunteer Center of San Francisco and San Mateo counties and this, he says, “reflects back on my training I received at NMU.”

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MICHAEL S. ROESNER  (‘74)

After a distinguished career in the United States Navy, Michael S. Roesner is retiring as a Rear Admiral in the Supply Corps this October.  A native of Flint, he came to Northern and earned his undergraduate degree in Accounting and Marketing in 1974.  Even before he started college, he enlisted in the Navy, in 1969.  During this time he served in various locations including in the Mekong River Delta in then South Vietnam.

After getting his college degree, he was commissioned via the Aviation Officer Candidate School in August 1975. That November he transferred to the Supply Corps and completed the Basic Qualifications Course in June 1976. He earned his Master of Science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1982 and completed an Executive Training Curriculum at the University of Michigan in 1997.   

His sea tours as a commissioned officer included being a Supply Officer for the Antarctic Development Squadron,  the USS HARRY E. YARNELL and the USS CARL VINSON.  His shore tours included serving in Mildenhall, United Kingdom, Washington, DC, Battle Creek, MI, San Diego, Philadelphia, Mechanicsburg, PA and Pearl Harbor, HI, among other locations in progressively more responsible positions. His most recent appointment has been as Commander of the Naval Inventory Control Point in Mechanicsburg/Philadelphia.

For his services in the Navy, he has been honored many times.  His awards include the Legion of Merit (3 awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (4 awards), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and various campaign/unit ribbons.  Rear Admiral Roesner currently resides in Philadelphia. 

                                                                                                                                 
Paul Kotz ('80)

“My experience at Northern was memorable, both inside and outside the classroom”, recalls, Mr. Paul R. Kotz (1980, Management), presently vice president of 5 Alarm Fire and Safety Equipment, the Midwest’s largest fire and safety equipment dealer, headquartered in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Paul continues, “My education in NMU’s School of Business prepared me well, first for an MBA, and then for a career in human resources with a Fortune 200 company, and now as co-owner in one of the nation’s largest fire and safety equipment dealerships.  During my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with people from some of the nation’s best known business schools.  My Northern education prepared me well and contributed to the successes that I’ve had.  I’m pleased to see that some of the professors I had the pleasure to study under are still with Northern.  Drs Sherony, Miller, Gnauck, Foulks, and Camerius prepared their students well, and I had the good fortune to have studied under them.  Northern students have always benefited from class sizes that are smaller than many universities and the personal attention that can be provided by the faculty.  Northern also offers a number of excellent student organizations and activities that assist in preparation for the work force. I have hired Northern graduates on several occasions since I graduated, and found them to be excellent employees with the ability to advance within my firm. I would recommend NMU’s Business School highly to anyone.”

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Mark Pynnonen (’83)

“It wasn't until I decided to attend graduate school in 1987 at The University of Michigan that I really appreciated the quality of the education I received at NMU.  I was initially intimidated by other students that had attended larger and more prestigious schools, not only from all over the country, but all over the world.  After a few months, I realized I was as well prepared as almost everyone else there,” recalls Mark Pynnonen, who after graduating from NMU with a degree in business administration in 1983, worked for NCR Corporation as an account manager selling computer and check processing equipment to banks and credit unions.

Mark continues, “I've worked for a large company (NCR), a huge telecommunication corporation (Ameritech/SBC/AT&T), and now own and operate my own small business (“Signs Now”) in Marquette since 1998.  My experiences and education at NMU provided me with a good foundation for my employment at those companies as well as running my own business.”

Signs Now is a franchised sign and graphic center.  In 2005, his Marquette franchise won the company’s Circle of Excellence Award, was judged the Regional Franchisee of the Year in 2003 and was a Blue Ribbon Award winner in 2004 and 2006. 

Mark’s experience at Northern Michigan University had been so positive that he has remained actively connected with the institution. For example, he serves as a trustee and chair of the annual giving committee of the NMU Foundation, and is a member of the Wildcat Club and the Alumni Association.

Mark Pynnonen lives in Negaunee.

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Jim Jenkin ('81 and '84)

Jim Jenkin (’81 and ’84) spent twenty years at a major corporation, Kimberly-Clark, before joining American Fiber Services, a smaller company specializing in recycled fiber and pulp where he is responsible for business development and management of procurement and sales.  He believes that the skill set he acquired at Northern prepared him well for working in not only a large corporation but also in a smaller entrepreneurial environment.

Jim thinks that one of the most critical things taught at NMU is “learning how to learn by being engaged in the process with the faculty and being encouraged to ask questions and explore.  In many ways this is as important as anything in life that you will learn, since learning is a life-long process.  The beautiful setting and all of the opportunities offered further enhance the NMU experience.”

He is particularly appreciative of the opportunities he found at Northern.  “At NMU the opportunities to obtain a quality education were enhanced by not only a quality faculty and staff but also by the smaller class sizes which allowed for a high level of interaction between students and faculty, something that you do not always find.  This was especially true in the upper-level classes.  As an undergraduate I left the campus well prepared for the business world,” he recalls.  This became apparent to him when he went to work at Kimberly-Clark where many of his colleagues were from much larger schools.

He acknowledges that his time at the University was an important step in his career and life building. “Even after you have left the campus, NMU is still an important part of your life.” Currently based in Appleton, WI, he retains his ties to the University by being a member of the board of directors of the Alumni Association.

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Lois (Turk) Ellis ('85)

“The educational foundation that NMU provided me was so strong that I was able to return to the workforce even though I had taken several years off to raise my children,” says Lois (Turk) Ellis.  Lois is now the economic development specialist with the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette where she works to find resources to help businesses grow and thrive in the region.  She recalls that at Northern, she learned “how to conduct myself in business settings and this has really helped me since”.  But what made Lois choose Northern Michigan University for her studies?  “My siblings and I were first generation college attendees, so I didn’t grow up hearing stories about college life and I was unsure of how to select a college.  Fortunately my brother attended NMU before me so I was able to visit him at Northern several times to become familiar with campus life and learn about Northern’s academic offerings. I grew up in Petoskey, MI, located on Lake Michigan, so it was natural for me to select a college that was located near one of the Great Lakes.  Downhill skiing was a winter sport I enjoyed while growing up in northern Lower Michigan, so I really appreciated that Marquette had a downhill ski area just outside of town.  I’m not sure if NMU had adopted the “Northern Naturally” tagline at the time I was there, but the natural beauty and recreational opportunities were definitely factors in my decision to attend Northern for my college education.”

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Robert Martin ('88)

Robert W. Martin (‘88), an executive vice president at Range Bank, Negaunee, came to Northern Michigan University at the age of 24 with the goal of obtaining a degree in furniture design and to start his own business.  As he recalls, “After one class in the building trades, I quickly realized I knew nothing about business.  While I could always hire folks to assist in woodworking, if I could not read a financial statement it would be difficult to be successful in business.”  That is what led him to major in finance in the College of Business.

Bob worked several part-time jobs to pay his way through College.  In his sophomore year, he took up a position with 1st National Bank in Marquette.  Subsequently, the bank offered him full-time employment in exchange for tuition assistance.  While the tuition support was very welcome, it meant going to College part-time, during lunch hours and evenings to complete his degree.  But Bob says, the faculty and staff were “particularly accommodating – especially as I came to the end of my college career and the choice of class and/or time of scheduling was extremely limited.  On more than one occasion I would attend the first day of a previously full class, discuss my situation with the professor after class, and have them welcome me into their class.  This flexibility allowed me to complete my finance degree cum laude and with the appropriate number of credits.”

Since graduation, Bob has gone on to be a bank president as well as complete a three year graduate degree in banking from the University of Delaware.  He says, “My Northern education has enabled me to successfully compete with bankers from all over the country.  As a president of a financial institution, we wear many hats and need to be well schooled in all areas of business. The well rounded education I received at NMU prepared me well for dealing with the variety of issues I encounter in the complex world of business.”

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Lisa Nyquist (’89)

“Being a non-traditional student at NMU, I felt a little intimidated entering college at 29 years old. I was filled with questions: Had I made the right decision?  Would I be able to keep up with the classes and keep a part-time job?  Would I feel out of place being older than most of the ‘traditional students’?  I’m happy to reflect back on that time of twenty years ago and report that those fears were unfounded!” says Lisa Nyquist (BS in Accounting-1989), presently a loan officer at Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution, based in Marquette.  She recalls, “I felt immediately at ease in the classroom, mainly because the instructors were helpful, encouraging, and friendly. I came to college with a background in business management, but tackling an accounting degree was something that I wanted to achieve. Academic standards were high and I had to work hard, but help was available and offered willingly from my instructors.  I remember many of my instructors taking ample time to advise and coach me and other students on our future plans, or to challenge us with questions specific to what we were working on in class.  These discussions helped me broaden my perspective, particularly about career choices that I might make after graduating.”

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Todd Starcevich ('01)

Todd Starcevich has many wonderful memories of his days at Northern.  “I truly enjoyed every moment from the first few semesters in Gant Hall to the excitement of my senior year”, he recalls.  “Some of my most memorable in-class memories are from the work in Dr Brunswick's strategy classes, Dr. Z's management classes and Professor Cameriuss consumer behavior and advertising classes.  I remember the challenge of the VioSport.com project we worked on for Dr. Brunswick, where the class was tasked with market research and analysis of an extreme sports website that was based out of Marquette.  Another great memory is winning a group competition in Advertising & Promotion (Professor Camerius) where we developed a marketing and advertising campaign for the Pictured Rocks Cruise Line in Munising, MI. Other great memories are of spending winters outdoors on the ski hill or out on the snowshoe trails.  Having all of the outdoor sports and recreation was a fantastic complement to the great people and experience I enjoyed at NMU.”

Todd grew up in Chicago and although he came to NMU not sure what he wanted out of his degree, he soon realized that “NMU's College of Business was a great choice because of the diverse backgrounds of the faculty and staff which ensured that I received a well-rounded education as I entered into the business world.”   He says, “The moment I stepped on NMU's campus as a visiting high school senior, I knew it was going to be the school I was going to attend.  It was obvious that the people at NMU and in Marquette were genuine and friendly.  In addition, the amazing outdoor activities and the Lake Superior shoreline -- NMU is rivaled by none in the Midwest.  Getting my degree from NMU set me apart from many people I meet today because of the experiences and the friendships I was able to build while I was a student.”

He is particularly fond of the five years he played football for NMU.  He says, “Being able to be a part of the history that the NMU football program had was a great experience.  I met so many life-long friends through the football program that continue to support and drive me through the challenges in the everyday world.  The years spent competing at NMU built a strong sense of pride and dedication in everything I do in life.  I still maintain the '4 quarter' motto of 'Effort, Enthusiasm, Discipline, Courage & Pride.'"

Todd is presently the Manager of Implementation and System Services at ShopperTrak Corporation, a retail technology and consulting company, and is based in Chicago.  He explains, “My company installs traffic counting devices in major retailers, collects traffic data and provides a variety of reporting tools for retailers to measure consumer traffic in and out of their stores.  My position is responsible for managing the initial implementation of technology and the set-up and training of new clients on our reporting tools.  I have 4 direct reports and am in charge of a department of 20 full-time employees.”

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Lindsey Pepin (’06)

"My experience as a College of Business student at Northern Michigan University has prepared me well for my professional career.  I learned many valuable lessons, not only in the classroom, but also in the real world by holding a leadership position in a business student organization and through a hands-on internship experience.   The business professors were very interested in my success and always willing to help in any way possible.  I am also very grateful for the many College of Business sponsored scholarships I received that allowed me to focus on my studies without having to worry about financing my education."

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Jessica (Olson) McGurn ('06)

"I love the mountains and I love skiing," says Jessica McGurn (formerly Olson), and going to school at Northern Michigan University allowed her to combine her passion for the sport with a high quality business education.

Graduating with a major in marketing in 2006, Jess was hired by Target department store in Marquette where she is an Executive Team leader of Assets Protection.  Jess recalls, "The courses that I took at NMU definitely prepared me for the world of retail. Dr. Zaenglein also encouraged me to study abroad in Vienna, Austria and since my semester there my eyes have been opened greatly to the global world of business. I was also prepared during my undergraduate time at NMU for the MBA program which I am currently completing online. I will be graduating with my MBA in August which will be a major accomplishment for me." While at Northern, Jess was on the University's Alpine Ski Team and completing her degree did not mean the end of her skiing career -- she continues to race on the Thursday night league at Marquette Mountain. 

Jess is on the move!  Since graduating she got married to Matthew, who is finishing his degree from NMU's School of Education, Leadership and Public Service in December 2007. In February 2008, she is moving to Denver with Target where she will continue her career as an Executive Team Leader of Logistics in a high volume store.

Jess says her "goal is to manage my own store within the next two years... a huge feat for someone just three years out of College! "  She continues, "Although I will miss Marquette, Lake Superior, and the NMU community, I will also be just a short drive from the mountains, which has always been my dream".

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David Basten ('93)


Now a senior software developer with Quest Software, a California-based company that offers a wide array of enterprise management tools, David Basten (’94 Business Computer Information Systems), believes that Northern’s business curriculum prepared him well.  Originally from Green Bay, even in high school, David wanted to combine his interests in accounting and computers.  Northern’s program in Accounting/Computer Information Systems was just the major he wanted.  He applied for and won a Presidential Scholarship and moved to Marquette.

One of his favorite memories from his Northern days is about the time he spent in Finland.  He recalls, “Working with Professor Poindexter and two other Northern students, I had the opportunity to attend a one month object-oriented programming course at Mikkeli Polytechnic in Finland.  It was an experience of a lifetime!  In addition to our studies, we visited with students from around Europe every evening at a neighborhood café.”

At Quest Software, which David joined in 2007, his responsibilities include all aspects of software development – finding out what is needed, designing, coding and testing, implementation, and support.  He also coordinates the tasks of his team members.  He specifically works with an application suite called Foglight.  With Foglight installed, companies can watch performance of databases, web transactions, servers and other metrics needed to guarantee delivery of their services to employees and customers.

He readily acknowledges that “technology has changed dramatically in the past 14 years since I graduated.  While at Northern, I learned COBOL programming on a mainframe.  Since then, I have learned Visual Basic and have moved on to web development and Java”.  He has industry certifications from Microsoft and Sun Systems.  He notes, “I’ve learned new things at every stop --- not just technical, but business, interpersonal, and about myself.”

David lives in Plymouth, just outside Minneapolis, MI, with his wife, the former Kelly Kaikkonen (’97) and their three children, Ben (8), Adam (7), and Julia (5).  In his spare time, he plays soccer, reads, camps, and hikes.

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Amanda (DuMoulin) Blondeau ('03)

Amanda graduated with a major in Business Computer Information Systems with a concentration in networking.  She has put her academic training to good use – as an information technology and e-business consultant with Northern Initiatives, a not-for-profit community development corporation based in Marquette.  As part of her job, she offers internet services such as web development, search engine optimization, strategic internet marketing, comprehensive systems assessments, and software selection to rural businesses. She is currently working on her PHP certification (script programming) and plans to obtain a master’s degree in business and information systems.

“The BCIS program had a great balance of general business and computer classes. This well-rounded education has helped me adapt to the different roles and responsibilities I have held throughout my career so far,” Amanda reflects.

In the past year she has had the opportunity to work with micro-finance institutions in Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, assessing their management information systems and creating an application processing system to integrate a credit scoring initiative.

Coming to Northern was an obvious choice for Amanda.  She is from this area and Northern offered a major she liked. While a student at Northern, she played intramural basketball and flag football and was a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society. She fondly remembers taking Professor Sandra Poindexter’s class and learning to program active server pages. Most importantly, she met her husband, Daniel, also a graduate of the College of Business. Together they attended hockey games as students, and as residents of Marquette, still do.

Amanda enjoys being outdoors and sets physical challenges for herself each summer; the past two summers she has completed a marathon and a sprint marathon.


Alumni Spotlight - Robert Rustman ('04)

A 2004 graduate, Robert Rustman has used his marketing degree from Northern Michigan University to step into the human resource field.  Earlier this year he completed his Master's in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix with a concentration in Human Resource Management. Holding a Professional Human Resource Certification, Robert is fully qualified for his position at Securitas Security Services, USA, Inc., a global provider of security services.

Employed by the company since early 2006, Robert works as an Area Human Resource Manager in Chicago, overseeing four branches of Securitas Security Services. In this position, he manages employee recruitment, orientation, training, development and retention. He also organizes the benefits, claims, compensation, and corrective disciplinary action for 1700 employees. “I love my job and what I do,” says Robert, who has plans to study for a doctorate in management.

Robert is thankful for Northern’s College of Business faculty for their commitment to the students. “I believe my drive and success in the business field was instilled during my undergraduate days from the attention and care my professors showed,” he acknowledges.

While at Northern, Robert was impressed with the mobile device initiative program and worked at the Helpdesk, as well as the Dean of Student’s Office. He also was involved with Associated Students of Northern Michigan University and was the chair of Northern Arts and Entertainment. He still keeps his ties to campus with a younger brother studying physical education and playing on Northern’s football team.

Drawn from Lake Zurich, Illinois to the Upper Peninsula for its natural landscape, Robert continues to surround himself with beautiful environments as he travels the world. He recently returned from a London to Barcelona cruise.


Alumni Spotlight - Tanya Jennings ('85)

Tanya Jennings received her associate in business degree with an emphasis in the medical field in 1985.  She was born and raised in Negaunee, Michigan.  Growing up, she always had strong ties with Northern Michigan University, as her father, two brothers, and two daughters are all NMU alums.  From a very young age, Tanya and her family have attended and still continue to attend NMU sporting events.

Tanya was 29 years old when she began her studies at NMU.  At this time she was living in Baraga with three young children and commuted quite a distance to attend class.  She was concerned about becoming a non-traditional student, but the warmth of the professors quickly made her feel comfortable within her program.

The business skills learned in the program put her on the right track for her career.  Just months after graduating, Tanya began her career as a medical transcriptionist in a doctor’s office out of Houghton.  This job entailed a wide variety of duties, from transcription to reception.  Her next position was within a mental health agency in L’Anse as an administrative assistant.  In 1998, Tanya and her family moved to Marquette, where she landed a job at the Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) as the Executive Assistant to the CEO.  Up until two months ago, Tanya held the dual positions of Executive Assistant to the CEO and Human Resources Manager.  With company growth to 63 employees, she now solely holds the position of HR Manager.  The Upper Peninsula Health Plan manages the health care of more than 27,000 Upper Peninsula residents enrolled in Michigan Medicaid or MIChild.  It offers administrative services related to health care to employers and other purchasers of such services.  It also develops and maintains provider networks for insurers by negotiating contracts with regional physicians, hospitals, and other providers.

As part of her job, Tanya is responsible for recruiting, interviewing and orienting new employees.  Over the past few years, she has worked with Professor Karin Stultz to create internship opportunities for Northern associate program business students, eventually hiring and employing several of the students.  Tanya currently is a member of the NMU College of Business Associate Program Advisory Council.  During 2009, Tanya worked on implementing a telecommuting program which now allows two of the company’s nurses to work from home. She also developed a tuition reimbursement program which was implemented in August, with two employees now working on bachelor’s degrees at NMU and more expected to utilize the benefit next semester.  Tanya is proud to say that when most companies are cutting back during tough economic times, the UPHP has been fortunate enough to hire eight to ten new employees in the past year.

Tanya feels her years at NMU are the reason for her success today.  Her favorite memory at NMU was the caring and compassionate nature of her instructors.  She cannot say enough good things about the professors that guided her through the beginning of her journey.

In her spare time, Tanya enjoys spending time with her family.  She is married to NMU graduate Dan Niemi, has three children, Tori, Staci and Kyle, and five grandchildren, who happen to be her current passion.  She also enjoys golf, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and watching sporting events.


Alumni Spotlight - Elisa Eminger '08

Elisa Eminger received her degree in Business Administration and Finance in December of 2008.  She is originally from Grand Haven, Michigan and chose Northern Michigan University because of its spectacular location.

Currently, Elisa is a sales rep for The North Face.  She oversees all wholesale selling and training for the brand in Northern California and Nevada retailers.  Last January, she moved to Napa, California and loves all the new adventures that she is having.  In five to ten years, she would like to work on a product team or become a product manager.  That would allow her to become involved with research, design and development of new products.

While attending NMU, Elisa worked for Getz’s Department Store in Marquette, where she was a marketing manager and buyer for three years.  She was given the opportunity to present at the “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” conference, network with reps in the industry and learn about e-commerce.  Aside from work and attending classes, Elisa participated in fall fest job fairs, campus volunteer work and house governments.  Some of her most memorable times at NMU include camping, kayaking and cliff-jumping.  She will never forget one night where she spent two hours outside of the dorms, watching the vibrant northern lights.  She stays in touch with good friends from NMU as well as her mentor, Claudia Orr.

In her free time Elisa likes hiking, snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, taking day trips to San Francisco and Muir Redwoods, sushi, wine tasting and photography.  She has even taken up a bit of cooking and baking.  She also enjoys going home and visiting her parents in Michigan and sister and brother-in-law in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina to go surfing.

Elisa feels that her coursework taught her skills and tools that she uses every day in her career.  Without courses such as Methods of Training, Strategic Management, and Customer Service, she would be at a disadvantage in the Outdoor Retail Industry.  Her advice to students is “to strive to excel in these courses and it will come back to you tenfold.”


Eric Mason '96

Eric Mason received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing in December of 1996.  He was born and raised in Ishpeming, Michigan.  Weighing convenience and distance as a factor, Mason decided to give NMU a try in 1992.  A short six months into his college career, Mason began to see his hard work pay off through excellent grades and academics.  At this point, NMU was no longer just a convenience; it became a great education. 

Mason’s experiences at Northern truly prepared him for success.  Not only did Mason graduate Magna Cum Laude, but he was also awarded Outstanding Graduating Senior for the College of Business and Marketing Scholar in 1996, and served on the College of Business Dean’s Student Advisory Council.  He partook in a two-year internship at NMU, where he supported the Vice President of University Relations & Secretary of the Board.  During this experience, Mason was given the outstanding opportunity to help with the implementation of NMU’s first ever marketing plan.    Looking back at his education, he sees the informal experiences as being the most rewarding.  From invaluable relationships with professors, to research and learning opportunities, Northern was the start to a lifetime of accomplishments. 

During October of 1996, Mason received a job offer to work for Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals beginning January 1, 1997, just weeks after graduation.  Fourteen years later, Mason is still a loyal employee to Eli Lilly.  As an Executive Sales Representative, he travels 1500+ miles a week across the Upper Peninsula to visit with health care providers.  Mason utilizes marketing and business ownership skills on a daily basis.  He is also trained to update medical professionals on mental health disease states, while providing extensive product information.

To keep employees up-to-date, Eli Lilly offers widespread learning opportunities pertaining to scientific knowledge, leadership and mentoring.  Learning from another’s success through mentoring was the most worthwhile knowledge gained on the job.

Currently, Mason is focused on managing his sales territory and mentoring new sales representatives.   He teaches employees how to build relationships with customers and connect at an emotional level, rather than pushing abrasive selling techniques.  He also attends leadership councils and has worked with the human resources department to assist in hiring new sales representatives. 

Mason stays connected with the NMU College of Business.  He works with Dr. Gary Brunswick’s Advanced Marketing Strategy seminar to discuss career development issues as well as assisting students with an Eli Lilly-Harvard Business Review case.   Mason says that this is one way he can give back to the faculty that he learned so much from as a student.

In his free time, Mason enjoys spending time with his wife Kellie and 4 children.  He also enjoys hunting, working out, playing softball and coaching little league.  His younger brother, Dan Mason also graduated from NMU in 1996, with an Associate Degree in Computer Aided Drafting (CAD).  His older brother is also an Eli Lilly employee.  Mason enjoys living and raising his family in the Upper Peninsula. 


Sharon (Usitalo) Butler - '97

Sharon Butler received her Bachelors of Science in Accounting in December of 1997. Accounting was not her only interest though; she explored both Culinary Arts and Outdoor Recreation before settling on Accounting.

Originally from Livonia, Michigan, Sharon chose to come to Northern Michigan University for three reasons, “location, location, location!” Her love for the Upper Peninsula stemmed from her father growing up in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Since graduation, she has worked as an Assistant Controller for a cement company, a controller for a general contractor, and her current position as a Senior Accountant at Montgomery, Wiethorn & Burke, P.C. located in Farmington Hills.

Montgomery, Wiethorn & Burke, P.C. is a professional services corporation providing accounting, tax, financial and managerial consulting services to individuals and businesses. Viewing every relationship as a partnership, they see their own success is a direct result of their client’s success. Sharon says that she learns something new every day and she truly enjoys her job and feels that her employer is outstanding.

While at Northern Michigan University, Sharon was actively involved with the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, a social sorority that often did community service events. Some of her favorite NMU memories include camping out in the Gant/Spaulding quad, winter camping class, and giving campus tours to prospective students and their families.

In 2006, Sharon, and childhood friend Jeff Butler eloped to Las Vegas. They have two daughters, Lily (3) and Lauren (1). Jeff is a pipe-fitter for the Local 636 Union and also an on-call firefighter for the City of Northville.

Sharon’s future goals include continuing to raise her daughters and give them every opportunity possible, to love her family and enjoy everything life has to offer. Sharon’s advice to students, study hard, but remember to enjoy where you are in your life and in the world. Don’t wish the college years to be over so quickly.


Rachel Bertucci - '09

Rachel Bertucci received her Bachelors of Science in Business Management in December of 2009. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and was involved with Beta Gamma Sigma National Honor Society.

Originally from Negaunee, Rachel came to Northern Michigan University initially for convenience, but quickly realized that NMU was the university she wanted to call home.

Since her recent graduation, Rachel is completing a Management Training program with Range Bank. It is a program they developed and then began this past January, with Rachel and one other being the first trainees.  It is a two year program where she is trained into each of the departments of the bank for a period of 3-4 months and then moves on to another department. “It’s a great opportunity to learn the different operations within the bank,” Rachel said.

While at Northern, Rachel worked at the Ishpeming McDonald’s as an assistant manager. She attended management training courses through McDonald’s to learn the importance of teamwork and relationship building. Between her experience there, and the outstanding education from NMU, Rachel was fully prepared for the work force.

When she got her first interview with Range Bank, she pulled out an old Human Resources Management assignment and went over interviewing practices and techniques. “Take full advantage of all that Northern has to offer; don’t just do the assignments to get them done.  The professors are assigning them for a reason, they will help you.”

In September, Rachel was given the opportunity to share her story with the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Business.

Rachel now lives in Negaunee, and is engaged to be married in September of 2011. She has three wonderful dogs, a Pomeranian, a Papillion and a Yellow Lab that they adopted in April.

Rachel’s advice to current students, “Today, having a degree no longer separates you from everyone else. When you are competing for a job you need to have those clubs, internships, or experiences that set you apart from your peers, you need that cutting edge; take advantage of what Northern has to offer you!”