How One Student’s Time at Camp Badger Led to an Eight-Year Relationship with UW-Madison’s Department of Engineering Professional Development.
By: Meredith Metzler
When student employee Shannon Kelly ran into Engineering Professionals Development (EPD) chair Phil O’Leary in the hallway early this semester, they discussed her graduation in December 2014. As they discussed her time with the department, O’Leary noted, “You grew up here.”
The statement struck Kelly, who is completing her fourth year as a UW-Madison student and EPD employee this month. The relationship, however, reaches much further back. Kelly attended UW-Madison’s Camp Badger, a week-long experiential learning camp, eight years ago.
“I came to camp and had a blast. I kind of knew at the time that engineering wasn’t really for me but just the experience of being on the college campus was really great and really fun,” she said.
Over the years, O’Leary has developed a strong relationship with Kelly’s middle school, Starbuck Middle School in Racine, Wisconsin, and its counselor Clarence Allen. Several Starbuck middle school students, like Kelly, who are strong in math and science attend Camp Badger each year after completing seventh grade. Starbuck eighth grade classes take field trips to UW-Madison or attended University-sponsored presentations at their school.
As her younger brothers began attending Camp Badger, Kelly volunteered at the camp and other events, maintaining contact with Allen and O’Leary. When she decided on UW–Madison, Kelly followed Allen’s suggestion and contacted O’Leary, who had always told younger participants to reach out when they got to UW–Madison.
“Right before I came to Madison my freshman year, I emailed Phil to see if there were any job opportunities working with the programs he does, and he said that there weren’t at the time but there might be opportunities in the office so he put me in touch with Sandra Krentz,” she explained and then added, “the rest is history.”
Kelly began her EPD career in the phone room in 2011, taking on all the tasks and odd jobs that come with the position. Kelly’s first tasks included working in the mailroom where she printed and edited course descriptions and wrote approximately 20 press releases a week following the EPD style guidelines.
“I really appreciate all the effort Shannon has put into helping us here at EPD,” said O’Leary. “She has done so many different things and done them all very well.”
When O’Leary realized she was no longer “on the engineering life track” and instead majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, he connected her with the Strategic Marketing Communications team.
“Phil has always been an absolutely awesome influence and has always really tried to make sure that all the students in the phone room are hooked up with the best opportunities for what they’re interested in,” she said.
At the beginning of her junior year, she moved full time to working with the Strategic Marketing Communications team.
“I really love this job [with Marketing]. It has been an unbelievable opportunity. Whenever I describe what I do here to other students, they are really jealous and ask ‘how did you get that job?’… This has been such a great opportunity to feel like I’m furthering myself while being in a really fun environment. The people here really do want you to learn,” she said.
Specifically, Kelly notes she can now write copy faster and with more confidence, and she has applied skills learned at EPD to all of her other internships.
“We like to provide students with projects that help build their experience and portfolio, while helping the department as well,” said Colleen Barrett, marketing team lead. “Shannon has been a great addition to the team. Her knowledge of the department helped her hit the ground running and allowed her to progress into more complex projects faster. We are going to miss her, but know she’ll do well.”
Meanwhile, Camp Badger also gained an alumnus in the ranks of their counselors. For the past two years, Kelly has worked nights at the same camp that she credits as playing a big role in her decision to attend UW–Madison.
Following her early graduation in December, Kelly plans to pursue a career in publishing (which she refers to as her “top shelf dream career”). Much like her time at EPD, she plans to build on existing relationships and networks, specifically from her internship during her semester abroad in London during the spring 2014.
Though those at EPD will miss her enthusiasm and stories of celebrity sightings in London (including Rupert Grint, Stanley Tucci, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Haley Atwell), there might be another Kelly on the way.
Her youngest brother is applying to colleges this year, and though he also won’t become an engineer, Kelly shared, “He said, if he goes here, he’ll probably work at EPD, too.”
And if he does so, he will be the second Kelly to build on strong relationships and find a second home of sorts on the UW–Madison campus.
Learn More about Camp Badger: http://campbadger.engr.wisc.edu
Learn more about EPD: http://edp.engr.wisc.edu