Arts & Sciences

A return to college brings new ideas about career options

April 03, 2017 by Cindy O'Dell
Melissa Taylor

Melissa Taylor works with the Association of Washington Cities but hopes someday to have a career in criminal justice thanks to the Brandman degree she’s pursuing.

When Melissa Taylor enrolled at Brandman University’s Lacey campus, she didn’t realize it was about to lead to bigger career goals.

She learned about Brandman from a presentation by the university at her workplace. Although the presentation was an effort to start an MBA cohort, her co-workers encouraged her to ask about the bachelor’s degree programs and possible tuition assistance. She’s glad she did.

“I had always been planning to get a degree,” she said. The birth of her daughters and then the idea of working full time and going to school created a “huge gap” between when she got her associate degree and returning to school. But thanks to a supportive husband and the ability to take classes in the evening at the campus or online, she’s discovered that bridging that gap is possible.

Melissa Taylor

Melissa Taylor

“Originally, I started going for a degree in business management, mainly because I thought that would be a high-demand type degree. I took marketing and accounting classes, and it was just not my passion,” she said.

It was a question from her academic advisor, Michael Brouillette, that made the difference. “He asked, ‘Why aren’t you doing what you are passionate about?’ So, I ended up switching majors and I’ve loved every second of it.”

Taylor switched to studying criminal justice and hopes when she finishes that her degree will translate into detective work with special victims. In the meantime, she’s finding that what she’s learned in both her business and criminal justice courses is already helping her with her current job as a membership specialist with the Association of Washington Cities.

“We represent the interests of Washington cities and towns. I work with health and other benefits, property and liability, workers’ compensation claims and the Drug and Alcohol Consortium.”

Members of the association buy into the various programs. Initially, Taylor worked on claims but now provides operational, membership and claims administration support to the Workers’ Compensation and Drug and Alcohol programs. She responds to inquiries from membership and works closely with vendors and consultants to ensure completion of quality work products to meet the member needs.

Her classes at Brandman have helped her with report writing, financial analysis and making presentations. “Those are all things that benefit me here.”

Although working full time and caring for her family, which includes her husband, Brett, and 7- and 11-year-old daughters highly involved in competitive dance, Taylor manages to take one to two classes per session and is nearly a 4.0 student.

She’s even found the time to add an internship at the Olympia Police Department to her many activities, an opportunity she credits to having had Darin Reedy, a crime analyst for the department, as one of her professors.

“I’m going to start interning for him as a detective assistant. His classes are like real life. It’s really interactive,” she said. The internship will be even more so, building on the information she gets from class. “I’m really excited about it.”

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