Alumni named among ’40 under 40′ in Oakland County

By Kevin Graham

Two products of Oakland University’s graduate studies programs have been named to L. Brooks Patterson’s “40 under 40” in Oakland County.

Alumni Tara Michener and Kelly Kozlowski were recognized as part of the 2013 class. The group recognizes young people that are leaders in business and the community.

Standing up for kids

Michener worked in human resources for a large company. Her book, “Who I Am Not What I Am,” began as a side project.

After the publication of the book led to public speaking offers in October 2008, the 35-year-old Michener thought she might be in the wrong field.

Michener formed her own public speaking and consulting firm in November 2009, speaking in schools on the topic of bullying.

“When it got published, I got a lot of opportunities to do speaking engagements and to go to schools and talk about diversity and self-esteem, mainly in kids but also helping people to know that when we change the lives of kids, those kids grow up,” Michener said. “We’re making a difference continually.”

Michener went on to found Professionals Against Bullying, an organization dedicated to training and studying ways to lessen the impact of bullying. A major focus of Michener’s work here is relational aggression.

“What happens when you’re a girl who goes into a room, and all the other girls cover their chairs so you can’t sit next to them?” Michener asked. “What do you do with that? They didn’t hit you or call you a name, but there’s still something there.”

Having received her undergraduate degree in journalism and public relations in 2004 from Madonna University, Michener came to OU in Jan. 2011 to earn her Masters in counseling with a focus on child and adolescent therapy.

At this time, Michener founded Students Against Bullying, a campus organization dedicated in part to identifying what bullying looks like on a college campus and offering potential solutions.

She said good communication is imperative in identifying potential social or bullying problems in children.

“If you only talk to somebody in your family when they look a little sad or withdrawn, you might not get the answer that would be helpful,” Michener said.

It can also be important to give kids an outlet for their emotions.

“Unfortunately, a lot of bad things are going to happen in this life, but if we can take those experiences and make it into something beautiful it’s a good thing to do,” she said.

Wide-ranging opportunity

Kozlowski, 29, serves as director of public affairs for Automation Alley.

Kozlowski is president of the Sail Board, an advisory board for The Oakland Post and a former Post Editor-In-Chief.

In addition to her involvement with The Post, Kozlowski helped with the launch of Oakland County-based organization Giving Orphans Hope.

“I loved the cause,” she said. “They’re all about advocacy on behalf of orphans specifically in the state of Michigan which is a cause very close to me because I have two adopted nephews.”

Kozlowski also serves as a mentor for FIRST Robotics Team 217, the “ThunderChickens” of Utica Community Schools. After following them around for a year to write a book on high school robotics, the team’s mentors asked Kozlowski to come back and mentor the following year.

She said it gives her an opportunity to pass on the journalism skills she learned at OU.

“I’ve always felt that the skills you learn in that particular program are applicable in a wide variety of fields, majors and careers,” Kozlowski said. “It’s cool to share that with students who are primarily focused on science, technology and math.”

She said her time at OU gave her many skills that helped her get where she is today.

“I would say it would be two things: one being the journalism program at OU, my undergrad program, the second thing being my time on staff at The Oakland Post, because being on staff at the paper and also working other jobs, which I was at the time, requires a lot of time management skills, a lot of being able to work on different projects and juggle different things,” she said.

Kozlowski said deadlines are important for students entering any line of work and learning how to manage them is crucial.

“You learn your own personal rhythms and style of working. For me, I have always been a big time procrastinator. It usually works out because I feel like I work better under pressure. I feel like I can get more done,” she said.

Although Kozlowski said it is important to know one’s own work pace, this doesn’t mean that will work for everything.

“There have been instances where that approach has hurt me because planning often sets you up better for success than procrastinating,” she said. “(The key is) figuring out what your own personal style is and then not using that as an excuse to not grow.”