After graduation, many of our students find jobs with local companies in the Missoula-area. Erin Ojala was able to turn an internship opportunity with Homeword — a local non-profit that assists with affordable and safe housing in Montana — into a full-time job as their Administrative Specialist. During her time at Missoula College, she completed two Associate degrees and two Certifications that gave her the confidence and skill set to pursue a career in Administration. We sat down with Erin to learn about her time at Missoula College and her journey to Homeword.
What did you study at Missoula College and when did you graduate?
I studied Business Management and Administrative Management and I graduated in 2014 with my Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Management-Entrepreneurship. I chose to stay for one more year and obtain my Associate of Applied Science Degree in Administrative Management in 2015. I also completed the Certificate Degree in Customer Relations in 2014 and a Certificate Degree in Sales and Marketing in 2015.
Why did you choose to study at Missoula College?
There were a lot of good reasons to go Missoula College, but for me the deciding factor was the cost of tuition. The tuition at Missoula College is more affordable for working students and they offer competitive grants and other scholarship opportunities. Besides the lower cost of tuition and books, Missoula College is less intimidating than other campuses. The college houses a large diversity of students and is supportive of nontraditional students. The faculty and professors are approachable, knowledgeable, and truly seem to care about their students.
Tell us a little bit about your work as an Administrative Specialist with Homeword:
My role at Homeword is diverse, but primarily I provide administrative and operational support to the whole organization. I work closely with the program staff and manage registrations for our free Financial and Renter education and counseling programs, our First-Time Homebuyer Education class and counseling, and our free Foreclosure Intervention program.
Additionally, I support program staff in the class preparation, client reporting, and client and class data. My sales and marketing background are utilized when I assist the Fundraising and Marketing Manager, plan and execute events from annual fundraisers to grand openings, and create marketing materials. Managing the conference room, processing reservations and fees, supporting the Development team and attending community partner meetings as well as Homeword Board and team meetings are other great ways that I help contribute to the organization.
How did Missoula College prepare you for working at Homeword?
Missoula College helped prepare me for my position at Homeword by providing my educational foundation and giving me the confidence to succeed. I feel that the knowledge and experience I gained was truly valuable, as it has prepared me for my career thus far. My education provided the skills, critical thinking, and outcome focus that have allowed me to stay organized, meet deadlines, and exceed expectations.
Tell us about your favorite professor:
Every professor has made an impact on my journey as a student. I am fortunate to have had so many caring and knowledgeable professors who challenged and encouraged me to grow. The professors I am most grateful to are Lisa Swallow, who helped me gain confidence in myself and help lead me to where I am today; Cheryl Galipeau for her support, patience, and guidance; and Niki Robinson and Tim Olsen who helped make classes memorable, fun and interactive. I will always appreciate the time and effort they made to make each class relevant and engaging.
What experience at the college had the most influence on your work with Homeword?
Choosing an organization to complete my internship was very challenging for me. I wanted to find a local non-profit that focused on helping empower families so they can achieve stability and independence. The problem was that there are so many great non-profits in Missoula that I wasn’t able to find the right one. My professor, Lisa Swallow, introduced me Homeword and provided a letter of support for my internship with the organization. Lisa’s guidance helped me secure an internship that lead to a lasting position that I find both rewarding and challenging.
Homeword uses sustainable methods to provide safe, healthy housing people can afford and strengthens community through housing counseling and education for those in need. My internship with Homeword was a very valuable experience for me. During my internship, I was asked to design and implement a new file structure for the organization. I evaluated their current filing system and needs to create my proposal. Upon completion, I had developed and implemented a new file structure that is still being used today. The internship, which turned into a full time position, was a perfect fit for my interests and abilities.
What is your most memorable moment as a student at Missoula College?
I have many memorable moments! I made new friendships and rekindled old friendships. When I wasn’t studying, working on assignments or in class, I worked in the Financial Aid and Admissions Office as a work study student. One of my favorite events was new student orientation. I would get to meet many new and aspiring individuals who face a world of opportunity. I remember how scary it was my first semester, so helping new students was very fun for me.
From your experience at Missoula College, what advice would you give to a student considering attending?
The best advice I could give to new students is to wait until you are ready. Many students rush into college or go without any goal in mind. If you wait until you are ready, you are more likely to make good choices and graduate on time. One bad semester can leave lasting consequences on your academic history and ability to access financial aid.
Do you have any advice for those who might want to begin a career as an Administrative Specialist?
There are many different skills required to be a successful administrative specialist. We are frequently at the center of activities and are responsible for managing the day to day operations that keep an organization running smoothly. My advice for individuals seeking a career in Administration is to be organized, resourceful, and flexible. One area that I get the most recognition is for my enthusiasm and willingness to take on new projects.