From the Classroom to the boardroom

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In her 30’s, Laura 
Goodwin was happily, and successfully, solidifying a career for herself in accounting in the automotive industry. Soon after, she married and had three children. Then, as many women do, she made the choice to put her career on hold to raise her family. Ten years and a divorce later, Goodwin realized it was time to go back to work. She had a few college credits, along with her past accounting experience, but knew that in today’s competitive job market she needed an education to land a better career. There were going to be plenty of challenges: how would she be able to juggle, being a single mom; working full time; and going to school?

Starting over was not going to be easy.Luckily for Goodwin, a friend recommended a job in finance at Excelda, a company in Brighton.Excelda, family owned and operated since 1930, is a complete solution provider of private label consumer and automotive products. They specialize in fluid blending, packaging and order fulfillment services to original equipment manufacturers and retail marketing companies worldwide.

When Goodwin began working for Excelda in May, 2011, she recalled thinking: “What a great place to launch my career; they are so supportive of their associates!”

Mike LaMarra, a former Cleary University Trustee and President of Excelda, said he is a firm believer in investing in education for his employees. He supported and encouraged Goodwin, as she embarked on her educational journey, registering as a part-time student at Cleary in the fall of 2011.

Since Excelda reimburses tuition up to $1,500 per year to any college, Goodwin rigorously shopped schools to find a suitable match. She discovered Cleary University had some major advantages over others; a degree program that takes less time, a tuition rate that remains locked in until graduation (provided enrollment is continuous), learning resources that were included in tuition, and an admissions team that works to make transferring easy.

In Goodwin's case, she had earned her Level 1 and 2 Safety & Health General Industry and Management Systems certificates from MIOSHA (Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration). These were added to her earned credits. Another benefit was that Excelda is a strategic partner with Cleary University, which meant a 20 percent savings in tuition.

“Cleary makes it very easy for the working person to get a degree,” said Goodwin. “A quality degree. I am learning valuable information I use at work all the time. The slogan you see on the billboards, “From board room to class room” is really true. In fact, I bring what I learn in the class room to the board room!”

At Excelda, Goodwin started out in finance, then transferred to human resources, managing payroll. Now, as the human resources and safety coordinator, she handles various aspects of HR, such as implementing safety and wellness initiatives and programs for their staff; helping injured associates; acting as liaison on worker’s compensation cases; and staffing temporary workers.

She also is the co-chair of the SST, a committee responsible for safety, steering and community events within the organization. As the safety coordinator she’s responsible for all aspects of safety training and compliance. One of her latest accomplishments was guiding the implementation of the GHS (Global Harmonization System), which is an international uniformity standard of hazardous materials labeling that was recently enacted.

Juggling a full-time job, parenting of three children, and still finding time for homework and study is not an easy.

“It takes a lot of late nights, baby sitters, and mother’s guilt," Goodwin said. "But even with only taking, on average, 8-12 credit hours per semester, I‘ll still be earning my degree by the end of this spring.” And she will not stop there. Goodwin is planning to pursue her BBA in Human Resource Management.

So what is Laura’s advice for anyone considering an investment in their education? For prospective students she said, “Pick Cleary! Take advantage of the tools and online curriculum Cleary has to offer.” For current students she added, “Don’t give up on yourself! If I can do this, so can you!”