Forging her own path
Celeste Northern began at LSA in 2003 intending—like many first-year students—to become a physician but as she pivoted from the pre-med track to Communication Studies, she found that she’d need to take a road less traveled with her undergraduate college experience
“My journey was very grassroots,” Celeste recalls. “[But] I was totally okay with blazing that trail,” she emphasizes. “People often ask me, ‘would you change anything about what happened in the past if you could?’ And I always say no because it wouldn’t have prepared me for today, to be the person that I am now.”
As many students do, Celeste supplemented her liberal arts education with extracurriculars, growing her connections—and nurturing a love of networking—within the College of LSA and beyond. However, she still lacked access to social currency, simply because there were very few alums working within her intended career path—the intersection of fashion and communications.
Celeste did go on to establish her name within the fashion goods industry in New York City as a global event connoisseur. After working at luxury brands like David Yurman and Coach, she launched her independent consultancy. But despite her success, Celeste felt there was something missing: serving others.
“For me it’s important to lift as I climb,” Celeste professes. “As I grow within my journey, I feel the need to help others grow within theirs. It’s important to encourage people by sharing your story and experiences because it may provide insight or inspiration as they navigate life and write their own story.”
With intentionality and persistence, she researched and almost immediately happened upon the NYC chapter of the U-M Alumni Association, one of the largest groups of U-M alums in the country. After over four years, she now serves as the club’s president.
“[My involvement] started personally, but obviously there are professional benefits to it,” Celeste says. “[It] allows me to network with so many people and keep my connections diverse... which also helps me from a personal standpoint because it exposes me to a variety of industries and allows me to navigate in new spaces.”
Collaborating with the Hub
Enter the LSA Opportunity Hub.
Celeste originally began working with Hub to support the planning and execution of a fashion-focused regional networking event for LSA students living in NYC. She was also able to give back to LSA students this summer through what the Hub calls “Alum Connections”, an hour long virtual Q&A session for alums and students to have casual yet informative conversations about careers, academics, identities, and so much more.
“I was so happy to speak to the students,” Celeste affirms. “A lot of them reached out afterward and said, ‘just hearing your story was so great because I didn’t know that this existed,’ or ‘I didn’t know I could do that.’ For me I always want to provide for students' inspiration, to show them that there are so many [career] possibilities.”
When asked to define the Hub in her own words, Celeste likens it to The Fishbowl (in Angell Hall), a space where “you network with so many people that are like you but also not like you, but you’re all there for the same reason: to learn and grow.”
“The Hub goes a step beyond just helping to build your career, they’re invested in you because they’re invested in the world,” Celeste impresses. “Being able to offer something that’s deeper than just a surface level connection or information helps [students] prepare for the real world.”
Becoming who you needed as an undergrad
At the heart of the discussion is the answer to this question: why do alums like Celeste support LSA students?
“Well, because I was one,” she says earnestly.
For Celeste, her involvement with mentorship is simple: she knows what it’s like to need guidance and support and not have access to it. Now she does everything in her power to make sure current students don’t face the same barriers she did.
“There are those traditional roles and sometimes people get stuck in those boxes and I’m here to say that you don’t have to,” she reiterates. “You can write your own story and work where you want to work and do what you want to do.”
In the past few decades, U-M has grown exponentially with degree offerings and the career resources offered to students. But there will always be students and recent graduates who are unsure of what they want, or if they do know, uncertain of how to make it a reality.
Every alum has been in these shoes: questioning their choices, feeling overwhelmed, unsure of where to go or who to turn to. Just like game days and Mojo cookies are an essential part of the U-M experience, so is this feeling of uncertainty.
Alums can help change that.
“I wish there was a me when I was an undergrad,” Celeste says seriously. “It was hard for me when I graduated and was looking for a job, I didn’t know any Michigan alums that worked at a fashion company.”
So this is her message to alums:
“Be who you needed when you were an undergrad. Don’t question whether or not you should share your story, because someone is going to relate to it, someone is going to be inspired by it. Use whatever you felt you needed while you were an undergrad, and that should be your inspiration to give back. Because I guarantee that it’s still needed in some way.”
If you'd like to get involved with the LSA Opportunity Hub, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and our Alum Engagement team will be in touch to explore ways of engaging and serving with LSA students.