Aja Michael-Keller reflects on her progression at Ivy Tech, which she believes started the day in 2009 when she raised her hand in an event management class to volunteer and be the lead coordinator for a domestic violence survivor celebration happening at the College. Following the event, her professor Heather Eracleous convinced her to apply for an internship opening in Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s marketing and communications office.
Originally from Converse, Ind., Aja received her bachelor’s degree in education from Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind. She moved to Fort Wayne to work for the YWCA, advocating for domestic violence victims, prevention education, and racial justice education. Aja’s started at Ivy Tech after feeling unsatisfied with a previous career in education. She decided to change course by tapping into her passion for event planning, decorating, and baking. She enrolled at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne and obtained a degree in hospitality administration with concentrations in baking and pastry arts and event management.
She started then in 2009 as a marketing and events intern and over the last nine years has gained experience and achieved success in a variety of ways at Ivy Tech. Upon the completion of her internship, she was hired as an assistant director of marketing and communications. During her time on the Fort Wayne marketing team, her position evolved as her responsibilities grew. She assumed the roles of event coordinator; director of events, enrichment, and conferencing; and most recently, director of events and marketing.
“Ivy Tech truly changed my life,” says Aja, because the education and opportunities she experienced here put her on the path to success.
Aja was recently hired for a promotion to executive director of marketing and communications for the College’s c3 campuses and statewide campaigns. Her biggest memories of working in Fort Wayne focus around helping grow Ivy Tech’s most successful fundraising events, A Reason to Taste, which raised $600k+ for Ivy Tech students and programs during her time at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.
We all remember 2009. Unemployment hit record highs, jobs were scarce and people nationwide scurried to save their livelihood. Susan Brown had just completed 15 years of service with the United States Navy and moved home to Fort Wayne from the beautiful island of Hawaii, only to find the mainland, civilian economy in a recession. All that was so disciplined and routine in her life turned topsy-turvy.
Susan did what 20,000 other Indiana residents did in 2009: she returned to school. She enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College and began working toward an associate degree in business administration. She chose business to expand and enhance the leadership skills she acquired in the Navy, but little did she know how it would change and impact the permanency of her life and so many others at Ivy Tech.
As a student, Susan started working in the Financial Aid office as a Veteran’s Affairs work-study. On occasion, she skimmed job postings within the College knowing she wanted and needed more responsibility, and of course, financial stability. She found an opening in the Chancellor’s office and was hired as Chancellor Mosier’s assistant. Over time, Susan earned an Associate of Science in Business Administration at Ivy Tech and continued on earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Indiana Tech.
Her responsibilities at the College also grew, assuming the role of Director of Special Projects. In this role, she helped bring The Language Company to Fort Wayne (TLC) as an in-residence organization, maximizing vacant college space but also fulfilling an essential need by bridging language barriers for international students who have a desire to receive an education in the United States. It created a new opportunity and cross-section of students who were under-served in northeast Indiana. She also became Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s institutional research and decision support contact, providing frequent enrollment updates to campus leadership.
Susan’s efforts did not go unnoticed. She was promoted to Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Services in 2017. If you ask our front-line staff, her biggest impact in this role has been teaching and streamlining processes and implementing a new relationship building model with regard to our overall approach to student service.
“Ivy Tech changed my life in so many ways,” says Susan Brown, by making one good decision at a time, the internal support that encouraged her to keep going, and the relationships that contributed and fostered continuous growth and success.
Susan’s drive and perseverance in her education, commitment to reinventing herself, and the exposure that began the day she applied to Ivy Tech has propelled her into the future.
— Andi Douthitt, marketing’s fall 2018 intern, contributed to this story