In Bay College graduate Natalie Randall's own words, she was a "very average" student during her high school days. However, attending Bay was a life-changing opportunity for her - and the lessons she learned there are still helping her today.
A Bark River native, Natalie graduated from Bark River-Harris Schools in 2000. In the fall 2000 semester, she started taking classes at Bay.
"I was a very average student in high school, and I really had not honed my study skills. I recognized that a good place for me to start was probably at the local community college," she said.
Bay also offered low tuition rates which allowed Natalie to live at home for a while longer, and provided her with credits to transfer to other institutions.
At Bay, Natalie focused on earning general education credits while working towards an associate degree in science. In the meantime, she developed stronger study skills and worked to figure out what she wanted to focus on.
"I learned how to study at the college level while I was there. I also learned skills that I still use in my job today - responsibility, punctuality, critical thinking, accountability," she said.
While studying at Bay, Natalie knew she wanted to go into natural resources. However, she initially felt "overwhelmed" by the prospect of choosing both a more specific degree pathway and a four-year college.
Assisting Natalie in her decision-making process was her academic advisor, Dr. Brian Black. She described him as "a wonderful instructor and a great resource in helping me determine what my career path would be."
Ultimately, Natalie did not earn an associate degree from Bay. Instead, she transferred to Michigan Technological University and took classes there between the fall 2002 semester and the winter 2005 semester. She graduated with honors from Michigan Tech, earning a bachelor's degree in applied ecology and environmental science there that spring.
"After that, I ended up getting married that summer. My husband was finishing up graduate school at Michigan State University, and the first job offer he decided to take was at Iowa State University," she said.
Natalie and her husband moved to Iowa as a result. There, she decided to pursue a Master of Science degree in wildlife ecology with a focus on wildlife disease. She graduated with that degree in 2011.
Once she graduated from Iowa State, Natalie spent a few years working with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In early 2014, she started working at Iowa State University as a data quality analyst for the National Resources Inventory. Natalie still works in this position remotely today, but she and her family have moved to the Escanaba area.
Natalie encourages any students in a position like her own to consider taking classes at Bay.
"It is a great, affordable way to introduce yourself to higher education," she said.