More than a Number: James finds success, support at UWSP School of Business and Economics
by Kristin Annoye
MBA Graduate Assistant – CPS Marketing
When looking over the résumé of Keiana “Kae” James, you would think the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was her dream school. She was a Noel Compass Scholarship recipient, Fund for Wisconsin Scholars grant winner, Smiley Professional Events intern, member of the Alliance of Multicultural and Diversity Organizations and Student Government Association, volunteer at the Cupboard food pantry, and the list goes on.
This success story almost didn’t happen. James didn’t even know UW-Stevens Point was an option until a campus recruiter arrived at her high school in Milwaukee. That visit turned out to be game-changer. “Had I gone to my school of choice, I never would have graduated,” James said.
Initially, James’s horizons were set on a college in a larger metropolitan area. When the recruiter asked her if she had ever considered UW-Stevens Point, she replied, “Where is it?”
While Central Wisconsin had not appealed to her at first, after going through the financial options and grants available, she was sold on the idea of attending Point. Additional support from the Noel Compass Scholarship and the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars allowed her to step outside her comfort zone and move to an unknown city to pursue her dreams.
All students have adversity, but to get the full scope of James’s academic experience you also need to know a little about her personal life during her college career. While a junior at UWSP, her grandma, great grandma, aunt and uncle all passed away. James’s aunt’s death left her teenage cousin alone in Africa with no family–until James herself traveled to Africa and brought her cousin back to live at James’s apartment in Stevens Point, increasing James’s responsibilities as a caretaker.
The life changes took a toll on James’s education. At one point her grades dropped and she was on academic probation. This is when the real value of UW-Stevens Point started to shine through in James’s mind. When her grades started slipping, professors from the School of Business and Economics reached out and asked if there was anything they could do.
“They were so supportive,” James said. “They cared so much about me, not just as a student but as a person.” She also met with her adviser to discuss dropping out, but the response James received shifted to what could UWSP do to help her succeed.
As the director of advising for the School of Business and Economics, Max Trzebiatowski had the opportunity to get to know James quite well. He remembers the first day he met her when she came in for advising and her journey to her degree.
“The icing on the cake for me as a mentor and adviser to Kae was seeing her interview a local successful entrepreneur during Zoom session with a live virtual audience,” said Trzebiatowski. “She asked great questions and kept the conversation going in a very fluid manner. It was great to see how much she had learned since our first conversation.”
James insists had she not been at UWSP she never would have finished college. “Had I been at one of the larger schools I originally planned to attend, I would have been lost in the crowd,” said James. “No one would have been invested in my success like the faculty and staff at UW-Stevens Point.”
James knew that the university didn’t just care about her as a student–but also about her as an individual. It was a campus-wide team effort through programs in the School of Business and Economics that guided her academically; the Cupboard that assisted when she didn’t have enough money to buy food; and faculty who helped her get an internship with the Smiley Pro Events program to help her financially make ends meet.
Now, the May 2021 graduate has a degree in business administration-management and is starting her career with the American Red Cross as an emergency disaster relief specialist. “After everything UWSP gave me, I wanted to spend a year giving back to others with the hope to return to school for my MBA.”
She may have not known where UW-Stevens Point was a few years ago, but now James is the first one to remind other students of the support available. “If you need it, there is a system to help,” James said. “The university is there to support you. Don’t take it lightly, take advantage.”