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Biology major's bold exploration leads to new career path

Michelle stands outside. She poses with her arms crossed and smiles.As a biology major, Michelle Bess, '09, loved studying science at Whitworth, but by her senior year, she wasn't feeling a pull toward medical school or a career in the sciences.

Bess' Whitworth professors and advisors encouraged her to be bold and explore potential callings outside her major. After many conversations with faculty members including Pamela Parker (English), Craig Hinnenkamp (business), Lee Ann Chaney (biology), and with others, Bess, who was also an Act Six scholar, began considering what she really liked to do and how she could turn that into a career path.

"What stands out most about my experience at Whitworth is the network of people and friends I made on campus, specifically through the Act Six Program," Bess says. Act Six equips emerging urban leaders to provide transformative leadership for their university campuses and their communities at home. As a Whitworth student, Bess developed strong interests in networking, building relationships, and connecting people with each other. After graduating, she pursued a career path that allowed her to put her interests and skills in these areas to work.

Today, Bess is the human assets manager for OneGoal, the nation's only teacher-led college persistence organization. Headquartered in Chicago, OneGoal's mission is to empower low-income high-school students to attend and graduate college. As human assets manager, Bess co-leads recruitment and hiring for full-time staff, oversees human resources, and supports the development of a healthy company culture. Bess has also worked for the Posse Foundation, and she serves on the board of directors for Degrees of Change. She says her time in Act Six and at Whitworth led her directly to opportunities with these organizations.

When asked what advice she would give to students looking to find a career after graduation, Bess says the advice she gives is for everyone: "Think about what you like to do every day. What do you spend hours doing, and what have others said you were great at? Then you can begin seeking a career that aligns with the answers you get by asking yourself these questions."