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Michelle (far left) with her team at Galesburg Toyota

 

Michelle Batson, Associate in Science '06   

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE CARL SANDBURG COLLEGE?       

I heard good things about the automotive program. I grew up in this town and wanted to stay local, so it was an easy choice. When people ask why automotive, I tell them I used to tinker on cars with my dad growing up and went to drag races every year. In high school, I took a vocational class. My career path was solidified from taking that class.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF SANDBURG?

I loved the program as a whole, though there are a few classes that stick out, such as engine diagnostics, but mostly how immersed we became as a class in the automotive culture. We were always in the shop, and if we weren't working on a car, we were reading magazines or looking at parts catalogs. It was an atmosphere where everyone helped everyone. I was the only female in a class of twenty-seven people, but after the first week, it didn't matter. Larry created a culture where it didn't matter if you were male or female; you were part of something bigger than yourself.

WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER GRADUATING FROM CARL SANDBURG COLLEGE?

After Sandburg, I went to work at the Galesburg Toyota/Honda. I got on in the sales department and discovered that the sales side was not for me. I transitioned to the service side and was much happier. After a few years, I went to the Peoria Toyota Dealership, and then my husband asked me to marry him, so I ended up moving back. I was with Dave’s Auto Body while I was pregnant with my first child and then became a stay-at-home mom for the next four years when we added to our family with our second. Being a stay-at-home parent was probably the hardest job I’ll ever have. 

After deciding to re-enter the workforce, the thought was scary because I didn’t know how it would be or if it would be possible after being out for so long. Thankfully, I continued to do things during my time as a stay-at-home mom that made the transition easier, such as volunteering. It turns out I didn’t have much to fear as I was hired three days after handing in my resume to Yemm Ford. After a year and a half and as of December of 2018, I am back with Galesburg Toyota and extremely happy. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR CURRENT STUDENTS OR FELLOW CARL SANDBURG COLLEGE ALUMNI?

For students, I would say find a mentor. Find someone that you admire and can pick up habits. For women who want to get into the automotive industry, do it. Don’t think about it because you’ll talk yourself out of it. I believe we get in our way so much and let other people’s opinions matter when they shouldn’t. I don’t feel I would be as brave as I am now if I didn’t pursue this career.

For alumni, try to give back. It doesn’t necessarily need to be monetarily, as I’m currently on the automotive committee at Sandburg. We’re always looking for ways to make connections between dealerships in the community and form relationships/new collaborations. Find a mentorship program and give your time and expertise you’ve learned since graduating.