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Growing up in a small farming town in Bennington, Kansas, Tacey Kaiser had never heard of Auburn University. It wasn’t until she was enrolled at a local college – where she felt she just didn’t fit in – that Auburn popped up on her radar.
Fast forward to today and Tacey, who will serve as Harbert’s Summer Graduation Marshal later this month, can’t imagine how her decision to transfer to Auburn could have turned out better. She’ll graduate with a degree in supply chain management and has been working at Lockheed Martin as a Global Supply Chain Intern since earlier this summer, where she is being considered for a variety of full-time positions upon her graduation.
HCOB spoke with Tacey to find out why she chose to transfer to Auburn, how her expectations were exceeded in all the ways she’d hope they would be, and how that decision also opened her up to expanded experiences and growth opportunities well beyond her wildest dreams.
|Harbert:||Let’s start with why you decided to transfer to Auburn after your first two years in college in Kansas. How did that come about?|
I wasn't even really looking to transfer schools, but I was at a college where I didn't really mesh with the culture. So, I spent a lot of time by myself because I didn't feel I belonged there.
One day, I was watching football in my apartment – by myself – and I was flipping through the channels on my TV and happened to come upon the Auburn-Oregon football game from a couple of years ago. I think it was the opening game of the season. I immediately could see that the energy in the stadium was just insane. I thought, “Hmm. Auburn. These people are crazy about their school – there's obviously something there that they all identify with and feel like they're a part of. And I thought, “That’s kind of neat."
So, I hopped on the Auburn website and started reading about all the traditions and thought, "Well no wonder! I mean, an eagle flies around the football stadium and lands at mid-field to start the game. A packed stadium erupts in cheers – and the game hasn’t even started yet. How cool is that?”
|Harbert:||But the football team wasn’t the only thing appealed to you, right? Can you expand on how school spirit for athletics was just one example of the student experience that drew you here?|
I’d say it was the way the entire Auburn community seemed to be committed to Auburn – the way the school is the city and the city is the school. How everybody seemed to rally around a singular purpose. They all embrace the unique, tightly integrated college and local community environment, and that very relationship defines Auburn.
When I was first reading about the culture, I said to myself, "Man, that's something I've never had, and that's what I want.” I committed right then and there that I would do whatever it took to get to Auburn.
|Harbert:||What happened next? Did you visit Auburn before you made the decision to transfer?|
No, I didn’t. I applied, I got in and flew down here with my parents, who thought the trip was going to be a “phase” I was going through. But when we got here – literally the minute we stepped foot on campus – I said "This is it. Why would I not be here?" It just felt like home to me, and my parents agreed. My mom even said, "Well, I would come here if I were you. I'm kind of disappointed that I don't have the opportunity to come and stay here myself.”
But the campus experience you signed up for took a sharp turn when you got to Auburn in August of 2020, right?
|Tacey:||It sure did, thanks to COVID. I had this lofty idea of what my move to Auburn was going to be like. I was going to get here and join 87,000 people in the stands and 30,000-plus students on campus moving from class-to-class – and then all of that shut down.|
|Harbert:||How did that affect you? The ‘intangibles’ you mentioned – the Auburn Family, the welcoming culture, the on-campus traditions – were greatly curtailed because of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.|
Despite the initial disappointment, I said to myself "You know, I can still make this work. I'm still here. I'm still doing it. I still have access to the people, to the help that I need, to the classes that are going to challenge me." That last point about being challenged at Auburn was important, because I had never felt that school was all that difficult.
So, I thought "I just need something to push me. I don't feel stretched. I'm just going through the motions, and I don't feel like I'm growing."
|Harbert:||Enter supply chain management, and the challenges began, right.|
I’ll say. I think what blew my mind when I got here was the high quality of work expected of me and my fellow students. And it's not even a stretch – it's the norm. You are pushed constantly to do more, to do better. Professors here let you know upfront "Here are the requirements for a satisfactory performance in my class and here's what I want you to take away from it."
They approach teaching in a way that makes you want to reach your potential just as much as they want you to. They say, "I want you to do a good job because I know you and I know you can do better."
And I love the way they pull in real-world data, stats and executive speakers from the business world that make what we’re being taught tangible so that we feel like what we are learning applies to real world supply chain situations, which makes us want to learn it in an even more thorough way.
|Harbert:||Can you go a little deeper here, perhaps give us an example?|
When I say they make the curriculum tangible, I mean on a behavioral level, the give and take discussions we engage in. Before coming to Auburn, my experience had been that most professors are willing to push you, but don't they want the push back. That isn’t the case at Auburn, certainly not in the Supply Chain Management Department.
As for an example, I’d point to the FedEx case study that we worked on for a month and a half. Instead of feeling like we’re doing case studies with fictional data on fictional companies for a fictional purpose, we were given real data and were asked to generate real insight and present our findings to supply chain professors on that project. The feedback we received from was critical to bridging the gap between where we were and where they thought we could be.
|Harbert:||Is there anything else you’d like to share?|
I could go on and on – how much time do you have?
Seriously, though, as I look back on my time here at Auburn – the sudden shift to online learning, the challenges to do more, to try harder, to constantly raise the bar when it comes to my own effort and performance, all the support I’ve been given – I’d have to say I’m incredibly grateful, and I wouldn’t do it any differently.