Adam Olson wasn’t sure which college or career path he wanted to take when he graduated from Stratford High School in May 2013. “I was very indecisive, but I knew the ‘UW’ route is the way I wanted go so I thought it would be wise to enroll at UW-Marshfield/Wood County to get my college foundation work done while saving money on tuition.”
It was a decision the 23-year-old is happy he made, and one he often shares with students who are exploring their post-secondary education options. He is admissions adviser and career coach at what is now UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield. In this new campus position, Olson recruits students to the three UW-Stevens Point campuses from 10 counties in central and western Wisconsin, including Chippewa, Monroe, Trempealeau and Wood.
He never envisioned returning to the Marshfield campus as an employee after completing his associate degree in 2015. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at UW-Stevens Point in May 2017, Olson went to work as a clinical DNA testing laboratory technician at Prevention Genetics in Marshfield, where he analyzed human tissue samples for genetic diseases. He enjoyed it and joined UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield in August.
“It’s exciting coming back to the campus where I got my start,” said Olson. “I was a student ambassador and served in student government and on many committees, including the enrollment management team, which plays into what I’m doing now. Most of the people I worked with as a student are still here so it was easy for me to jump into this role.”
Olson visits middle schools and high schools, meeting with guidance counselors and students and participating in workshops, including state-mandated Academic & Career Planning sessions for public school students. He has visited nearly 30 schools in the region.
His science education and laboratory work experience help him advise prospective students, specifically those interested in STEM degrees. “My science background will be important as we develop our new partnership with Marshfield Clinic to recruit students to all areas of health care, including nursing and pre-med students..
“I understand the rigor of these courses, which is a more relatable experience for students considering STEM careers,” he said. “I can also help them pick classes, and in which order to take them, so they improve their chances of getting accepted into a professional program such as nursing.”
College goals are as different as each high school student he meets. “When it comes to pursuing a degree, everybody’s starting point is different. How they go about reaching their college goals may differ, too, so you can’t give them a cookie-cutter mold on how to do that,” he said. “I first try to gauge their interests to help plan their academic path. For example, if a student is interested in computer science, I may encourage her to continue at our main campus in Stevens Point.”
UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield is fortunate to have Olson based there, said Campus Executive Michelle Boernke. “To be a great career coach you need to be outgoing, poised, dynamic and a critical thinker. Students need to be able to connect with someone they can trust, and when you talk to Adam you immediately feel at ease. We are lucky to have him here for our students,” she said.
“When choosing a university, it can be a confusing and scary time for many high school students,” Olson said. “I can help them navigate the process, everything from the application stage to what to expect once you’re an admitted student.”
He encourages students to make the most of their college experience by participating in university activities and serving in student-led organizations. “Get involved when you arrive on campus. It makes the experience more enjoyable and ‘real world,’” Olson said. “Aside from academics, those experiences may be more useful to you when you start your career.”