For many college graduates, there is a moment where they are able to look back, wherein their goals become clearer and some direction for the future is found. For T.J. Reed, that moment took place several years ago in a Glen Oaks Community College classroom. Reed, an attorney at Bird, Svendsen, Brothers and Scheske, P.C., in Sturgis, Mich., graduated from GOCC in 1999.
From there, he continued on to earn degrees from Western Michigan University and Michigan State University College of Law. However, before he could pass these landmarks on the way to getting his law degree, he first had to take the psychology course that changed his career focus. Reed took former GOCC Professor Sue Reardon’s introductory psychology class, “…and in a long round-about way that was how I ended up where I am—I had a different major at the time but it was her class that helped me decide to switch majors and re-gear where I was going.” He credits some of his instructors at Western for influencing him to look at a post graduate program—law school—after he left there, but that, “I would say that was probably the one class and one professor (Sue Reardon’s Psych 101) that kind of changed where I was going and where I am now. It was just one class.”
Reed, the 2013 GOCC Fellows Award recipient, was first attracted to Glen Oaks because he felt that it was a good starting point for him. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do or where I was going to go. I knew I needed certain core classes, so instead of spending the money at a big school I came here.” Although he had put countless hours of work into reaching his occupational aims, Reed felt that his finest accomplishment wasn’t until he passed the bar exam and became a qualified attorney. “After all those years—seven years of college—it doesn’t really mean anything unless you can pass the bar exam. So receiving the bar results back was one of my moments of pride. The exam is basically three years’ worth of classes down into one test that you have to cram for, so I was definitely proud of that accomplishment and moving forward. After that, there are different achievements in every case you handle, but you can’t get to that part unless you pass the bar.”
As a former prosecutor for St. Joseph County, Reed is enjoying his position at a Sturgis law firm. “It’s challenging and different. As a prosecutor you’re dealing with criminal law only, and now I’m dealing with domestic relations, civil law, criminal law, administrative law—so it’s a more diverse area.” A Centreville native, Reed has lived in the area most of his life, and stated that his time spent at home with his parents helped him greatly during his first few years of college, as well as some advisors here at GOCC. “The advisors were good at checking to make sure I had everything I needed to eventually transfer. But, as far as development in getting through school, I’d have to say my parents were always there to encourage me and make sure I got through,” he said. “They made sure I had a place to stay and food to eat, and that not only did I get through Glen Oaks, but that I would continue to move forward”. Reed also recognized the smaller setting and personal attention at GOCC as a great help to student success. “Being at Glen Oaks kind of teaches you how to study and how to prepare but in a smaller, less intense setting, so if you are having problems you can go to a professor. I know at Western sometimes when you’re in a class of 300 people it’s kind of tough if you’re struggling to figure out where to turn, so it gives you a leg up as to how to prepare for classes and how to study—how to solve those types of issues. So, when I did get to Western with the bigger classes and bigger campus, it was less intimidating and easier to dive into the work and succeed.” Reed also stated that there were life lessons to be found while in school, persistence being a crucial one. “Stay persistent, and just keep working. It may seem like a long road ahead, but it is one step at a time. And it goes way faster than you think.”
As well as the class size, Reed likewise linked the quality of classes at Glen Oaks to greater student success, while at GOCC and for the future. Reed felt that students should know, “… it doesn’t matter where you take your classes—in the end, you still end up with a college degree. So you might as well take advantage, and don’t ever feel that you’re getting lesser of an education. The educational level at Glen Oaks is the same and you’re building your basic classes, no different than any other four-year school. You have to build a good base in order to continue on with your education.”