Carla Olle Career Day | Keynote Speaker Kristin Branch, DSHA '92

Spring Semester 2023 of The Word Magazine | by Erin McCarville
Carla Olle Career Day has been a stapled tradition for Dashers since its founding in 1995. On March 2, sophomores and juniors gathered in the Robert & Marie Hansen Family Fine Arts Theatre to listen to former Home Economics and Theology Faculty, Coordinator of Student Activities Club, Student Council, and College Advisor Carla La Valle Olle, HA ’60, speak about the importance of the day where young women set aside time to ask themselves questions about their passions and futures, and hear from role models who were once in their shoes. Following her remarks, students heard from keynote speaker Kristin Branch, DSHA ’92, who serves as Director of the Marketing Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students then attended four DSHA alumna-led breakout sessions based on their career interests. To close the day, students gathered to hear from Rachel Fronk Idso, DSHA ’02, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at Amazon, who spoke about social media and professionalism. At the end of the day, Dashers had time to reflect with their peers in their respective homerooms. They were able to discuss their favorite sessions, what they learned, and dream with one another about their hopes for the future.
The Importance of Exploration
Originally titled Women’s Day, Carla Olle Career Day was renamed upon Olle’s retirement in 2009 to recognize and honor her work in establishing and rooting the day into the fabric of the DSHA experience.

“The college process and picking a career is really hard. Anything you can do to make it less daunting—creating a process for families to follow, designating steps for them to take—is so valuable,” Olle shares of the origin of Career Day.

When speaking with students this spring, Olle highlighted the importance of exploration. Throughout her work, “it was so obvious in high school that you need to have the opportunity to look at every possible career. Any major you choose in college opens the door to a variety of jobs and careers. Don’t leave here today without promising to explore at least two careers.”

Toward the end of her remarks, she reminded Dashers how unique and special this experience is stating, “how lucky you all are that DSHA provides this opportunity for you.”

Piecing Together the Puzzle
Following Olle, Branch took the stage to share her career path and leadership journey with students.

After graduating from the University of Denver with a degree in marketing, Branch held positions at several corporate marketing firms before switching to a career in higher education. She was the Director of Marketing at Wheel & Sprocket, an Associate Brand Manager at GlaxoSmithKline, among other similar positions. In 2002 she received her M.B.A. from UW-Madison and a new world of connectivity and leadership opened up for her.

In 2013, she accepted her current position as the Director of the Marketing Leadership Institue which resides within the Academic Marketing Department at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. While most of her colleagues teach in the classroom, her specific role teaches both inside and outside the classroom, and applies learning activities with the industry.

“I connect with alumni, with the marketing industry itself, and then work with the student to gain exposure and experience. Essentially, I am preparing the student to enter the field upon graduation. For the industry, I market our students' potential to help both sides find the right fit,” she shares.

Early into this role, she knew that it was a best-fit career for herself. She reflected on how a large portion of her position—leading, working individually with students, and serving others—were passions that were shaped during high school at DSHA.

“When I was a DSHA student, I did a lot of student council activities. I loved to organize and lead events. I served in the community and enjoyed helping others. And what I didn’t realize in high school, was that these weren’t just fun things I did outside of class. These qualities were a real part of who I was and what I enjoyed doing.”

Looking back, it makes sense to Branch that she landed in a position that has allowed her to advise, counsel, and help lead students to the profession they are passionate about. She also expressed that it was not always easy to find the right fit quickly. She stated, “a lot of students assume that it’s very formulaic or very simple. It's the combination of all the different puzzles of your life that come together in a unique combination to show you what you want to do.”

Finding the right, unique fit for herself, she encouraged the audience of Dashers to pay attention to what it is that makes them light up. She implored that paying attention will help them solve the puzzles that will lead them to what they might want to do some day.

“Any aspect of who you are can help you discover what you may like to do professionally. Listen to your gut.”


During another component of the day, Senior Management of Talent Acquisition at Amazon Rachel Fronk Idso, DSHA ’02, spoke to students about social media and professionalism. Living in a digital age, she explained, “a lot of opportunities you will receive will come from people who are connected to you in your social network.” Due to this, it’s important to understand that a “LinkedIn profile represents you as a business professional. Perpetually update your resume and profile with current achievements. Just because you’ve had
the same job does not mean you have had the same responsibilities or accolades,” she shared.

Idso also gave the girls tips and tricks for creating the best online profile. Towards the end of her session, she spoke about the fact that DSHA strives to develop young women who are confident when advocating for themselves. She suggested carrying that confidence online and into their future professions.

“I hope that girls will be bold in reinventing themselves along their journey,” she shares.


Connecting Alumnae, Inspiring Students
Following the keynote address, sophomores and juniors participated in four breakout sessions each, based
on their career interests. These sessions were led by alumnae who spoke about their career journeys, passions, and leadership roles. Each session ended with a Q&A. The following breakout session leaders share a bit about their sessions with current students.

Bridget Martin Hackbart, DSHA ’08
INTERIOR DESIGNER | Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee, WI
Hackbart shared that as an interior designer, every day is different when working with clients and other collaborators—whether presenting to clients, putting together a floor plan, creating renderings of spaces, or visiting the construction site. “Public speaking
and group collaboration are the most important skills that were nurtured at DSHA that
I use almost every day.”

Dr. Erika Hutz, DSHA ’04
GERIATRICIAN | Swedish Medical Group & Hospital, Chicago, IL
Hutz spoke with the girls about her path to medicine and focused on her undergraduate studies, medical school, residency, and fellowship. She shared that medicine is a long road and wanted students to be prepared for the perseverance required if they choose to pursue the field. “My main goal was to show the girls that if they want to be a doctor, they can be a doctor. Fifteen years ago, I was sitting where they sat. DSHA was a great school and prepared me well. DSHA is an even better school now. If I can do it, they can do it.”

Joan Benes Knight, DSHA ’83
Knight wanted the students in her sessions to have an understanding of what engineers do on a typical day. “When I was in high school, I had no idea what an engineer did,” she expressed. “My experience of careers was limited to my siblings and immediate family and none of them were engineers. It’s so important to have exposure like this. Anyone who is good in math or science might make a good engineer, but how would they know if not introduced to it?”

Dr. Clarissa Ramos, DSHA ’05
PRINCIPAL | Pigeon River Elementary, Sheboygan, WI
Ramos received her doctorate degree in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning
& Service in Higher Education in May of this year. Describing her daily responsibilities
and future goals, it was important to her that the young women of DSHA understand
that “women of color are capable of achieving success. It’s crucial for them to hear
about different career paths, especially from people they can relate to, and see that
those careers are attainable for them in the future.”

Mariah Scott, DSHA ’11
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | Be Moved, New York City, NY
Scott is an artist and entrepreneur who is the creator of her own company, Be Moved, which produces content and events that amplify Black voices and celebrate Black excellence in business and education. She encouraged students to “explore their interests as much as possible. They do not have to marry themselves to one career and they don’t have to have it all figured out at this stage of their lives. There are multiple paths they can take to achieving their goals.”

Annie Topp, DSHA ’16
PRESS SECRETARY | United States Senate, Washington, D.C.
Topp shared how she spends most of her days drafting press releases, working closely with national and local reporters, pitching stories, booking national interviews, and more. She wanted Dashers to dream big. She stated, “when I was in high school, working in D.C. was my dream. However, I had no idea, and was frankly overwhelmed, with how to get there. I encouraged the girls to keep an open mind and push themselves out of their comfort zones, especially in college.”
Thank you to the following additional alumnae who gave their time and talents to speak with DSHA students at the 2023 Carla Olle Career Day:

Maggie Aasen, DSHA ’11 | ENT Surgical Resident Physician
Lisa Peck Anderson, DSHA ’00 | Registered Dental Hygienist
Renee Gard Aranda, DSHA ’94 | Oncology In-Patient Pharmacist
Katie Weidinger Asher, DSHA ’98 | Mental Health Care Coordinator
Katrice Battle, DSHA ’05 | Photographer
Jessica Burbach Bellows, DSHA ’90 | Asst. District Attorney
Jody Kolter Benson, DSHA ’07 | Writer, Editor, Creative Services & Entrepreneur
Liz Beres DiCosmo, DSHA ’06 | Sr. Interior Designer
Cari Brennan, DSHA ’14 | Asst. Project Manager
Katie Kasdorf Carnell, DSHA ’97 | Underwriting Consultant
Shelley Pfeil Clausen, DSHA ’91 | Lead Nuclear Medicine PET Technologist
Aly Deardorff, DSHA ’12 | Physical Therapist
Erica Pelzek Floyd, DSHA ’04 | Editor in Chief & VP of Communications
Hannah Frank, DSHA ’11 | Occupational Therapist
Aly Fenlon Garcia, DSHA ’11 | Instructional Designer & eLearning Developer
Melanie Metz Goble, DSHA ’97 | Veterinarian & Entrepreneur
Rebecca Harris, DSHA ’15 | Disability Services Coordinator
Natalie Heneghan, DSHA ’11 | Community Outreach Director
Sarah Herbers, DSHA ’17 | Actuarial Analyst
Jaime Jackson Larsen, DSHA ’04 | PhD Candidate in Psychology
Caitlin Wallach Kaeppler, DSHA ’04 | Pediatric Hospitalist Physician
Julie Leack Karasek, DSHA ’90 | Business Owner
Anquanette Kay, DSHA ’11 | Mortgage Specialist
Jane Derdzinski Konieczka, DSHA ’04 | VP of Digital Content
Kerrie Kurtz, DSHA ’98 | Senior Intelligence Officer
Ramani Kutty-Patel, DSHA ’04 | Social Worker
Van Westmoreland Landowski, DSHA ’88 | Financial Advisor
Yamilett Lopez, DSHA ’13 | Attorney
Mary McElwee, DSHA ’86 | Occupational Therapist/Instructor
Emily Wendelberger McGuire, DSHA ’12 | Nursing Supervisor/RN
Paige Miller, DSHA ’10 | Web Marketing Manager
Julia Moran, DSHA ’14 | Mechanical Design Engineer
Nicki Waliszewski Mueller, DSHA ’99 | Veterinarian
Gina LaBarbera Ortiz, DSHA ’14 | Speech & Language Pathologist
Corey Palmer-Rehorst, DSHA ’02 | Associate Director of Analytics & Insights
Veronica Romo, DSHA ’10 | Director of Graduate Support
Katie Lohre Rose, DSHA ’97 | Licensed Professional Counselor & Entrepreneur
Emily Yoss Rowntree, DSHA ’10 | Civil Engineer
Elizabeth Schauer, DSHA ’16 | PhD Candidate in Chemical Engineering
Meghan Schifalacqua Schopp, DSHA ’00 | Director of Education & Ecology
Jane Potter Skalmoski, DSHA ’84 | President & CEO
Alex Stankiewicz Krems, DSHA ’99 | Head of Marketing
Margaret Steinhafel, DSHA ’10 | Global Communications Director
Betsy Stone, DSHA ’10 | Attorney
Carolyn Maciolek Stuard, DSHA ’98 | Global Information & Records Management Senior Analyst
Judie Dalum Taylor, DSHA ’87 | President & CEO
Maria Valentyn, DSHA ’12 | VP of Entertainment

    • Keynote speaker Kristin Branch, DHSA '92, speaks to DSHA sophomores and juniors.

    • Kristin Branch, DSHA '92

    • Carla LaValle Olle, HA '60, Retired Home Economics and Theology Faculty, Coordinator of Student Activities, Student Council Coordinator, and College Advisor


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