Makenzie Schiemann (neé Douglas), M.S., Ph.D. has always had a passion for helping students.
Along with her role as partner and Vice President of Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment at educational consulting firm TNG, she is also President of the National Association for Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment (NABITA).
But when she started at Ashland in 2002, she never could have predicted where that passion would take her.
As a first-generation college student, Makenzie graduated from Ashland in 2006 with a degree in middle-grade education before accepting a teaching position in Louisville, KY. Within that first year of teaching, though, she realized that her passions were not in line with what she was able to do in the classroom.
“It was a difficult environment,” she says. “The district was extremely underfunded.”
She recalls the moment she understood that working in the classroom might not be her calling.
One morning, she recounts, a student failed to turn in an assignment that would have a significant impact on his overall grade. When Makenzie pulled him aside to find out why his story broke her heart.
“He told me his mother hadn’t come home from work the previous evening,” Mackenzie says. “Their electricity had been shut off. And he had spent the whole night taking care of two younger siblings. I remember realizing at that moment I wanted to help him–help all my students–in a way that wasn’t possible in my role as a teacher.”
Guided by this need to make a difference, she completed her M.S. in Educational Psychology and Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the goal of becoming an educational therapist. It was during the clinical placement phase of her degree, however, that she realized that working as a therapist wouldn’t allow her to offer students the help she knew they needed.
That’s when her life changed forever. A fateful move to Florida with her husband Matthew Schiemann, ‘06, opened up a career opportunity she may never have considered otherwise.
For the next six years, she served as the Director of Outreach Services and Health Promotion at Eckerd College, overseeing the case management program and chairing the Intervention Team.
From there, she took positions as Director for Student Outreach and Support, Director for the Center for Victim Advocacy, and Chair of the Students of Concern Assistance Team at the University of South Florida. In these roles, she created comprehensive protocol manuals for the case management program and victim advocacy department. While earning her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Higher Education Administration, her work at USF served as a model for policy development and putting comprehensive violence prevention campaigns into action.
Currently, she is a partner at TNG, an educational consulting firm that works with schools across the country to design and implement best practices that create healthier, safer learning environments. She also serves as the President of NABITA, a role that allows her to impact student lives in ways she has worked towards since her first day at Ashland.
“I remember feeling very inadequate when I started at Ashland,” she says. “I didn’t feel smart enough. I didn’t feel like I belonged with my fellow education students. But one day I kind of laid it all out for my professor, Dave Kowalka, and his reaction changed the way I saw myself. He pushed back against my feelings of inadequacy and reframed things for me in a way that gave me hope. He made it okay for things to be hard for me. He made me believe I could finish my degree, even get my master’s.”
Along with the relationships she built at Ashland, she attributes much of her current success to the University’s educational approach. “I learned how to think critically,” she says. “I was taught how to adapt to whatever life throws at me, seize the opportunities that come along and follow my passion, wherever it might lead.”
The road to where she is now wasn’t one she could have scripted. But, she says, it was the right path for her. And while she spent very little of her career in the classroom, students nationwide are now reaping the benefits of her commitment to creating better learning environments.
“I’m able to impact the health and safety of school systems across the country,” she says. “That’s powerful. That’s incredible.”