In fall 2005, Mike Heinrich enrolled as a freshman at UW-Marathon County (UWMC) intending to become a high school English teacher.
However, at the same time, Mark Zuckerberg and several of his Harvard University roommates and classmates had just put the finishing touches on a free communications medium that capitalized on use of the Internet. They named it TheFacebook and, soon after its successful launch at Harvard, they made it available to most universities in North America. By September 2006, they offered TheFacebook to anyone 13 and older with a valid email address.
With the rapid roll out of this new web-based, image-sharing channel, Heinrich’s education and career plans changed as quickly as it takes to “like” a post about a person, place or event on Facebook today.
“I jumped on board (with social media) immediately,” says Heinrich, who majored in communications with an emphasis in electronic media at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UW-GB) after earning his associate’s degree at UWMC in 2007. “I wanted to be part of the wave of excitement created by this new way of communicating and keeping in touch with friends.”
Heinrich has been building and honing his social media knowledge and skills ever since. Today, he serves as advertising manager for Gannett Wisconsin Media, which publishes the Wausau Daily Herald and several other local newspapers, websites and magazines in central Wisconsin. Heinrich works with all types of businesses, ranging from service stations to hospitals to quarries to promote their products and services using print, digital, social and mobile media. In addition, the 28-year-old supervises five other members of the company’s regional sales team.
UWMC plays key role in college success
Heinrich credits the two years he spent at UWMC for laying the foundation for his educational success at UW-GB and for creating behaviors that he still applies to his business and personal life.
“Coming here was one of the best school decisions I ever made,” says the Heinrich, who grew up in a working class family in Hatley, Wis., and attended D.C. Everest High School in Weston. “Socially, by interacting and feeling comfortable with new people, it prepped me for going anywhere. I found the atmosphere more accommodating for someone right out of high school (than at a larger campus).
“I also developed important time management skills and learned how to structure my day, thanks to the critical student advisor support I received each semester, which I very much appreciated,” says Heinrich, the only sibling of four in his family with a bachelor’s degree.
Courses, professors fuel personal curiosity
Academically, Heinrich says he’s always been inquisitive when it comes to “exploring new things,” but some of the courses he took at UWMC, particularly those taught by former geology professor and current Campus Dean Keith Montgomery and by associate professor of communications & theatre arts Barry Liss; their courses fueled his natural curiosity and taught him to view topics from many perspectives.
For example, Heinrich still shares with friends and family things he learned in geology about the Ice Age and from a class trip led by Montgomery to Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wis. “Dr. Montgomery was very energizing,” says Heinrich. “My wife’s now a huge fan of the area too, as we’ve hiked and explored it a few times together since he brought our class there.”
Liss taught Heinrich how to examine current events and other societal issues through a critical lens, lessons Heinrich still applies today. “I now interpret politics from a variety of viewpoints,” he says. “I apply what I learned in Barry’s class to my media consumption, including the news I watch and the articles I read.
“What I learned at UWMC in the way of soft skills is benefitting me in my job too, especially when it comes to understanding new industries and businesses and relating to people with different personalities and points of view.”