Michael Levens was just named president and CEO of Walsh College in Troy — a position that appears a perfect fit for someone with his resume of top jobs in automotive and technology, who found his calling in academia.
Born in Flint, Levens was smitten with the auto industry at an early age. His first job was in a co-op program at General Motor’s Warehousing and Distribution Division in Swartz Creek. After graduating from Kettering University he continued with GM in various jobs for 16 years. He loves educating people — whether about the nuances of cars, technology or business. And he’s good at it.
Levens is the college’s eighth president. He previously served as its interim provost and professor and academic chair of the marketing department. Prior to joining Walsh in 2006, Levens worked in research, product development and brand management for brands including OnStar and Saab. He also is a Fulbright Scholar, has a Ph.D. from Capella University, an MBA from Bond University in Australia and a bachelor of science from Kettering.
He wrote his first book, “Marketing: Defined, Explained, Applied” in 2010 (now on its third edition), and it has been used by over 200 colleges.
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Walsh College’s fall semester starts Sept. 16 and will be 100% remote. The school has 2,900 students and offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in fields such as accounting, finance, human resources and cybersecurity. The college was started in 1922 by Mervyn Walsh, who was Thomas Edison’s accountant and has over 29,000 alumni, with 86% working and living in Michigan.
Levens is taking over at a unique time — between the pandemic and difficult job prospects for new graduates. I posed a few questions:
Q: What is your goal as new president of Walsh College?
A: Walsh’s mission is to provide a transformative business education combining theory, application and professional experience to prepare graduates for successful careers. We also have exciting plans to grow our partnerships with businesses and other academic institutions, such as a Tech MBA that we have developed with Kettering University.
Now more than ever, higher education institutions need to bring education to where students are. Students may be managing multiple stressors and priorities and need school to fit into an already busy life. We are fortunate at Walsh in that we have been providing online options since 1998. More than 20 years of experience have allowed us to develop exceptional remote and online learning platforms. All Walsh students automatically receive a free Zoom account, so when the pandemic hit, we were able to pivot to 100% remote delivery of courses in a matter of days.
My parents grew up in northern Minnesota and moved ‘south’ to Michigan to teach. I was born in Flint and enjoyed growing up on Marl Lake in Fenton. I have a lifelong appreciation for Michigan and all the state has to offer, including Michigan winters.
I spent more than 15 years working in marketing, brand management, research and product development at General Motors. That experience led me all around the world and helped me develop a global point of view. During that time I taught courses in marketing and branding at General Motors University and discovered a love of teaching. That was where my natural transition to academia began. Walsh was a perfect fit because it allowed me to bring my years of business experience into the classroom and share that practical, real world knowledge with my students.
I think the unknown can be difficult, and we are certainly in challenging times with many unknowns. I try to encourage others, be it my students, colleagues, or my family, to be open to change, even difficult change, and the opportunities that can come from it, even if you can’t see those in the moment. Work hard, never stop seeking to learn and improve and ask for help when you need it.
Education will always be important. It can be transformative and provides a platform for advancing your career. If you are considering returning to school, approach your education with your eyes open and have high expectations of the institution and the experience it provides.
Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or [email protected] She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Oakland University’s David Dulio on this Sunday’s show.
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