Set for success: Senior maximizing her Lakeland experience
Lakeland University provides several pathways for students to complete a bachelor’s degree. Riley Jahnke has traveled most of them during her LU experience.
Before graduating from Howards Grove High School, Jahnke completed 32 college credits by taking Concurrent Academic Progress Program (CAPP) courses, which allow high students to simultaneously earn high school and college credits.
She enrolled at Lakeland as a sophomore, and immediately took advantage of LU’s Cooperative Education program, which allows students to work full- and part-time jobs with partner companies, earn academic credit for their work and put their wages toward paying for school.
Each semester, Jahnke has taken 18 credits – 12 in the classroom and six through her Co-Op roles. As a freshman she worked in a marketing role for Lakeland’s Co-Op & Career Readiness Team, then as a sophomore she was named chief marketing officer for Launch: Lakeland Student-Run Business, the university’s innovative venture that has students working entrepreneurial part-time jobs.
This semester, Jahnke is a content intern for EPIC Creative, a full-service marketing and advertising agency in West Bend, Wis., in addition to continuing with Launch and training her eventual replacement.
Jahnke, who attends Lakeland as a commuter, takes full advantage of Lakeland’s flexible course platforms as she’s taken face-to-face courses, online live classes and fully online classes, which allows her to work during the day.
She’s also a key member of the Lakeland women’s soccer team, having started each game for the Muskies since her freshman season and earning Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Scholar-Athlete honors in her first two seasons.
“I thoroughly enjoy everything I am a part of,” said Jahnke, a recipient of several scholarships who this December will graduate after two and a half years at LU with a four-year degree in communication.
“I like to work. I like learning in different formats and modalities, and I can hold myself accountable. It just so happens the soccer schedule works because we have morning practices, and the flexibility of online learning was huge. I’m proud to be at Lakeland.”
Although she initially thought about teaching as a career, Jahnke developed a love for writing in high school and through some career discovery landed on the public relations/marketing route.
Her marketing role for Lakeland’s Co-Op team introduced her to creating social media content – and told her that wasn’t the right career path for her – while also allowing her to writing blog and newsletter items, which further developed her skill set.
“I wanted to get experience in all aspects of marketing because there is so much overlap with communication,” she said. “Having worked in the customer service industry (at both Gessert's Ice Cream and Confectionery and Lake Street Café in Elkhart Lake) I have that in-person communication down.
“I knew I wanted to get more professional on the writing side and that drove my class selection and my job experiences to help me grow those skills.”
Jahnke’s career choice was solidified when she landed the CMO role for Launch. She worked 15-20 hours a week developing and executing Launch’s marketing strategies to increase sales and promote Launch’s various ventures like Musko’s Campus Shop.
At EPIC, Jahnke assists the content team with all media needs such as press releases, media kits and alerts and blog writing. She’s had opportunities to interact with clients as she learns how an agency operates.
This semester, she’s working about 15 hours a week for EPIC, 10 for Launch, taking classes and playing soccer.
“Launch offered me opportunities to grow the skills I wanted to grow and immerse myself in the writing side of marketing,” said Jahnke, noting that Launch’s professional environment prepared her well for her EPIC experience.
“At Launch, I am higher up and able to delegate tasks, and at EPIC I am the one getting the tasks. It’s interesting to see the differences. It’s helped me to be confident in my role to talk about the projects we’re working on and ask questions when I might be confused. I’ve gained a lot of leadership from Launch.”
Between classes, work, soccer and some social time, Jahnke’s schedule is always packed, but she knows it is positioning her for post-graduation success.
“Having that experience in college is what employers are looking for,” she said. “I don’t want an entry-level position or internship when I graduate. I want a job at a higher level where I will be held accountable and know I can handle the responsibilities.”
Kym Leibham, Lakeland’s director of strategic outreach and Launch’s staff mentor, said Jahnke’s work ethic and desire to expand her skills allowed her to quickly learn how to create effective, long-term marketing strategies while managing daily opportunities.
“She became an exceptional role model and mentor for other Launch team members as a trustworthy and approachable leader,” Leibham said. “Riley can quickly assess opportunities and reliably create an execution approach. Launch provided her the opportunity to elevate her marketing and promotional skills while understanding how to mentor and lead her peers.
“Riley will leave a legacy with Launch, and she will positively impact her workplace throughout her career.”
Co-Op also connected Jahnke with 2001 Lakeland graduate Brian Badura, a veteran of the marketing and PR world who has helped her learn more about the nuances of the industry, create a resume that will stand out and navigate the job application process.
Jahnke’s road to Lakeland is an interesting story on its own. Her maternal grandmother, JoAnn Lutzke, worked for about a decade as a housekeeper at what was then Lakeland College. Riley’s mother, Amy, attended Lakeland, played basketball, met her future husband/Riley’s father, soccer player Toby Jahnke, and the two graduated in the late 1980s.
Their two oldest children both graduated from Lakeland, Taylor in 2013 and Garrett in 2016, and both played soccer for the Muskies. Riley’s aunt, Jodi Lutzke, was also a Lakeland graduate.
“It didn’t seem like a choice,” Riley said with a smile. “I grew up on campus. I knew where I was going to go.”