A partnership between Oakland University and the Chaldean Community Foundation is providing OU alumni with unique opportunities to utilize the skills they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting while supporting the organization’s community outreach efforts.
“The Chaldean Community Foundation benefits greatly from having OU alumni on board,” said Stacy Bahri, strategic initiatives manager at the Chaldean Community Foundation. “Members of the community outreach team have really helped to elevate our brand, marketing and social media. Everyone brings a great level of skills and creativity to the team, and I am proud to work alongside a group of talented individuals.”
Some of the OU alumni who are part of the organization’s Community Outreach team include Daniel Moen, Matthew Gordon, and Christina Salem.
For Moen, who graduated from OU in 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in integrative studies with a focus on advertising, marketing, communications and sociology, his journey from the classroom to the serving as brand and content coordinator for the Chaldean Community Foundation has been nothing short of “fantastic.”
“Not only do I feel I have the freedom and independence to practice my studies, but I work with a gold star team,” Moen said. “We work hard together to come up with meaningful and impactful ads and campaigns that help spread brand awareness. I’ve also been enhancing my skills with graphic design through various social media posts.
“I truly feel I’ve encapsulated the title of brand content coordinator and hold it with high amounts of pride and dedication,” Moen added. “And because I’m able to wear multiple hats in my field and work environment, I feel that the possibilities are endless!”
Gordon, a marketing and campaigning specialist at the Chaldean Community Foundation, earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing from OU in 2018 and has been working at the Chaldean Community Foundation since August 2020.
“It was the middle of the COVID pandemic and we did a lot of community work to help those in need,” Gordon said. “I quickly realized the wonderful impact that the Chaldean Community Foundation has, not only in the Chaldean community but various other communities across southeast Michigan. I’m not Chaldean, but I was welcomed greatly by the staff and I truly feel that I am working in a place that is special and unique.”
Gordon credits OU with helping to prepare him for his role as marketing and campaign specialist.
“At OU, I felt like my professors really enriched my learning and helped develop the philosophies and business acumen that I carry with me today,” he said. “As a nonprofit, we (the Chaldean Community Foundation) are involved in a variety of initiatives that require critical thinking and careful messaging. I believe a lot of the lectures and learning that I had at OU really allowed me to build a knowledge base that I used every day in my current role.”
Salem, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from OU in 2017, said her experience with the Chaldean Community Foundation has been “wonderful.” She currently serves as social media coordinator for the organization, as well as the Chaldean News and the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.
“I support the organizations by capturing and starring in social media content, editing, and posting them on a regular basis and being the recognizable face behind that,” Salem said. “I also support the Chaldean News by writing articles and performing journalistic interviews. My experience at OU was very helpful for this position.”
Other OU alumni who have secured positions with the Chaldean Community Foundation include Leila Kello, Rebecca Tomczak, and Savannah Meyer.
Kello, who earned her Master of Arts degree in teaching in 2006, began her career with the Chaldean Community Foundation as an ESL teach and a part-time grant writer in 2015. She is now the director of development for the organization.
“I work on all things that involve raising funds for the organization,” she said. “I also oversee the educational programming, as well as manage the Foundation’s accreditation process.”
Kello said her experience at Oakland was positive, and helped prepare her for her current role.
“Oakland University gave me the confidence to become a leader in my field,” she said. “It encouraged me and my fellow students to network and find ways to work together — life skills that every person can benefit from.”
Tomczak is a case worker in the organization’s Career Services Department. She graduated from Oakland University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree while majoring in history with a concentration in American studies. After graduating, she went on to receive a post-bachelor’s certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language from The Language House Prague, located in Prague, Czech Republic.
“During the summer of 2014, when I was teaching at an English camp in South Bohemia (a region of the Czech Republic), I received news that ISIS militants had invaded and broken security lines in Northern Iraq, which, having been raised in the Metro Detroit area, I knew that this was the ancestral home of the Chaldeans, many of whom were my friends and neighbors at home in Michigan,” Tomczak said. “I had gone to school at OU with them. They were more than a group mentioned on the news; they were my neighbors and friends, the people I was raised with.
“Upon returning to Michigan, I went to work assisting the Chaldean refugees whom I knew through friends from school,” she added. “I researched as much as I could. I learned some of the words, and familiarized myself with the customs and understandings of the people. All of these skills of research and understanding had been given to me starting when I was just a 17-year-old freshman at Oakland University. Now things have come full circle. Every single day I go to work, I interact with those affected by the same world events, and together, we focus on rebuilding, healing and restoration.”
In addition to providing OU alumni with employment opportunities, the partnership between Oakland University and the Chaldean Community Foundation has also led to the establishment of a new advisory council.
Among the council’s goals will be to increase the enrollment of Chaldean students at OU, solicit funding/grants from Lansing, host social events for Chaldean alumni, and work with school district in Macomb and Oakland counties to encourage Chaldean student to pursue careers in education.
“This is a great opportunity,” said OU alum Sharkey Haddad, special project manager for the Chaldean Community Foundation and the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. “A fruitful partnership between OU and the Chaldean Community Foundation will benefit Chaldeans in Oakland and Macomb counties, and show that OU is the university of choice for Chaldean students.”
Mike Westfall, vice president of university advancement at Oakland University, agreed.
“This enhanced partnership between Oakland University and the Chaldean Community Foundation will provide immense value by leveraging diverse expertise, resources, and networks. Together, we will foster collaboration, enhance innovation, and ultimately have a greater impact on the students and communities that both organizations seek to serve.”
To learn more about Oakland University, visit www.oakland.edu.
To learn more about the Chaldean Community Foundation, visit www.chaldeanfoundation.org.