Hidden in the depths of the University of Michigan course guide is a one-of-a-kind class that aims to achieve the impossible: define “networking” –– and help students to find themselves, too.
Klementina X. Sula is a lecturer with the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) at the University of Michigan. She is also a lecturer with University of California, Irvine and the Interim Program Director with L!FE Leaders. She is also an alum of the University of Michigan, earning her B.A. in Political Science & Economics and dual Masters in Higher Education and International Public Policy.
Sula’s course, Network Your Way to an International Internship and Career, is a seven-week minicourse offered by PICS. The minicourse focuses on helping students identify their passions, strengths and goals to develop a personalized strategy to tackle internship and job applications. From resume workshops, to finding opportunities and even developing a personal brand, Sula’s class prepares students for every step of the process.
Sula’s networking class is a hidden treasure at the University of Michigan –– and Sula likes it that way. Some students hesitate to enroll in a networking course because they see networking as self-evident skill, but testimonials and anonymous post-course surveys reveal that Sula’s class is a big hit with anyone who takes it. Students who find their way to Sula are diverse, from the business-savvy extroverts to students still learning to come out of their shell. The result is a small class size that finds its strength in not only what Sula can teach, but the intelligence, passion and individuality that her students carry into the classroom.
Perhaps what is most notable about Sula’s approach to networking is not what business skills she can teach students, but rather what life skills can help students fulfill both their personal and professional goals. In other words, Klementina Sula’s minicourse offers something the traditional seminar does not: learning how to live your life the way you want to.
In order to network effectively, Sula emphasizes, one must understand who they are, what they want, and how their experiences inform those goals and desires. To know oneself is one of life's greatest and most difficult journeys. While not every student will walk away from the six-week mini-course with total certainty in their identity, Ms. Sula helps students build the tools they will need to ask these questions and find their truth.
Her lessons, too, come from personal experience. The daughter of immigrant parents from Albania, Sula tackled her studies with drive and passion, but still encountered her own obstacles. As Sula said in her appearance on the University of Michigan MOVE Series, “I graduated from undergrad without a job… I didn’t want any other students to have the same experience I did.”
Perseverance and a confidence to go after what she wanted proved to be the ‘spark’ Sula needed to turn things around. As Sula tells it, “During my exit interview [from my job at the University of Michigan] I remember being at a restaurant in Singapore drinking Singaporean slings, and the dean said ‘we’re going to miss you –– is there anything that I can do for you?’ And I said, well actually, there is.” The key, Sula realized, is that to find opportunities you must learn to ask for them. The opportunity Sula asked for? To teach a class on networking.
The class has proved to be a roaring success. Networking Your Way has become a mainstay of the University’s annual course offerings, with plenty of heartfelt student testimonials to boot.
This summer, Klementina Sula’s networking expertise will become available to an international audience when she debuts her new class on Coursera. Coursera is an online learning platform that partners with Universities and companies across the globe to offer free and paid classes on a variety of subjects. Building off of the original seven-week minicourse, Sula’s new class on Coursera will be an extended and in-depth masterclass in networking.
With a lot of heart and a firm hand, Ms. Sula teaches the famed Leaders & Best to truly be the leaders and the best. Leadership, Sula says, is not a question of innate talent or ability. Leadership comes from knowing yourself, understanding what you want, and having the initiative to seek out the opportunities that will achieve that goal. Anyone can learn to be a leader. A “true leader,” Sula describes, is someone with clarity, who understands their values & purpose. With these ideas in mind, Tina Sula helps students tackle the tough questions about who they want to be, and how they can make that dream a reality.