Michelle Huggins has been a partner with Waukee APEX since the inception of the program. When she first became connected, she was in charge of the Education Sector for all seven Shive-Hattery offices covering Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. She felt that connecting with the Waukee APEX program was a natural fit for her to cultivate that connection between education and industry. “It was a great way for the design and engineering industry to lead by example, and be the change we heard so often from our education clients and partners.”
Throughout the past five years, Michelle has offered a great deal of support for the APEX program. Initially, she served an advisory role to help develop curriculum for the Architecture and Engineering course that worked out of the Shive-Hattery office. She built and managed the business plan to support the integration of the APEX curriculum and student associates into the professional services industry. She also worked to develop the first business/academic mentor program that paired young architects and engineers with APEX student associates. This mentorship program even helped identify at-risk students and get them connected with Shive-Hattery mentors. Many of these at-risk youth were even given opportunities to work outside of regular school times to grow their skills and interests, thus helping to keep them in school.
Further, Michelle also worked to develop a project pool at Shive-Hattery to engage student interest. “The value of the project pool is you have an evolving repository of ideas that can be pulled quickly pending student interest.” Her hope is to expand the reach of project pools to rural districts as well, as she whole-heartedly believes that everyone can benefit from an APEX-type program.
Michelle has been a strong advocate for the APEX program by hosting seminars for groups interested in partnering and learning more about the APEX model. APEX alumni have also benefited from her help, as she works to place many of them in summer internships across the Metro area.
Currently, Michelle works for Drake University as the Planning and Design Manager. When Michelle left Shive-Hattery to take on her new position with Drake, she took APEX with her, once again opening many doors of opportunity to APEX student associates. She maintains an optimistic vision for continued partnership with the APEX program.
Her hopes for the future of APEX include overcoming barriers of funding and transportation so that students in more districts would have this opportunity. She would also like to explore the idea of launching a summer program so that year-round projects could be a possibility.
When asked why she remains a strong advocate for the Waukee APEX program, Michelle responded, “Programs like APEX provide a conduit by which a new and different conversation happens between civic leaders, small business owners, school educators, etc. With the best interest of students at the heart of the conversation and a value proposition for the surrounding community fabric, I have seen small groups and entire rural communities navigate change in ways that would have never been possible without the spark from an APEX-type program.”
Michelle Huggins is an exemplary business partner, and we thank her for her leadership in launching the program and continued support.