Kristin St. Marie is the picture of women’s empowerment: As the assistant director of Open Enrollment Programs for the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU), a breast cancer survivor, a mom and a dedicated community partner, she embodies strength
With nearly 20 years at MSU, St. Marie’s career started in the hospitality business; her love for the industry has driven her passion for people from day one.
“I grew up in Brighton and came to MSU because of the hospitality school’s great program. I worked at a lot of restaurants, which meant I worked every weekend and every holiday. Then, I worked at the Clarion Hotel on the south side [of Lansing] and then the Holiday Inn, which is now the Causeway Bay Hotel, where I met my husband and started working in the sales department. I stayed there for 10 years, which kept me on my toes, “said St. Marie. “I went on to work at the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, met the executive education team at MSU and they offered me a job.”
In her current role, St. Marie creates opportunities for connection, spearheading more than 50 events a year that help grow careers and empower leaders.
“I work with a lot of the faculty at the college and across the campus to develop leadership courses and strategy programs for individuals looking to advance their careers. I do all the marketing and run the programs. I have a hospitality degree and that has really helped with this job, because you are always the host and in constant contact with people,” St. Marie said.
She attends countless events annually, including those that she was integral in planning, but one event in particular changed the way she lived her life. After attending the Executive Leadership for Women program — an event she brought to life — St. Marie was inspired to become her own advocate.
“At the senior levels of most companies, women aren’t getting the opportunity to move into those roles. Gender tendencies are holding them back and unconscious bias is preventing them from having the opportunities,” St. Marie said. “The program works. It’s in its eighth year and about half the women who attended received a promotion within six-to-12 months.”
Following the program, St. Marie jumped in with both feet to take her passion to the next level, becoming an active member of the community and leading the way for women.
“We should be helping women find their voice. Only one in 10 women will negotiate, while nine out of 10 men will. I want to help women find the confidence to shamelessly self-promote themselves,” St. Marie said. “We want every woman to be authentic and be aware of some of the things they need to adjust to take that next step.”
And St. Marie practices what she preaches. As an active member of numerous organizations and programs in mid-Michigan, she spends countless hours working to move women forward.
“I mentor undergraduate students and graduate students. I help to create the Women’s Networking Association for MSU and work to find power speakers for our sessions. I have been the co-chair of the ATHENA PowerLink® program and am still on the board, and I’ve helped with Entrepreneur YOU alongside the Michigan Women’s Foundation. I was also on the board for Susan G. Komen Race for The Cure®,” said St. Marie. “I try to find ways I can be involved and impact change for women.”
With all that on her calendar, St. Marie still finds time to give back to younger girls in the community. The program that she holds most dear is empowHER; the leadership retreat was created to provide 4th through 9th grade girls from all backgrounds with the tools to find confidence, passion and purpose in their lives.
“Suzy [Merchant] came to me two years ago after a young girl she was recruiting, who was being recruited by numerous schools and had so much going for her, took her own life,” said St. Marie. “She came to me with this idea and asked if I would be willing to help — I loved the idea, and it has only grown since then.”
With support and education via interactive workshops, empowHER girls embrace their strengths and differences, build self-confidence and participate in service projects that demonstrate the importance of giving back to their community.
St. Marie finds inspiration in events like empowHER, using that focused energy when she found out two years ago that she had breast cancer. Early detection was key in her fight, and her relentless positivity carried her through to remission today.
“Two weeks after I turned 50 is when it was found. No one in my family has ever had cancer, and I am a fairly healthy person and the last person you’d think it would happen to, but it can happen to anyone,” said St. Marie.
Her passion for life has only intensified with no plans for slowing down.; she’s consistently finding new ways to support fellow women in the community.
“I think it stems back to when I was a participant in my own program. I was waiting for opportunities to happen. I thought people would recognize the work I was doing. I want every young woman to know they have support and that they are in control,” St. Marie said. “We are all supporting each other. If you are in a spot where you can connect with women, you should be reaching down to help more women up!”