It’s always a joy to meet a person that has a positive outlook on life, but it’s a completely unique experience to meet someone that radiates positivity. This is the case for Robin Lott, executive director of Michigan Education Trust (MET). Her warm, welcoming smile combined with her sharp sense of humor could turn a gray day into sunshine — no wonder she’s made a career of helping families build brighter futures without fear.
MET is a 529 Prepaid Tuition Plan which allows for the pre-purchase of tuition, based on today’s rates. It allows parents, grandparents, businesses and others to pre-purchase undergraduate tuition for a child residing in Michigan at any in-state public university or college, including 28 public community colleges. Lott has been with MET for nearly 30 years, moving up through the ranks to find her place at the helm of the organization.
“MET has changed and evolved over the years, but the thing I have always enjoyed most was interacting with the clients and helping them get started,” Lott said. “It’s been amazing to meet people who are MET graduates that are now having kids of their own and looking into the program. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you have helped this person get started and ultimately find success. You really start to see how much a college education can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Lott is passionate about education and believes you never stop learning. She also knows, as a mother of two, that learning starts early and good habits can last a lifetime.
“You have to focus on your child. When they are little, they are so inquisitive, so reading to them and talking with them and educating them early will give them a great start,” said Lott. “They are like little sponges, so if you instill that in them early, it will stay with them through life. Spending time with them and teaching them to be responsible will pay off in the long run. Sitting on the phone may not. It is a crucial time in their lives, and you can tell when parents take the time to plant that seed early.”
Lott was determined to find time to spend with her sons early on in their lives. As a single mother, Lott held a full-time job, went to school and still made time to be a dedicated soccer mom. She’s always believed that with discipline and a respect of time, she could accomplish everything she set her mind to.
“If you can get that schedule down pat, you can get it all done. It takes discipline on your part, and you have to respect your time, but it can be done. You may go to bed at the end of the day and wish you had just two more hours, but you don’t, so you make it happen in the time you have. You have to decide each day what you are going to accomplish with these 24 hours,” Lott said. “My faith in God, my inner determination and my will to do something with my life is a driving force. You have to believe and only do things that will have a positive impact for you and your kids. I also always remembered that my kids were paying attention to everything I did, and I wanted to set a good example for them and show them what was possible.”
And show her kids, she did. Lott found a position as a secretary out of high school, with a young son and needing health benefits for her family. She put her mind to advancing her career, eventually moving into a state government position. From there she moved around and up the ranks, now at MET. Over the years she has learned a lot, but most of all she has learned to never stop learning.
“I would say that I’ve learned to keep my sense of humor. From one day to the next, anything can happen. If you find humor and joy in things, you can face anything,” Lott said. “I interact with so many kinds of people, and you learn to communicate in different ways to make sure they are getting the information they need. I could talk about MET all day long, but sometimes they only give me 20 seconds, so, I’ve learned to be concise and communicate based on the situation. I am also always trying to find new ways to improve the program and sustain it into the future. You learn something new from every interaction, and if you pay attention, you can learn a lot.”
Lott has also learned that more can be accomplished when people work together. She puts that theory to work every day at MET with her team, but also believes it can have a larger impact in the business world. As a woman in an executive position, Lott has met her fair share of naysayers, and she has found it most surprising that women don’t always work to support each other. Lott believes that this negativity has no place today and works diligently to support, encourage and inspire everyone that has a dream.
“I still think it is a man’s world,” Lott said.“Women have made huge strides, but we still have a long way to go. I see more women in executive positions, but I think they need to take note that we are all sisters. Other women are not the enemy. I have seen powerful women treat other women poorly, but that doesn’t help any of us. We are all in this together and need to stick together and support each other and not drag each other down. I think some of these women just need to remember we all put our undies on the same way.”
Lott’s humor and strength have proved to be a huge part in her success, but at the core of everything she does and says is a passion for helping people. You can see it in the way she carries herself, the way she greets new friends and the way she talks about the lives that have been impacted by MET’s savings plans — opportunities for students to realize their dreams through education.
“A college education can do so much,” Lott said. “It helps with self-esteem, provides an avenue for an individual to support themselves financially and opens doors to future opportunities. It’s just amazing to see how the opportunity to gain an education can completely change someone’s life.”