Student Feature

Food For Thought

Sierra Okoniewski is ready to unleash her potential and launch a writing career in the food and beverage industry

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icon of a calendarApril 29, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Patti Georgevich // Photo Credit: Rob Hall

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When Sierra Okoniewski was a little girl, she’d help her mother cook meals because “good food brings people together.” The self-professed “foodie” always dreamed of a future career in the food and beverage industry.

She enrolled at Macomb Community College to earn her associate degree in culinary arts. While she was at Macomb, Okoniewski considered a career combining her love of gastronomy with another passion – writing.

She researched colleges that offered a bachelor’s degree program in writing. As she did her homework, she worried she’d be unable to transfer her culinary arts credits toward a writing degree and might need to start over.

Then, she met with OU Academic Counselor Lindsay Zeig at the university’s location at the Macomb Community College University Center in Clinton Township. Zeig told Okoniewski about OU’s Bachelor of Integrative Studies (BIS) degree. Through a 3+1 articulation agreement with Macomb and other local community colleges, prospective students can transfer up to 88 credits to OU’s BIS program. Students can then design an individualized plan of study related to their unique career interests and goals in the interdisciplinary degree program.

Oakland’s BIS program gave Okoniewski a seamless transfer path from Macomb to OU.

“Lindsay encouraged my food-writing dream – and, showed me that OU’s BIS program could make it my reality,” Okoniewski says. “I transferred all the credits I earned at Macomb to OU. And, OU’s BIS program has allowed me to choose journalism and public relations courses to ’build’ my degree so I develop my skills as a writer.”

Finding ways to make her education affordable was another factor that solidified her decision to attend OU.

“I received the presidential transfer scholarship when I was admitted to OU. This scholarship meant I didn’t need student loans. Without this scholarship, I’d be taking fewer credits each semester. With it, I’m able to finish faster and graduate sooner,” she says.

The Romeo resident works full time as a catering and events director while taking her OU classes, maintaining a positive work-life-school balance.

Okoniewski shares that Zeig continues to support and challenge her so she stays “on track” to graduation, personalizing her OU student experience.

“Lindsay guides me to opportunities aligning with my career focus. I know she’s dedicated to my success. I couldn’t imagine my OU journey without her,” she says.

Okoniewski adds OU’s faculty members are sharpening her writing skills, style and techniques. She specifically credits Brian Hlavaty, visiting instructor in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Public Relations, with providing “invaluable insight and expertise.”

Always excited to get “hands-on” writing experience, she worked on an OU project/initiative promoting the benefits of the BioButton as the university was implementing COVID-19 preventative measures on campus during the pandemic. She wrote social media posts, student opinion polls, campaign reports and assisted with a promotional video to abate student concerns.

Along with developing her writing skills, she says her OU experience is broadening and expanding her perspectives on life.

“I’m developing as a person – in passion, discipline and dedication as well as broadness of mind. OU’s instilling a desire in me to never resign or accept what is but always to push forward for what could be. I’ll carry these skills with me for the rest of my life,” says Okoniewski who turns 25 in 2021.

Through her future writing, Okoniewski wants to highlight the work of those building a better Detroit as well as chronicle the work and lives of food-and-beverage entrepreneurs locally, nationally and globally. And, believes she’ll have “a lot on her plate.”

“As I hone my writing, and with my OU degree, I’m confident I’ll accomplish more than I ever dreamed possible. I’m ready for whatever my future holds,” says Okoniewski.

Learn more about OU’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs offered at our locations in Clinton Township and Mount Clemens.

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