Finding Her Future
Michelle Joy '96 discusses the team and the internship that led her to Grinnell and her career.
Sept. 21, 2016
Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Michelle Joy '96 looked at a lot of colleges in the Midwest, but until she was contacted by Ted Eskildsen, the Pioneer women’s basketball coach at the time, she had never heard of Grinnell. “It was Coach E who recruited me,” she says. “I was getting weekly communications from him, and back then we didn’t have email.”
Michelle had the opportunity to see the women’s basketball team play at Lake Forrest, a few hours away from her home. She met the coach and spent time that weekend with several of the players. “Once I learned more about Grinnell and the caliber of its academics, it ended up being a natural fit,” says Michelle.
The decision to go to Grinnell was sealed when Michelle made a visit. She had traveled to several colleges already, but her visit to Grinnell was different. “We drove up to campus and when I saw Gates Tower, I knew right then and there that this was where I was going to go,” she says.
Michelle gives credit to athletics for easing the transition into college, in addition to introducing her to Grinnell in the first place. “For a lot of the women's basketball team members at the time, if you asked them ‘Why Grinnell?’ the answer was consistently ‘Because of coach E,’” says Michelle. “He did a great job of opening lines of communication between incoming first-years before we even got to campus.”
When she arrived at Grinnell, Michelle planned to major in chemistry and go on to medical school, but while she was an undergrad student, she realized direct patient care wasn’t what she wanted to do. During a course on the sociology of medicine she discovered that there are different ways to make a difference in the medical field. She declared an economics major and got an internship with Todd Linden, the CEO of the Grinnell Regional Medical Center.
“I didn’t know the business side of a hospital existed before the internship,” Michelle says. She also doubts that she would have had the same kind of opportunity elsewhere—specifically she wasn’t sure she would have been able to reach out to someone in the community who was so open and willing to take an intern.
Michelle ultimately decided that she wanted the job Linden had. She wanted to be the CEO of a small, rural hospital. She currently serves as the vice president and chief operating officer at Carson Tahoe Health in Carson City, Nev. “Todd is still a mentor to me today,” she says.
Michelle lost touch with the College for a few years, but she is making up for lost time. She serves on the Leadership Council for the Wilson Center, has returned to the College for the Alumni in the Classroom Program, and hosted an extern over spring break. She has also designated a planned gift to the Athletics Department.
“I learned about Grinnell and came to Grinnell because of athletics,” she says. “I made lifelong friendships through that experience. I want to make sure others have the same opportunities I’ve had.” Although she wishes it happened sooner, she’s grateful to have reestablished a connection with the College.
“Bottom line,” she says, “I want to encourage other alums to get involved however they can as early as possible.”