Olivet College (OC) celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a special speaking event that featured Tajalli Hodge, according to the OC Facebook page. Hodge graduated from OC in 2012 with a degree in biology and environmental science and has experience volunteering with and outside of OC. What has Hodge been up to since her time at OC and what advice did, she offer current students?
In an email interview, Hodge stated she “sort of wear[s] three hats.” For the last eight years Hodge has worked full-time as a dairy inspector and Laboratory Evaluation Officer (LEO) with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“One of my favorite parts of being a dairy inspector was to be out on the farms, seeing the cows (so cute) and the other animals that are invariably on farms. Now that I am a laboratory evaluation officer, I am not on the farms anymore but instead focus more on teaching and evaluating the analysts throughout the state that run specific tests on milk to ensure the quality and safety of it,” said Hodge.
Hodge was elected as a park commissioner for Ypsilanti Township in November of 2020.
“My favorite part of this job is doing everything that I can to improve parks that are underdeveloped and underutilized especially in under privileged neighborhoods. Seeing children jump right in on a workday, always ready to get dirty and make any type of work fun, makes it all worth it,” said Hodge.
Hodge also does work for FedUp Ministries which she refers to as a non-profit “in the shape of a food truck dedicated to fighting food injustice and food insecurity in southeast Michigan.” According to FedUpministries.org their mission is to “to meet people where they are, serve nutritious meals with dignity, and advocate for systemic change.”
“I love everything that FedUp is doing, and my favorite part of this work is definitely trying new recipes and cooking in the kitchen because I LOVE to cook (and eat),” said Hodge.
Hodge stated that she feels fortunate to be able to find a career in her field, but as a student she did not know where she would end up.
“I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Maria Davis’ husband, Terry, just after graduating at Michigan State in the Entomology Department. We ran efficacy trials for companies looking to have new products approved by the EPA [Environmental Protective Agency]. It was part time work just in the summer that I did for two years, but it ended up giving me unique and relevant experience when I applied for and ended up getting the pesticide inspector job at the state,” said Hodge.
Hodge imagined having a job that let her work with animals, but she never imagined working in government.
“However, while looking for jobs I think someone gave me a tip to check the state of Michigan website – they have jobs for students, interns, and of course, so many different categories of positions. I realized that getting a job with the State actually could be a really good idea,” said Hodge.
Hodge’s advice for current students is to “learn how to interview, how to write a resume, how to write cover letters. These are the most important skills that will help you to land the jobs that you’re looking to get. The first impression is a lasting one and before you ever see an interview in person, companies are looking at who you are on paper so highlight your strengths.”
Hodge stated that students should reach out if they are having any kind of trouble because they are cared about. It is also important for students to “make the most of your time at Olivet because you only get to do it once! You have the rest of your life to figure out your career(s) and there's no shame in changing if something doesn't feel right for you,” said Hodge.
Tajalli Hodge with FedUp's executive director, Anna Taylor-McCants in front of the FedUp food truck.
Images provided by Tajalli Hodge.