Clifford Pulley III visits his alma mater, Western Michigan University, enjoying the view at the Gary and Rita Swain Education Library.
(Photo by Westley Amica III)

Clifford Pulley III always had a passion for traveling and that's what landed him his first job out of college, working in China for Whirlpool.

Cliff, a graduate of Parchment High School, also received a Love Where You Live Scholarship for college, which is a part of his story. "This scholarship allowed me to pay for books, pay for tuition, and ultimately travel to Singapore and Malaysia as my first study abroad," he says.

During high school, Cliff -- a self-described people person -- laid the ground work for the passions that would lead him to international languages, travel and work. During his elementary school days, he joined Cub Scouts, and remained in Boy Scouts until he earned his Eagle Scout award as a high school senior. Cliff would listen to NPR as his father drove him to high school which helped develop his world view "about people who don't look like you."

Two extra-curricular programs during high school helped expand that world view and would continue to impact his trajectory. People to People, the leadership program established by President Dwight Eisenhower, reinforced the cultural lens NPR was providing.

Working with his high school counselor Becky Edds, Cliff researched more than 60 scholarships, applied for a handful, and received six of them, including the renewable Love Where You Live Scholarship, "which was a big one, and a wonderful opportunity."

Something Different

For college, he knew he wanted to do "something different," as he puts it.

Colleges with Confucius Institutes initially appealed to him and both Western Michigan University and Michigan State had that. He'd had a good GPA during high school, but his ACT scores "weren't the best -- I'm not a great test-taker." He decided on WMU, and was admitted contingent on his first-year grades.

Cliff met with his advisor, Kaitlyn Carr, weekly during his freshman year as a Bronco. She thought Global Studies and International Business would best fit Cliff's plans for the future. And he knew he would need a foreign language for his career plans. At one point he'd considered Arabic, but finally decided on Mandarin. "That was, by far, the hardest thing I've ever done," he recalls.

During his first semester he got used to the academic rigor, and "I was learning from my mistakes," he says. "By the end of freshman year I blew it out of the park." He knew then that he wanted to add international travel to his base of experience. He started talking to his advisor about study abroad options for his sophomore year.

The first opportunity was a two-and-a-half-week faculty-led trip to Singapore and Malaysia. He learned an early life lesson, when his professor warned the students that with overseas travel, "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong." Well, Cliff forgot his passport, and then after adjusting his ticket for another flight encountered weather issues flying through Chicago. But he was off and running with the experience of studying abroad. His next experience during sophomore year was three weeks in China.

Cliff would end up doing six trips, including Uruguay, Chile, Italy and finally back to China for six months during senior year where all his classes were in Mandarin. He postponed his graduation to fit in his last experience in China.

For a Better World

These collective experiences expanded Cliff's world view. "You have to understand different cultures to make things better in the world," he says.

Upon his graduation from Western in December 2013, interesting things began occurring says Cliff, who believes "that everything happens for a reason." While Career Services at WMU began helping Cliff find his first job, the Kalamazoo Gazette ran a story about the newly-minted graduate, which a recruiter from Whirlpool noticed. Cliff, who was volunteering as a mentor with the Turn-2 Foundation, was attending a holiday party at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum for Turn-2 students and alumni when he got the call. He was going to China.

Cliff was working at Target while waiting for the hiring process to play out. Right before Thanksgiving he was taking the bus to Crossroads Mall and then as he was walking from there to Target it began pouring down rain. "Why," he asked himself? No umbrella, he's soaking wet, and he just wants to begin his new job in China. "The next day, Whirlpool called and had my plane ticket and housing arranged." Cliff spent two-and-a-half-years working in China as a project coordinator and project manager before Whirlpool headquarters called him back to St. Joseph-Benton Harbor to work as a sourcing specialist.

"The Community Foundation believed in me," Cliff says. "The Love Where You Live Scholarship, along with the other scholarships, helped make it possible to pursue my dreams and especially, studying abroad." Meanwhile, Whirlpool is making good use of Cliff's finely-honed world view.

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Note: This article was originally published in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation 2018 Annual Report. To view the complete 2018 Annual Report, click here.