The Advance-Titan

Pulse provides options for young Fox Valley professionals

“When Director of Pulse Young Professionals Network Adrienne Palm moved to Appleton, Wisconsin 10 years ago from San Diego she said she didn’t feel like she belonged there. She felt stuck because she was living in a community that lacked the cultural amenities she desperately desired.

Sitting at her desk in her office at the Fox Cites Chamber of Commerce building, located in the heart of downtown Appleton, Palm explained that she is not originally from the area. She grew up in Phoenix, briefly attended school in Philadelphia and lived in San Diego for a short time before moving to the area.

She was accustomed to living in larger cities with an abundance of diverse community events and experiences. Moving to Appleton, she was overwhelmingly disappointed to find there weren’t a lot of attractive events happening in the community, such as interesting bands, gallery showings or even ethnic restaurants.

“Those were things for me that were problematic and made me want to move to a larger community,” Palm explained. “The lack of interesting events made me dream of getting back to a bigger city and get out of this town.”

It wasn’t until the tall, confident 35-year-old took the job as the Pulse Young Professionals Network director more than two years ago that she finally started to feel at home in the Fox Cities because she was able to help change and expand the local culture.

Once Palm realized she needed to make the best of her living situation, she began looking at the Fox Cities in a new light and realized the area offered some cultural opportunities and had the potential for so many more. From that moment forward her mission was to create events to bolster community engagement, especially events geared towards young professionals in the area.

Pulse Young Professionals Network was started in 2002 by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce. The team is made up of 17 advisory board members who represent a variety of businesses in the area including Ministry Health Care, Nicolet National Bank and Werner Electric. The Leadership Council meets on a monthly basis to brainstorm innovative and unique events to hold in the community.

When Pulse first began, it focused more on traditional networking, including professional and leadership development for young professionals in the community, and provided events such as “Lunch and Learn,” or “After Work Happy Hour Social.”
“It tended to be geared towards attorneys, accountants or those you would consider to be in a traditional professional field,” Palm said. “It was used as an opportunity to do some continuing education and network with one another.”

Since becoming director of Pulse, Palm has changed the way she wants young professional organizations to look. As an organization, Pulse made a conscious choice to move away from the typical professional and leadership roles, and instead focus more on talent attraction and retention.

Jennifer Michiels, a 2013 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduate, decided to join Pulse soon after graduation and is currently on the Events Committee within the organization.

Michiels said Pulse has transformed over the last few years due to the brilliance of Adrienne Palm.

“In my opinion, she has transitioned the organization from your expected formal, exchange business cards networking group to a ‘place’ for young people to build relationships through fun and unexpected opportunities,” Michiels said. “It is more than a networking group, it is helping to create an unquantifiable ‘cool’ place for young people to call home.”

Michiels said she joined Pulse because she was just starting out in the professional world and felt her network of people had gone down significantly after finishing college.

“Pulse provided me with an opportunity to create new professional and personal relationships,” Michiels said. “In my opinion, Pulse just gets what today’s young professionals are looking for. It’s an organization that fosters diversity, the arts, informal relationship building and community involvement.”

Palm said hosting events that enrich the lives of young community members is what will make them stay in the area versus moving to a larger city that often offers more diverse cultural experiences.

“Wanting cool things in your community is not limited to young people, but it definitely is a factor in young people staying here versus moving away,” Palm said. “Creating the kind of community [everyone] wants to be a part of is really the driving force behind everything we do. Pulse looks at how we can create the kind of community we want to call home and are willing to stay in, not just willing, but excited to stay in.”

Palm said what it means to be a professional in today’s world is not quite the narrow definition it once was.

“If you look at those not in the typical professional fields, and include those in the arts or those who don’t wear a suit and tie to work, you realized they are just as important to the ecosystem of our community as a whole, and those people need the same resources, assistance and networking opportunities as those in a more traditional field,” Palm said.

Palm said she wanted to expand what the definition of young professional means in the community, because a lot of individuals, when they hear the term professional, herself included, think “Well, those aren’t my people. That is not where I belong.”

“[The term professional] can take on this exclusionary tone and thought that people have to dress a certain way, be doing a certain thing, have a master’s degree, and I don’t think a lot of people do,” Palm said.
Palm said her goal was to change the narrative of what Pulse is in order to move away from the traditional networking title, be more inclusive and open the doors to everyone in the community.

“When people get together in the same groups or network with like-minded people, it doesn’t really challenge anyone, but when you bring together people who are from all different backgrounds, and are doing different things with their lives, but are equally committed to this community, or want to see this community thrive, I think there is something really powerful in that,” Palm said.

Throughout the year, Pulse hosts a variety of events for young professionals and members of the community to attend, engage with the community and expand their cultural horizons.

“Bazaar After Dark,” was a night market event held at the end of September on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Appleton. During the event, a live mural was put up by a local artist. The night also included live music, food, art vendors, fire dancers, face painters and even multiple chalkboards for members of the community to write dreams for Wisconsin Avenue on.

Palm said Pulse, along with other local business and the city of Appleton decided to host an event on Wisconsin Avenue because it is an area that is struggling economically. She said the area has the highest density of minority-owned businesses in the community, and while there are a lot of great businesses located in that area, there are also quite a few vacancies.

“There is a perception that [the area] is somehow more dangerous, and I think some of that is, I hate to say it, based on racism and fear or ignorance of some of the businesses that exist there,” Palm said. “We wanted to figure out a way we can change that and make the area a more economically viable and attractive place for businesses to go, so we came up with the event ‘Bazaar After Dark.’”

Trina Doxtator, chairwoman of the Pulse advisory board and development manager for St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, said the event is the perfect illustration of the new collaborative approach Pulse is taking to host events that benefits all members of the community.

“Bazaar After Dark’ is a great example of thinking outside the box in terms of networking, bringing the community together and supporting local businesses,” Doxtator said. “The results from the event and the turnout were amazing.”
Palm said the idea behind the event was to create a spectacle so that the community couldn’t ignore what they were trying to do.

“It became a community effort, which was really exciting, and I think there was a lot of networking that happened as well,” Palm said. “From CEOs to those working trade jobs, a variety of people in the industry came to the event, which is exactly what we wanted: a diverse group of people and to bring some attention to Wisconsin Avenue.”

Palm said her hope and desire is that all of the events Pulse hosts are connecting people, and not just connecting with people for professional advancement, but also with those who are going to be a part of their personal life.

“I think that [Pulse] at its core is all about creating a sense of community, connections and getting people to interact with each other in new and interesting ways,” Palm said. “To help them grow personally and professionally, but in a way that is a little more organic and real to their life, and something they want to be a part of whether or not what they wear or their job title.”

Michiels said Pulse has been an invaluable tool for her. She has built many relationships through Pulse events and said she has transformed many of those relationships into business opportunities.

“Personally, Pulse has contributed to ‘lighting a fire’ within me to be a part of making the Fox Cities a ‘cool’ place for young professionals to call home,” Michiels said. “The Fox Cities has so much to offer, and I believe Pulse helps bring that to light.”

Palm said being a part of Pulse has been the most rewarding and fulfilling thing she has ever done because it has changed her life, and she now loves being a part of the Fox Cities community.

“I love traveling, going to other places [and seeing] the world, but Appleton and the Fox Cities are home, and that is in part because my eyes have been opened to all of the things we already have here that are amazing, and then it is in part because I realized I can have a role in what it looks like in five or 10 or 15 years, and that is super exciting to me, and I hope it is exciting for other people too,” Palm said.”

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Pulse provides options for young Fox Valley professionals