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Dick McCracken
Kelley School

George Vlahakis

Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2002

MBA students turn entrepreneurial to help classmates find jobs in tough market

EDITORS: Contact information is available for reporters interested in interviewing the students quoted in this release.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- While the recent recession has made securing employment after graduation more difficult for many college students, MBA students have been hit particularly hard this year. In fact, the job market for these graduate business students is only half of what it was just two years ago, according to job placement officials in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

With this in mind, four second-year MBA students at the Kelley School who already have jobs have turned entrepreneurial in helping their classmates also secure employment. They were honored recently by the school with the first annual Kelley Graduate Career Services Leadership Awards.

"In the traditionally highly competitive business culture and one that is not exactly known for its philanthropy, these students have given of themselves in a way that just blows my mind," said Dick McCracken, director of Graduate Career Services at the Kelley School. "We're learning that these kinds of partnerships are part of a new trend emerging in a harsh, recessionary job market.

"That's especially true for MBAs, even more so than for undergraduates," McCracken said. "Top-tier MBA programs like ours have been very dependent on the recent boom in high tech, consulting and banking. Those industries have just suffered terribly. So as a consequence, all MBA programs are targeting the same employment base."

In the spring of 2000, 94 percent of Kelley School MBA graduates had job offers at graduation. Today, that number is close to 50 percent, which is in line with other top-tier MBA programs, McCracken said.

"Our students who were involved in these new partnerships supported outreach to new employer contacts and student preparation for interviews. Those were very important to us this year," he said.

One student created a major recruiting opportunity in Shanghai. Another student led an effort to reach out to Texas-based energy companies. Two of these companies, Reliant Inc. and Conoco/Phillips, will be on campus next week to meet with Kelley School administrators for the first time.

"They've created a legacy that we want to advocate and nurture for future generations of Kelley students," McCracken said.

One of the students, Kristina Alkires from Centerview, Mo., summed up her feelings and those of her fellow students: "While we were all very honored by the award, I think the common theme among the group was that everyone understood why the other three were chosen, but did not know why they personally were selected."

Here are the students and their stories:

Kristina Alkire

As most students were taking an eagerly awaited break from school last summer, Kris Alkire was putting together a manual and orientation package that every first-year Kelley MBA student now receives.

"When I arrived at Kelley, I was very confused by all of the various professional development programs," Alkire recalled. "There was never a clear guideline on how an MBA could develop leadership and professional skills outside of the classroom. I formed a committee and the MBA Professional Development Program was created to give students information that previous classes had to figure out on their own."

Alkire also spearheaded the "Kelley Kick-Off," a major event hosting 15 recruiters who did mock interviews with 200 students. She organized this event during her Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday breaks.

"The professional development guide and Kelley Kick-Off were my way of giving back to Kelley and helping others to achieve their personal goals. I believe that I have an obligation to help others," Alkire said.

Alkire has accepted employment with Sears in Chicago.

Sanford "Sandy" Fink

"Nothing ever seemed to come easy to me. I always had to work harder than everybody else," Sandy Fink said. "For the first time, I just got it ... It was my way of giving back to the school and my classmates for all that they had given me."

As president of the Marketing Network at the Kelley School of Business, Fink reached out to numerous companies, traveling on his own time and at his own expense to cultivate recruiters for his approximately 300 fellow students. As a result, companies such as Becton Dickinson, Nabisco and Reckitt Benckiser are now firmly established with Kelley, and the foundation has been laid with other companies.

Fink, from Livingston, N.J., also acted as a career coach, assisting first-year MBA students with resumes and mock interviews. Further, he conducted several workshops on the self-directed search process and organized several panel discussions about the interview and internship experience.

"The most rewarding aspect is having the opportunity to open doors for my classmates," he said.

After graduation, Fink will begin working for Nabisco/Kraft in New Jersey.

Paul Moran

After having accepted employment with American Electric Power, Paul Moran still decided to use his personal time to help build a job network for his classmates by bringing executive speakers and guests to the Kelley School from across the country.

Moran, of Longmeadow, Mass., also launched and funded the school's Energy Club, which will eventually become a full-fledged focus academy. He also helped with job recruiting treks such as the Kelley Lone Star Reception in Dallas, paying his own expenses to volunteer at this outreach event forming job connections.

"I wanted to give something back to the Kelley community in appreciation of what Kelley has given me and in recognition that success at Kelley is a team effort," Moran said.

John Ren

Compounding a sour job market has been the impact that the attacks of Sept. 11 have had on international recruiting. Students have found that many companies are even more restrictive on their hiring of international students due to work authorization laws. Although John Ren did not even attend, he organized a reception to reach out to employers in his homeland, the People's Republic of China, and assisted his 19 fellow Chinese students in getting interviews there.

He submitted the proposal and budget, arranged hotels and translators, and chaired the facilitation team that assisted with a recruiting event in Shanghai that hosted more than 60 companies, all on his personal time. He also located and negotiated the fee for the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai to market the event to local companies.

"This is the most creative thing this office has ever done," McCracken said.

Ren will be working for Ecolab in St. Paul, Minn., after graduation.