Post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Laura Ellsworth:
In his farewell address last Tuesday, President Obama said, “change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged.”
Breana Owens and her team are far from ordinary, but they’re certainly getting involved.
The team of four freshman women – Breana Owens, Nailah Owens-Johnson, Dorothy Vincent and Simone Watts – beat other Kelley School of Business students for the chance to represent Indiana University at the National Diversity Case Competition Jan. 13-14, before the Martin Luther King holiday.
Owens, a Louisville, Ky. native majoring in business analytics, finance and management, came across the Kelley School of Business in much the same way many students find their college choices – a thorough Google search.
“I Googled summer camps for business and came across the ‘MEET Kelley’ program. I applied and got in, and that was that,” said Owens.
The “MEET Kelley” summer program focuses on introducing students from historically underrepresented groups to business programs at IU Bloomington. Attendees participate in classes taught by Kelley faculty and collaborate in a case competition. It was at “MEET Kelley” that Breana Owens met her teammate and roommate, Nailah Owens-Johnson.
“Being able to have a group of friends already was really important my first semester,” said Owens.
Owens said she’s always considered studying business, and getting to participate on the IU campus before she graduated high school facilitated her goals. The experiences she had at the pre-college program convinced her that Kelley was the right school for her, from the “passionate” faculty to the career opportunities she would be offered.
Owens is also a part of the William R. Fry Scholars Program through Kelley, which focuses on students from historically underrepresented groups. The Fry Scholars Program is what brought Owens together with her other teammates. Juniors and seniors in the program helped the younger team prepare by offering their help leading up to national competition.
The road to the National Diversity Case Competition included late nights and heavy research for the IU team. The team of four first had to prepare and compete to be the IU Kelley School’s representative before they could begin preparing for the national competition.
“We’re a very strong minded group,” said Owens. “We work together well, but there’s definitely times when we’ve worked until four in the morning and we wish we’d done it earlier.”
In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, this year’s case study asked teams to create a strategy to limit the presence of gender-biased signing throughout Target stores. Owens said she and her team were up early, proud to represent the Kelley School at the national competition. Her team placed second overall.
“It was rewarding that we were all freshman. I was just thinking, ‘wow, we have three more years to do competitions now,’” said Owens.
This year’s National Diversity Case Competition was the sixth time Kelley has hosted business students, this year from 35 universities around the country. The event included networking events with corporate sponsors, from Target to Xerox.
Owens said that she felt her team had a “home court advantage” in how well prepared they were to not only give their presentation, but to network with business professionals.
According to Kelley School of Business Undergraduate Career Services class demographics, five percent of the 1,675 students registered with the Career Service office are considered to be from a minority group. With programs such as the Fry Scholars Program and the Diversity Case Competition, and partnerships with other programs across campus, Kelley is working to create greater diversity in business.
Owens said promoting diversity is good for sharing ideas. “Diversity is really important because you might have to work with someone who doesn’t look like you or have the same personality as you, because business is global,” said Owens.