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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Building community partnerships and preparing the future business leaders of tomorrow

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Colleges and universities are committed to building partnerships that help shape students’ lives, and that includes community engagement. Such is the case with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) and the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, which is located on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. For the past five years, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students have enrolled in the CLD’s Business Orientation Project (BOP) and spent nearly a dozen Saturdays on the IUPUI campus to help shape their educational futures.

The CLD’s mission is to foster the advancement of minority youth in central Indiana as future professional, business and community leaders by providing experiences that encourage personal development and educational attainment. It started back in the mid-1970s when Indianapolis leaders identified a number of reasons African-American youth weren’t graduating from high school, entering college or finding rewarding careers. The center’s leaders discovered that youth didn’t value education as a goal, and they weren’t aware of the options available to them. 

Thus, the birth of the Center for Leadership Development, which worked to respond to the obstacles facing minority youth. BOP is among the center’s many programs and events. During these students’ weeks on campus, local business leaders and educators guide them to help the students set business career goals. They learn about the business world, how to write business plans, how to communicate with third parties and to interview successfully.

The program guides, encourages and empowers youth toward a college career. Because BOP is hosted on a college campus, participating youth get a glimpse of what their futures will look like. As the Kelley liaison to the program, I encourage participants to ask me questions and to talk with me along the way. I hope I am a role model for these youth — and all youth — by imparting my knowledge and showing them the route I took to be successful. 

I asked Kelley Indianapolis’ Executive Dean of Faculty and Research Ken Carow about the program and the benefits it provides these students.

“This program prepares students with life skills that are beneficial no matter what careers they seek,” Carow told me.

“CLD specializes in college preparedness, and I am impressed each time I have attended a CLD event. Students are welcoming, articulate and professional. They ask very relevant questions that set them up for success in college. Most of all, you can see the students have a high level of self-confidence,” he added. “When students combine self-confidence with knowledge, the sky is the limit on their potential. The Kelley School is proud to work with and sponsor CLD.”

If you talk to those who work with the Center for Leadership Development, they’ll tell you that learning directly from community business leaders makes a big impact on youth.

“Students are extremely excited to interact with and learn from central Indiana business leaders,” said Jonathan Jones, program coordinator at CLD. “Not only are students learning about various careers fields, but they are also recognizing the value of their own professional brands and how they are perceived by others. It is a valuable lesson in professionalism that will help students to pursue viable careers and have successful futures.

“Business is about creating the type of conditions and practices that are suitable for growth and profit. Learning how to do that and the impact industry decisions can have on people, communities and adjacent environments is incredibly important. This is why business is everything, and everything is business.”

The CLD and Kelley Indianapolis partnership is one example of the impact that emerges when universities and community organizations work together to boost student success and future business leaders in our community.

The CLD has identified five principles for success — values it says develop and prepare youth for academic achievement, career success and community service.

Those five principles are character development, educational excellence, leadership effectiveness, community service and career achievement. I’m encouraged about the future here in Indianapolis — especially about these future business leaders of tomorrow.


Darrell Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical associate professor of management and director of diversity at Indiana University Kelley School of Business Indianapolis.


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