KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo senior Mary Harlan hoped to find an internship opportunity at the national Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) conference.
Instead, she landed a job that could lead to a career in her field, public relations and marketing, with The Finish Line.
"I just wanted to talk to them about an internship, because their offices are based in Indianapolis," she said. "I guess they really liked me, because they bypassed the internship and offered me a job."
Harlan said her job, as an assistant manager at the Markland Mall store, is a direct result of her involvement in SIFE as an IU Kokomo business student.
"SIFE does a great job linking us with the connections we need," she said. "I would not have had this career opportunity if I was not in Kokomo's group. Now I have a job that is helping me pay for my last year of school, and it can lead me to a career in my field."
Harlan hopes to advance through the company to the corporate office after she earns her degree in marketing and management this May.
"There are a lot of opportunities for promotions within the company," Harlan said. "I can go through management training, and then be promoted to manage a store. It usually takes a few years to get to the corporate office."
Jason VanAlstine, SIFE sponsor, said Harlan is the most recent IU Kokomo student to earn this kind of opportunity at one of the organization's conferences. Another current student, Lisa Ortega, was hired as an intern at Sam's Club at the regional conference in Chicago.
"These are the kinds of contacts the students can make at conferences," he said. "These companies are sending their best human resources officials to recruit, because they know they are reaching the student leaders of the highest caliber. Mary is an example of that."
SIFE is an international organization that mobilizes college students to make a difference in their communities while learning to be socially responsible business leaders. Students compete by presenting results of community service projects performed during the year. The organization is in the process of changing its name to Enactus, to reaffirm its long-standing commitment to using entrepreneurial action as a catalyst for progress.
IU Kokomo's SIFE volunteer service has included preparing women, housed at the Family Service Association's domestic violence shelter, to enter the workforce. They have also sponsored a canned food drive for Kokomo Urban Outreach and have presented a financial literacy program to IU Kokomo freshmen. The team won its regional to advance to the nationals.
Harlan is glad IU Kokomo's SIFE team competed at nationals, making it possible for her to be at the conference, in Kansas City, and said participating in the club prepared her for the opportunity.
"SIFE lets you take what you are learning in the classroom and apply it in real life," she said. "I actually have managed people through our projects, so I was ready to step into management training. So many people don't know what SIFE can do for you. It opens so many doors."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.