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Sept. 29, 2003

State Farm Executive in Residence visits Indiana State

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. Indiana State University students gained first-hand knowledge from a top executive with a major insurance company recently through the School of Business Executive in Residence program.

Barbara Wanthal, assistant vice president of systems for State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill., and a 1983 graduate of ISU, visited campus Sept. 16-18 as part of the program.

Wanthal was joined by State Farm employees and ISU alumni Tony Sproles, a 1984 graduate and systems analyst and Brian Llewellyn, a 2001 graduate and financial business analyst. They met with business students during morning roundtable discussions where they gave students a better idea of what to expect when they begin job hunting, as well as what to do as students to prepare themselves for life after college.

They also gave presentations during the management information systems classes, met with business student organizations and gave the presentation “IT Trends in Management in Corporate America” during an open forum.

“ISU is pleased to be a select school for State Farm and the Executive in Residence program helps to improve that partnership,” said Bruce McLaren, associate dean of the School of Business. “The career roundtables were a great opportunity for students to ask any questions they want of executives in the industry. They receive interview tips, advice on what electives to take, and these very observant executives are sitting across from these students and learning more about who they want to meet with again and interview in three weeks at our career fair.”

The visits also benefit faculty in the School of Business, McLaren said, because it can give them new ideas in program and curriculum development.

“We appreciate the support that State Farm has shown Indiana State University and the School of Business,” said Ronald F. Green, dean of the School of Busines. “Their participation in our Executive in Residence program demonstrates the high regard that they hold for our students and our programs. Partnerships such as this are critical to our creating a personalized learning environment where students interact first-hand with those in the corporate world and get a small glimpse of their potential future.”

During her visit, Wanthal gave students advice for finding their own successful careers.

“My dad used to whistle on his way to work and he’d whistle on his way home,” Wanthal said. “He really liked his job. So I’d say whatever you do, put your best into it. Keep your eyes open for every opportunity and continually learn and continually develop yourself.”

Wanthal said if someone had asked her 20 years ago what she would be doing today, she would’ve never dreamed she would have come as far as she has.

Wanthal is responsible for the systems department services area of State Farm Insurance and provides leadership for the internal processes required to run the department. She joined State Farm in 1983 as a data processing programmer and assumed her current position in 2000.

“When I was just out of school I was focused on being a State Farm programmer,” she said. “I enjoyed doing that, but I kept on the lookout for opportunities afforded me and I advanced beyond that. It is beyond what I could’ve imagined.”

Ryan Merriwether, a senior from Evansville majoring in finance and management information systems, said meeting with Wanthal was beneficial because he could ask questions to better help him plan his future.

“It was inspiring too,” he said. “It feels good to know that she is willing to come back to Indiana State to her alma mater to give advice to students who follow her. It also reaffirms my choice to come to ISU because she has been successful in her career.”

Merriwether has done two internships during his college career and says that kind of experiential learning has prepared him for life after graduation.

“Internships are critical in being successful,” he said. “It’s a way to find a happy medium between the academic world and the business world.”

Emily Kixmiller, a senior from Terre Haute majoring in accounting, and David Stout, a senior from Terre Haute majoring in management, agreed the Executive in Residence program is beneficial to business students.

“It helps in getting to know contacts and being able to network,” Kixmiller said. “To be able to meet a top executive from a company like State Farm is a great opportunity.”

Stout agreed the program helps give students a different perspective on what companies expect from employees.

“It gives students some real-world applications and helps us know how everything we learn in the classroom fits into a career,” he said. “It gives us a better idea of what a company’s expectations might be and gives us a chance to put it all together.”

The Executive in Residence program is sponsored by the ISU School of Business, Management Information Systems Association (MISA) and State Farm Insurance Companies.


Bruce McLaren, associate dean of the School of Business,
(812) 237-2086 or

Jennifer Kearns, assistant director, public affairs, (812) 237-8037 or

ISU Public Affairs:
(812) 237-3773 or