Indiana State University Newsroom

Speakers set for Indiana State commencement

December 10, 2010

An alumnus who heads a major automotive company and a soon-to-be alumna with a desire to own her own greeting card company will be the featured speakers during Indiana State University's commencement ceremony on Dec. 18.

Mark Barnes, chief operating officer for Volkswagen of America, and Natasha Wills, a graduating senior with a public relations major and creative writing minor, will speak during the noon ceremony at Indiana State's Hulman Center.

Barnes said it is an honor to be a part of winter commencement.

"Indiana State provided me as well as all graduates with the tools to get out and be successful," he said. "I feel privileged to be able to address this latest group of graduates."

Barnes, a 1981 graduate in music business with a minor in marketing, has followed his passion for music and cars most of his life. Barnes, who joined Volkswagen in 2007, is responsible for setting the strategic direction, definition and development of customer service, sales and aftersales for the company.

Barnes remembers a time at Indiana State when all he wanted to do was play the drums. While he still occasionally plays the drums, he also has more than 25 years of automotive industry experience since beginning as a parts analyst for Ford.

Prior to joining Volkswagen, Barnes served as director of the western region business center for Chrysler. Before that, Barnes was vice president for national sales at Hyundai Motor America. He has also held senior sales and management positions at Nissan North America including roles in regional marketing and dealer operations.

Barnes describes himself as "just a boy from Indiana who liked looking at and driving cars."

Wills, who enjoys writing poetry, centers her speech around a poem she wrote while at Indiana State.

"Poetry is such a big passion of mine. I wanted to share it," the Jasonville native said. "I love capturing a single moment and making it so beautiful and rich."

Wills - the daughter of Alex Wills of Portland, Ore., and Carl and Cindy Fulk of Jasonville - said she eventually plans to go to graduate school, but she has some other plans first.

"I want to spend time with my family and take some time and travel," she said.

Eventually though, she wants to own a greeting card company that produces personal cards.

"People can send in their own photos and they can have them individualized," she said.

She feels that Indiana State has well prepared her for her future, wherever it might lead.

"ISU is preparing us for the real world and makes us want to be there," she said. "I feel very confident in the things I could do after getting my degree."

ISU's commencement will be broadcast online, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The processional of graduates is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. followed by the commencement ceremonies at noon. To watch, click on the "Commencement Broadcast" link on the left side of the ISU home page ( There is no fee to watch the graduation exercises.

Mark Barnes

Natasha Wills

Contact: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or