Indiana State University Newsroom

Center helps students hone skills, develop professional networks

May 16, 2011

In a job interview that Indiana State graduate Kyle Neisen experienced last year, a question asked of him immediately reminded him of a job in high school - and one of several conversations he had to prepare him for the interview.

Neisen was among the several hundred business students who utilized the Center for Student Professional Development in the Scott College of Business at ISU. He sought help from the center to prepare him for job interviews with MSD Ignition in El Paso, Tex. His preparation included meetings and conversations with Kim LaGrange, coordinator for the center, who advised him on how a variety of his past experiences, such as a high school job, could be assets in job interviews.

"If it wasn't for her pushing for me to do things like that, then I never would've thought of that high school job," said Neisen, marketing specialist for MSD Ignition. "It didn't come to mind as résumé worthy, necessarily."

Since Neisen was trying to break into the motorsports industry, his needs were different than other students who might have applied to companies that had established recruiting policies, LaGrange said.

"He had to work a lot harder, and he had to be a lot more creative and innovative, and really put himself out there for networking," LaGrange said. "So we could coach him in a one-on-one setting on how to do that."

The Center for Student Professional Development helps ISU business students strengthen their professional and networking skills. Programming from the center includes events where students can interact with business professionals, such as the executive dining express, which happens twice a year. The center also has a variety of workshops, including several that provide advice for interviews and public speaking.

"We know that business students often find themselves in circumstances where they walk into a reception or a professional event of some type where they know no one, and it can be a little intimidating for students to walk up to someone that they don't know, introduce themselves and start making conversations," LaGrange said, "so we actually have a workshop where we teach students how to handle that sort of situation."

A dozen students participated in a mentoring program the center started this spring. Business professionals volunteered to mentor the students, which includes perspective on job searching and work within their perspective industry.

Iboni Borden-Pittman, a junior from Zion, Ill., majoring in management information systems, teamed up with Jackie Zuerner, a business analyst with Liberty Mutual Insurance who graduated from Indiana State in 2007. Through the course of the semester they've had several e-mail conversations and met to discuss different things.

Zuerner plans on helping Borden-Pittman with her résumé, provide insight into job searching and possibly even help her network for a job.

In the program, Borden-Pittman was hoping to meet "somebody that could help me in my field of study to just be successful in life, take their experience and kind of use it to guide me through life a little bit," she said. She is pleased with how the program has been going.

Zuerner wants to share her experiences with college students about what it's been like to be a young professional, since she's been out of college for less than five years.

"I've been in my career almost four years, and when I first started out, I had a mentor," Zuerner said, "and I would still consider her today to be a mentor."

Zuerner and Borden-Pittman expect their developing relationship to continue into Borden-Pittman's senior year and beyond.

Center officials hope to expand the mentoring program this fall, LaGrange said. They have not yet determined the number of students that will be part of the program, though they expect it will be offered to juniors in the Scott College.

More students seem to be taking notice of the center. The number of students visiting the center for services and events has been increasing the past several years, LaGrange said. More than 625 students visited the center during the 2010-2011 academic year.

"Students are getting more aware of us being here, and what we do, and we'd like to think that the quality of programs is good," LaGrange said, "so students who use our services or come to our events have a positive experience, and tell their friends, and that helps bring more students."

The center has teamed up with some business professors to include opportunities to utilize some of the center's programming in their classes. Students enrolled in those classes visit the center's programs, and also receive the additional career preparation they would not have had otherwise.

For students and recent graduates such as Neisen, preparation at the center can help lead to a successful job search. Students need to work hard during their search, especially in the current job market, Neisen said.

"It is a great resource for all the students that can go to it, but just because you have great resources doesn't mean you can seal the deal," he added. "But for those that are willing to use it as a tool ... it is a great resource."

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Gerry Dick, Indiana State University graduate and host of INside Indiana Business, talks with ISU students during an event hosted by the Center for Student Professional Development. The center organizes and hosts events to help ISU business students strengthen their professional and networking skills.

Photo: (ISU/Bethany Baker)
ISU alumnus John Perry, who is senior vice president and trust officer for Terre Haute Savings Bank, talks with an Indiana State student during a networking event last year hosted by the Center for Student Professional Development. The center organizes and hosts events to help ISU business students strengthen their professional and networking skills.

Contact: Kim LaGrange, coordinator, Center for Professional Student Development, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812.237.4580 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or