University Outreach

Employer Connect Breakfast Serves Up A Win-Win-Win Combination

IU Southeast welcomed Kentuckiana business partners to the launch of Employer Connect, a new initiative that expands the range of options available to students wishing to explore their career options, and gives employers a one-stop destination for tapping IU Southeast resources and developing student talent.

Ready for the real world

Assembled for the Employer Connect Breakfast rollout was a who’s-who of some three dozen Kentuckiana enterprises and organizations.

In her welcoming remarks, Acting Chancellor Dr. Kathryn Girten stressed IU Southeast’s determination to evolve in response to a changing economy by developing new programs that prepare students for well-paying jobs, challenging careers and constructive citizenship.

These include digital marketing, cybersecurity, business analytics, multimedia journalism, mental health counseling, and many more.

Half of all offerings are available in online or hybrid formats, while collaborative courses enable students to leverage the combined academic mojo of nine campuses, Girten noted.

“IU Southeast is not an ivory tower,” Girten said. “It is a place where students of all majors acquire practical skills and real-life experiences, so that when they graduate, they are ready and able to contribute.”

Acting Chancellor Kathy Girten

Acting Chancellor Dr. Kathryn Girten welcomes guests to campus

Employer Connect Breakfast

Businesses gather to learn about ways to work with IU Southeast

Dr. Kelly Ryan

Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Kelly Ryan introduces the Employer Connect project

Building on a tradition

They acquire key career skills by taking advantage of hands-on and service learning, internships, mentoring, study abroad, and other opportunities.

Instructors routinely use their professional connections to build career readiness. Print students learn how to finance an art studio. Science education students learn how to create professional Linked-In profiles. Theater students get stage time in local productions alongside working actors.

Recently Christy Burge, lecturer of accounting and accounting industry veteran, organized a field trip to three Louisville accounting firms. The impact on students’ career plans was apparent in their feedback.

“This trip provided contacts and opportunities I might not have otherwise considered.”

“Learning about different career paths … helped me understand better what I could do with my major.”

“The final visit showed the variety of subjects that someone could get involved in with an accounting degree.”

The Office of Academic Affairs encourages and supports a growing number of excursions. Nursing students traveled to Gray, Tennessee, to serve at a free medical, dental and vision clinic. Voice students will sing at the National Association of Teachers of Singing auditions in Memphis, Tennessee. Design students will attend the Creative South Conference in Columbus Georgia, which is focused on creative thinking in field of art and design.

IU Southeast also partners with the business community by offering professional development. Since 1999 School of Business faculty have taught leadership, management, finance and other subjects to employees of Louisville Gas and Electric (LGE/KU) as part of the LGE/KU and IU Southeast Frontline Leaders Program. Some 500 LGE/KU employees In the Generation, Transmission and Distribution areas have taken part in the 2.5-year program. Participation is by nomination only, according to Courtney Pickel, training consultant and guest panelist; those participating are new Front Line Leaders or those that have been nominated as potential future Front Line Leaders.

“Many participants have gone on to take leadership roles outside of Generation,” Pickel said. “At this point, most of the business has a leader who has been a participant or is currently a participant.”

Dave with Falls of the Ohio State Park

Panelists Dale Brown of Falls of the Ohio State Park and Courtney Pickel of LGE/KU share experiences of working with IU Southeast

Nicole Fitzpatrick with Louisville Tourism

Nicole Fitzpatrick of Louisville Tourism makes a point

School of Business Professor of Management Ken Harris

IU Southeast management professor Ken Harris leads the Q&A

A win-win-win

IU Southeast leadership has long recognized that high-impact practices such as internships and experiential learning are among the most effective ways to attract and retain students, and it has vigorously supported them.

This support is especially critical today, with college enrollment declining nationwide as a result of the pandemic. But even without Covid, Southern Indiana faces demographic headwinds: The current drop in the number of high school graduates impacts IU Southeast and the economy of the entire region.

To widen enrollment, the campus began to identify and address financial and other barriers to college experienced by the region’s prospective students.

“It came to light that many of the barriers faced by young talent could be solved by connecting them to community resources,” said Donna Reed, director of the IU Southeast Career Development Center (CDC).

Conversations about how to take a more active role in linking students with employers attracted faculty, academic deans, and the Offices of Academic Affairs, Community Engagement and Development. Through building on existing high-impact academic practices and the services already provided by the CDC, and adding new ways for businesses to interact with campus, Employer Connect was born.

At the launch event, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Kelly Ryan explained the nuts and bolts of Employer Connect and its website (, an important tool through which employers can learn more about partnership opportunities and tap the potential of IU Southeast.

Employer Connect promises to be a win-win-win: Students gain skills and experience through internships and mentoring; employers gain a chance to invest in their own future and even current employees through hosting interns and professional development; and the region gains a workforce that plows its energy, expertise and vision back into the community.

Employer Connect handshake

Professionals network at the Employer Connect Breakfast

Director of Career Development Donna Reed

Donna Reed, director of the Career Development Center, invites attendees to partner with IU Southeast

Jim Epperson with Southern Indiana Tourism

Jim Epperson of Southern Indiana Tourism asks a question during the Q&A

Dreaming big

“We create innovative thinkers at IU Southeast who are ready to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Joe Glover, interim vice chancellor of advancement, alumni, and external affairs. “This program allows our business leaders to join us in these educational efforts.”

If the Q&A at the launch event is any indication, employer interest in Employer Connect is already running high, with attendees seeking information on how to manage interns, integrate their learning goals meaningfully, and more.

“Employer Connect allows our community to raise up the next generation equitably without debt, experience, or personal obstacles to hold them back,” Reed said. “When we dream big, we dream better, and with purpose.”

Pooling the capacities of the Career Development Center (CDC), academic deans, faculty, and the Offices of Academic Affairs, Community Engagement and Development, Employer Connect ( is a promising new pathway to prosperity for students, employers and the region.