Kelley Biz Blog: Why did you choose to give back to Kelley, both with your time and monetarily?
Jamie Visker, BS’91, MBA’97: While attending the Kelley School at IUPUI for my undergraduate degree, I had the unique opportunity to work at IBM in the Indianapolis branch. Following graduation with my undergraduate degree in 1991, I decided to work for smaller companies where I felt I could make a bigger difference.
I wanted to expand my options, so I enrolled in the MBA program in January 1995 and graduated in May of 1997. I began my first large entrepreneurial venture in 1998 with humbling results. I recovered and purchased a manufacturing company in Sept 2002, which I still own today. In between, I have started and purchased a number of companies and lived through the economic Armageddon of 2008. I have always felt that my Kelley education helped provide great footing for what entrepreneurship throws at a person.
As an alumnus, I feel great about sharing these experiences with current students to put a real face on what entrepreneurship is. To that end, I have spoken to MBA students in Indianapolis to share a bit about my situation and how I was able to navigate through certain situations. Professor Dan DeHayes had a curriculum dealing with turnaround management, and he asked me to share my experiences navigating difficult situations. I have also spoken with Siri Terjesen’s Honors I-Core classes in Bloomington.
As for the financial support, I felt so positive about my experiences at Kelley in Indianapolis I wanted to support students in that program. My wife Atlanta (an IUPUI grad) and I liked the perpetual nature of the Rise Scholarships, and we were able to fund three of those, along with a 50% match from the IU Foundation. To date, six students have been able to study internationally with the financial support of these scholarships. Both Atlanta and I are thrilled to be able to give that experience to a student who might not be able to study abroad without it.
Receiving thank you letters from the students who have been awarded the scholarships has been a real treat for us. To hear about their situations and what they were able to do with the award is extremely gratifying. The fact that this will continue year after year provides a great recurring feeling of gratitude.
We love the perpetual nature of the gift. Doing something that benefits students for years to come and also allows us to be a part of it, by hearing the stories of the recipients is wonderful. The result for us is the gift gives back to the Visker family.
Atlanta Visker: I feel IU is different from other colleges in the friendly way that Hoosiers relate to one another. When Jamie compares his Kelley experiences to his peer’s educations, he notices an emphasis on win-win solutions to conflicts. His education prepared him to solve conflicts where everyone gets a little bit of what they need, instead of an emphasis on winning at all costs. Of course, having been trained as a teacher and a librarian, I also look solutions that work for everyone. We often worked in groups in the different classes that we attended, and learned people skills that we use every day. Traveling widely and living in South Florida, we really notice the different ways that people relate to one another and feel that our experiences at IU were a great way to start. I am happy to encourage high school students to check out IU, because their education will help all of us when they get out into the world as IU graduates.
I have represented IU as an alumni representative at my son’s high school, the A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. I believe I was well-prepared for the careers I’ve held because of my education, and I am enthusiastic about students from Florida heading to Indiana for their educations.
Jamie and I both read the thank you notes from the students who have received our scholarships, and we enjoy hearing from them. I would recommend giving a Rise scholarship to other IUPUI alumni because it connects us to the future and connects us to our past.
I think that investing in college scholarships is one of the best, sure-fire ways to make a difference for our future. It’s not just about getting good jobs after we graduate, (although try getting a good one nowadays without a degree.) A college education builds people who can solve challenging problems, communicate clearly and succeed in a constantly changing world.
By investing in future IU students, Jamie and I play a part in creating a more thoughtful, adaptive and meaningful future. We believe that our experiences at IU prepared us for a life as entrepreneurs by giving us the people skills and knowledge of how the world works to adapt, survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.