2020 Best & Brightest: Alexa Austin, Indiana University (Kelley)

Alexa Austin

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“Hey, Alexa” may prompt landmark trivia, yoga pose instructions, or directions to nearest frozen yogurt.”

Fun fact about yourself: Due to an incident involving attempted flight, a lesson in gravity, and an unfortunate encounter with a coffee table near the launching pad (read couch arm), I broke my nose when I was five. If you look closely, you’ll see it’s still crooked.

Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

High School: Lawrence Central High School

Major: Finance, Marketing

Favorite Business Course: Consumer Behavior (at Kelley and at London School of Economics)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Involvement

  • Kelley Undergraduate Consulting Workshop: Rigorous program for 30 faculty-selected students, designed to build skills in analysis, presentation, and teamwork and to develop a detailed knowledge of the consulting industry
  • Honors Leadership Team: One of 42 seniors annually selected to mentor up to 12 sophomore and junior Kelley students in academic, professional and extracurricular endeavors.
  • Kelley School of Business Dean’s Insight Board: Faculty nominated and student selected for a 10-student advisory board that researches strategic questions for Dean Kesner and presents findings to the Dean’s Council, served as human resources director.
  • Kelley Undergraduate Mental Health Task Force: One of 10 representatives from faculty-identified key Kelley organizations to advance a culture of mental health by reassessing current initiatives, developing programming, and collaborating on respective organization-led efforts.
  • Indiana University Women in Business: Professional Development Director (17-18), Human Resources Director (18-19), Mentorship (19-20)
  • Indiana University Dance Marathon Morale Committee Line Dance Leader: One of 7 to lead 3000+ participants in learning the student-cut and choreographed 11-minute line dance during a 36-hour no-sit marathon reaching record-breaking annual organization-wide fundraising totals of more than $4 million to financially support and honor the patients at Riley Hospital for Children.
  • A205 Student Assistant: Professor selected after successful completion to assist with grading and proctoring the Honors Managerial Accounting course in paid position through the undergraduate office.

Awards

  • Kelley Scholar: One of 11 students annually awarded Kelley’s premier undergraduate business scholarship
  • Ashley Louise Crouse (ALC) Award Nominee (One of 20 selected from 3000+ participants to be honored for embodying the ALC legacy: “For every person you meet, imagine they are wearing a necklace that says ‘Do what you can to make me feel special.”)
  • Top 1% of graduating seniors in the Kelley Class of 2020
  • Rawles Key Award Nominee for outstanding academic achievement and significant contribution to Indiana University and the broader community
  • National Merit Finalist & Scholarship Recipient
  • Indiana Academic All-Star
  • National AP Scholar
  • Indiana University Provost Scholar

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Lawrence Township School Foundation, Brand Development and Social Media Strategy Intern (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Deloitte Consulting, Strategy & Operations Summer Scholar (Chicago, Illinois)

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain & Company, Associate Consultant

What company do you admire the most? When I think about companies that have shaped my view of the business world today and what I seek, I flash back to freshman year communications class where a classmate presented on Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin as the “Most Inspirational Business People.” Not only did that classmate later become a close friend, she also introduced me to the product that single-handedly got me through pop-quiz extra credit, cold-call application questions, and short-answer examples in a crunch. Beyond the personal value I’ve derived, TheSkimm newsletter catalyzed a shift in how we think about news intake. From founders that make every reader feel like a personal friend to the one-stop-shop subscription product offering that meets the consumer where she is, TheSkimm transformed my inbox and my desire to follow daily news. Watching a company so effectively capture their target audience by showing them what they need and continuing to innovate with the female millennial lifestyle in mind. Of course, I also love that it is female-lead and transparent about the necessary sacrifice and constant hustle of start-up life.

Who is your favorite professor? At the Kelley School, it’s impossible to choose one professor based on the value derived from his/her class. Professor Joel Rubin’s class gave me countless frameworks to structure my thinking and an insatiable curiosity to crack the consulting code. Professor Shelli Yoder’s class developed my personal brand and approach to relationship-building. Professor Brian P. Miller turned managerial accounting into a gateway to business discussions and professional development mentorship.

What did you enjoy most about your business school?  For me, the best of Kelley extends far beyond the walls of Hodge Hall. On a night in Chiang Mai, Thailand, during my semester enrolled at the University of Sydney, I spied a man in a simple white tank with a red “IU” logo on the breast. Offering a polite smile and obligatory, “Go Hoosiers” you expect to continue your jet-lagged wander. Instead, he stops, “Are you a Hoosier?” After discovering he was a ’74 business school graduate who returned to Thailand to take over his family’s business, he offered tourism advice. We captured the encounter with a quick picture on my cell phone texted to the KSB Abroad Advisor who visited the Kelley students in Sydney a week earlier. The unique value of Hoosier Hospitality in a global business environment creates a culture that crosses oceans.

My sole hesitation as an Indianapolis native coming to the Kelley School of Business was a personal perception of a failure to broaden my horizons by going to my state school. Luckily, I quickly realized that the opportunities at the Kelley School extend far beyond Bloomington, Indiana. Through the Kelley School of Business, I studied in Asia, South America, Europe and Australia – from a study tour of India after freshman year to a sophomore trip to Peru to summer school at the London School of Economics to a semester at the University of Sydney. The Kelley global education prompts me to consider a multi-faceted view of business principles and their applications in the local and global economies while maintaining strong ties to Hoosiers at home or abroad.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?  You are only as successful as the mentors you seek. Before IU, I had not seen formal mentorship applied in the context of business. I realized the value of mentorship in my first semester when I was assigned a mentor. She was proactive in reaching out to me, offered her time generously and took the time outside of coffee chats and many texts full of questions to get to know my personality and my aspirations. She never pressured me to pursue a certain involvement or seek a specific career; instead, she connected me to her established Kelley web that could further both the breadth and depth of my interests. I rounded out my senior year with an extensive network of people I consider either personal or professional (or both!) mentors. Observing the many mentor/mentee relationships, I am indebted to the faculty, staff, and upperclassmen who invested in me as a young business student. Now I’ve had the privilege of paying it forward to the current Kelley underclassmen seeking the same direction and advice. It’s a brilliant, sustainable strategy with far-reaching benefits.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I want to leave a legacy as “the girl who’s still dancing.” For 15 years I was a competitive ballerina and had to find ways to expand my interests when I got to college. While staying true to my classical roots, I branched out to discover Pilates, yoga and jogging to my favorite tunes. At the same time, I discovered my passion for Indiana University Dance Marathon and joined the Morale Committee, a hype squad for the thousands of students and Riley Hospital for Children patients during their 36-hour marathon held annually in the Fall.

After not securing a formal leadership position in the organization, I had to reimagine what my role could be. Literally, I wanted to continue to find innovative ways to stay connected to the dance community because that fuels my fire. More figuratively, I wanted to still be dancing in the face of adversity; I always want to anchor myself with dedication, resilience and a light-heart. This year, I found that as a line dance teacher. Forwards and backward, left and right, the Line Dance was my purpose for the first semester. I worked with a team of 20 fellow amateur music editors to piece together a 12-minute crowd pleaser, choreographed with 79 colorful individuals every Wednesday night in the basement of a fraternity facility and created a Sunday training regimen to condition and teach the committee members. I was selected as the first of nine to lead the line dance from the stage at the IU Tennis Center in front of approximately 4,000 student participants, Riley Children’s Foundation representatives, patients and families and my own family and friends. The adrenaline of finding my way back to the stage, turning my perceived failed formal leadership into an opportunity to discover something I truly love and doing so with 79 best friends supporting me will be a capstone in my IU experience.

Which classmate do you most admire? From friends who bring home a kangaroo-shaped first place trophy from an international case competition to organization members turning a poor representation of our school into a trademarked, multi-thousand-dollar cause, admirable classmates are easy to find in Hodge Hall. The peer who has inspired me most, however, is someone I’m lucky to call a dear friend, Sophia Metzger.

Meeting at a pre-Kelley event as seniors in high school, I’ve had the joy and honor of growing up with Soph. An avocado enthusiast, coveted mentor, and fellow yogi, Sophia never shied away from seeking exactly what she wanted and pursuing it. She has an effortless air of encouraging everyone to be the best version of themselves and finds a way to reflect her light off others, making us all shine brighter. From being the most generous study spot host to organizing all-female dinners, she creates a sense of family in every community she touches. As the only incoming Indiana student at her future employer, I have no doubt she will excel not only in her work and professional development but also as an irreplaceable asset to the teams and culture.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Any perceived success I owe to my parents. Providing an environment that fostered relationships, encouraged failure, and ensured constant growth drove me to surround myself with the kindest people, push myself to the edge of comfort and remind myself to always give it my all.

As I grew up, the greatest advice they gave came from being vulnerable with their own failures. Being transparent about the sacrifice that success requires and the hidden lessons in disappointment provided a perspective that kept me grounded yet hungry for more.  When they were my age, they struggled with the same thing I do: balance in personal and professional lives. My mom was establishing healthy habits via running marathons and learning to cook, excelling in her academics and securing a prestigious position at her first company. At the same time, she was developing relationships with the people around her that have survived the test of time.  Meanwhile, my dad was leaving his first corporate job to start his own marketing company and meeting people who would become his greatest career mentors in diverse fields and positions for the next 40 years of his life. Their journeys remind me to practice gratitude and maximize on the opportunities I earn. They embody what it means to lead by example.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Maximizing loyalty perks from the travel associated with the consulting lifestyle to see the Seven Wonders of the World (Kelley helped me check off the Roman Colosseum, Taj Mahal, and Machu Picchu)
  • Committing to my new home city by training, entering, and completing the Chicago Marathon

What are your hobbies? Riding the emotional roller coaster that is being an unconditional IU basketball fan, practicing yoga with plans to be certified in Hot Vinyasa in the coming year, experimenting in the kitchen (cooking/baking cannot capture the creative process that ensues when I’m behind the counter), reading anything Malcolm Gladwell or the like, completing the Puzzles section of the newspaper, flight-tracking for an upcoming adventure whether it be mine or a friend’s, taking long walks with my family and the puppy that replaced me when I left for school.

What made Alexa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“What makes Alexa distinctive – and a valuable part of the Kelley community – is that she combines a keen intelligence and drive for success with a strong concern for others. In class, she is a thought leader, confidently advancing her ideas, while being open to the thoughts and ideas of others. Outside of class, she is a strong ambassador for the school. She and her partner were finalists in a leading national ethics case competition and I am confident that she will represent the school well in another major national case competition for which she and her team currently are preparing. Moreover, her choices outside of academics – Alexa is committed to the IU Dance Marathon (which benefits Riley Hospital for Children) and Kelley’s Undergraduate Mental Health Task Force – reflect the empathy and values to which we aspire.  Thru her commitments in and outside of the classroom, Alexa truly has made the school a better place.”

Joel Rubin
Clinical Professor of Business Law & Ethics and Director of Kelley’s Undergraduate Consulting Workshop
IU Kelley School of Business

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE TOP 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST BUSINESS MAJORS OF 2020

Comments or questions about this article? Email us.