Thursday, July 9, 2020

When students who attended the Tippie Gateway Program talk about it, they always speak about it in terms of before and after.

Before: “I wasn’t sure if I would go to college. All my high school friends were applying to community college. I didn’t know what I wanted to study. A degree in business was not part of my plan.”

And after: “My confidence improved. I made new friends. I started studying accounting and found out that I loved it. I met staff members and professors who helped me network and find internships. I did a semester abroad, something I never thought I would do. My life changed–forever.”

Tippie Gateway started in 2015 to recruit populations underrepresented in business–women as well as first-generation, LGTBQ+, and students of color. It’s important to reach out to these students early–so that they take the necessary math requirements needed for college and/or business school. Many Tippie Gateway participants are entering their senior year of high school and still have time to make a decision about college. Five years in, the program graduated its first cohort in May.

These students – who would have never explored a career in business - are set to make their contributions in the working world. And while there is still more progress to be made, administrators and financial supporters of the program – including PwC, Wells Fargo Bank, and Tippie alumni – say they are pleased with the results. The program is building momentum recruiting high school students from Iowa and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.

“At the end of the program, we survey our participants. Almost 100 percent of the students entering their senior year tell us that they want to attend Tippie,” says Mark Archibald, assistant director of first-year experience and co-director of the program with Gabriela Rivera, assistant director of diversity, inclusion, and student success. 

Never say never

Since its inception, Tippie Gateway has brought 148 high school juniors to campus for a free, one-week, intensive immersion into college life and business studies. During students’ stay in Iowa City, they take part in business simulations and group projects and interact with Tippie students, professors, alumni, and business professionals. For some students, it’s their first visit to a college campus.

“My experience with the Tippie Gateway Program has completely shaped the person I am today,” says Brooke Kelley (BBA20), a member of the inaugural Tippie Gateway cohort who graduated with a degree in accounting in May. “The program helped me decide that I wanted to be a business major, that I had a home at the Tippie College of Business, and, most importantly, that I could actually come to study at the University of Iowa.”

Kelley is a first-generation college student and when she was growing up in Nevada, Iowa, she doubted she would be able to attend a four-year institution. No one in her immediate family had attended college, and she had little idea of what she would study if she did go to college. But all of that changed when she received a postcard from Tippie inviting her to apply to Tippie Gateway.

Something similar happened to Anibal Mares Márquez (BBA20), a son of Mexican immigrants who settled in Rock Valley, Iowa, in 2010. Mares Márquez was also a member of the inaugural Tippie Gateway cohort and says he will never forget the day his mother told him he’d received mail from the “Hawkeyes.” At the time, Mares Márquez had a vague notion of what a Hawkeye was, but he had no idea it was the University of Iowa’s mascot.

Nearly five years later, Mares Márquez graduated with a BBA in accounting and he’s ready to take on the world. He has a job with PwC and will also work with Tippie Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs Ken Brown to recruit Spanish-speaking high school students from South and Central America. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the two were supposed to travel to these regions, but now the project will be research-focused.

"To be honest, I initially didn't want to participate in the Gateway Program, but once I did, it became clear to me that I had a place at Tippie and that studying here was a possibility for someone like me. Today, Tippie feels more like a family to me than a college. I wouldn't trade the experience I've had here for anything."

-Anibal Marez Márquez (BBA20)

Both Mares Márquez and Kelley studied abroad in Italy and were able to participate in prestigious summer internships, thanks in large part to financial aid and Tippie’s extensive alumni and recruiter network. During their four years at Tippie, they volunteered as BizEdge mentors to help Tippie students with similar backgrounds integrate into college life and succeed. Tippie administrators and professors who know Mares Márquez and Kelley, say they are hard workers and extremely motivated.

Strong work ethic and determination are not unusual among Tippie Gateway participants. A parent wrote that her daughter “would not be deterred” in her decision to attend Tippie after her one-week immersion.

“She connected with the student leaders, lecturers, and the real-life career directions that Tippie helped her see,” wrote Kesho Scott, whose daughter, Mezekerta Scott, attended Tippie Gateway in 2018. “Moreover, she has found a vocational frame that makes sense to her and provides her with a path for the way she wants to be of service to her race, gender, community, and country.”

But the problem today is not so much convincing Tippie Gateway students to attend Tippie, but helping them pay for tuition and other collegiate expenses once they enroll as a student. The elements that make the Tippie education so rich such as internships, study abroad, are frequently out of financial reach for these students.

“At this point, we know that a majority of students who come through the program will want to come to Tippie,” says Rivera. “We have been able to get them some financial help, but we also believe that every student should have the same access to all that Tippie offers, and that means access to study abroad, research opportunities, and dorm life–all of which comes with a price tag.”

And so, Rivera and Archibald are intensifying their fundraising and sponsorship efforts.

“While we can be proud of how far we’ve come and of the many successes of our Gateway participants,” says Archibald, “we’ve got to think bigger.”

A better Gateway

Tippie alumni Stephen Belyn (BBA91), managing director of corporate finance and restructuring at FTI Consulting in Chicago, and his wife Pamela, are generous supporters of the program. The couple and their children often visit Iowa City during the summer program, which is held in June, and meet with participants. Over the years, they have kept in touch with students and been able to mentor some of them.

“We got involved with the program in 2016 because of its straightforward approach and comprehensive overview of the opportunities in business,” says Belyn.

“I want to do even more for the Gateway Program because my wife and I want everyone–participants, their parents, professors–to be of the mindset that a Gateway participant who enrolls at Tippie can and should be as successful as any other student,” says Belyn. “And by successful, I mean earning strong grades, gaining valuable internship experience, and receiving employment offers from top firms just like everyone else.”

Recruiters are watching

For Belyn and others, the fact that recruiters are circling and nabbing Tippie Gateway participants for competitive internships and jobs, is exciting, and certainly evidence of the program’s promise.

Rachel Gordon, Minneapolis market recruiting leader for PwC, has been a fan of Tippie Gateway since 2017. Gordon, herself a first-generation four-year college graduate, is working to help PwC recruit a diverse workforce and sees programs like the Gateway program as the key to such an effort. 

“I have been highly-impressed with the caliber of these students and I love watching how they come together and bond during the program,” says Gordon. “It’s amazing to watch them find their places in the business school environment, places they couldn’t have imagined pre-program. PwC has and will continue to hire as many of these students as we can.”

PwC has been an early and strong supporter of this program since its inception. Now that the first participants have graduated, the company is seeing the results firsthand. With Mares Márquez poised to join the company after graduation, he’s launching his career at the very firm that helped give him the experience that inspired him to study business. The Tippie Gateway Program has proven to open doors for a new generation of business leaders. 

This article first appeared in the summer issue of Tippie Magazine. Your financial gift to the Tippie Gateway Program not only supports summer programming but also participants who choose to become students at Tippie. These students receive support through scholarships, summer internship expenses, or study abroad opportunities - programming that makes the Tippie undergraduate experience second to none.