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Alumna gift enables Auburn Women in Business to network for opportunity

In fall 2020, Arizona native Grace Schlenker landed on the Auburn University campus without knowing a single other student. Now a senior at the Harbert College of Business, Schlenker will graduate in the spring with a double major in finance and marketing and credits the Women in Business student organization for helping her find a community that will support her as she starts her career.

“Women in Business is the first club I joined on campus,” Schlenker said, “For me, it was a way to get to know people within the College of Business and try to network with people.”

Now the club’s vice president of finance, Schlenker said the 400-member club helped her find friends on campus and focus her studies through internships, speaker series and conferences.

“We’re a room full of women trying to find jobs and internships. Part of that is learning to walk up to anyone and ask them about their experience,” Schlenker said. “A lot of our events are geared toward making those conversations more accessible. When we host a lecture, the speakers want us to connect with them. It gives us a head start and makes the world of business seem a little bit smaller.” 

Women in Business is made possible by many generous donations, including those from alumna Amy Jones, who graduated with an accounting degree in 1996 and has had an impressive 25-year career in international business.

“When I was coming through Auburn, public accounting was a man’s world,” Jones said. “I got a foot in the door at KPMG through my uncle. I didn’t have any women mentors or trailblazers at the time, but I knew I wanted to be an officer in an international company. I had to do most of the networking and discovery myself.” 

Amy Jones with her children

Auburn University alumna Amy Jones with her children at Auburn's Harbert College of Business in October 2023.

Jones built an impressive career that took her from KPMG in Chicago to The Home Depot to the senior director of global operational audit at McDonald’s. She now runs her own consulting firm in Chicago, South Street Partners.

“I carved a path for myself by asking people in positions I wanted to be in to lunch and asking for their advice,” she said. “People love when you reach out and ask them to meet with you. Nothing is a bigger compliment to someone higher up in an organization than when a junior level person, especially a female, says, ‘I’d love to just meet you and talk to you and understand your path. I’d love to get advice from you.’” 

Once in a position to give back, Jones made sure the women in business coming after her at Auburn would have an easier road to networking and starting out. She donated $50,000 to establish the endowed Fund for Excellence to support Women in Business, a gift that was doubled by the Harbert matching program. In addition, she has lent her time and expertise as a guest lecturer to the organization.

“I want to help smooth the way for any female leader that looks to go down a business track and help pave that path for future leaders coming out of Auburn,” Jones said. “Women recognize that we’re on this journey together. To all the upcoming graduates: Don’t wait. Reach out to people, be proactive, network.

“Auburn’s alumni network is our secret weapon. We have a deep love of the school, and we want to help you.”

Jones’ gift has paid off. Women in Business has a robust calendar of events designed to foster networking, career exploration, internship placement and job opportunities. Students like Schlenker are armed with the confidence and diligence to make connections and forge careers.

“I absolutely love Women in Business and all of the resources that it's provided,” Schlenker said. “There are countless things I’m thankful for: the leadership experience I've gained from being the club’s VP finance, practice with representing the club and myself at national conferences and obtaining an internship through the Women in Business Career Fair are just a few. I never would have had these opportunities without the club.”

A group of women pose with Auburn mascot Aubie

Grace Schlenker, left, and her fellow Women in Business organization members recently had some quality time with Aubie at an event.

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