When Bree Bell arrived at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as a freshman in fall 2022, she couldn’t have imagined all the opportunities in store for her. Today, after participating in Inclusive Business Leaders (IBL), a cohort-based program of the College of Business, she’s looking at her future with a fresh perspective.
IBL brings together a group of first-year students selected for the program who want to see more inclusivity in their chosen field, both at the university and in the business world. Over two semesters, participants attend a weekly IBL-specific class and take part in other activities.
More than 100 students have been part of the IBL program since it started in January 2021. The program includes a $2,000 scholarship for each participant, something Bell says helped ease her transition to college.
“Sometimes financial aid doesn’t cover everything, and it can be hard financially in this new life where you have to juggle more academics, more workload than in high school. It’s just a new dynamic to get used to,” Bell said.
Featuring curricular and cocurricular learning that includes connecting with local businesses, community service projects, a business case competition and discussions with guest speakers, IBL helps students explore a bigger world. The program receives support from generous donors through the University of Nebraska Foundation.
As part of IBL, students learn about the principles of DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion — and their application in business and receive hands-on experience consulting for local businesses.
During Bree’s fall semester, the group learned about the different forms DEI can come in and heard from guest speakers who talked about their own experiences with diversity. In the spring, she and other students were paired with a company in the interest of their major.
“We went into their offices and were able to consult with them,” Bell said. “Our goal was to help them implement DEI practices either that they can improve on or maybe try to start within their company.”
Kasey Linde, director of teaching, learning and accreditation, praised Bell for taking the initiative to apply for and prepare for the interview after learning about the internship through the IBL program.
“We hope others follow in Bree’s footsteps by taking advantage of opportunities and applying what they learn in the classroom in their personal and professional endeavors,” Linde said.
A marketing major from Omaha, Nebraska, Bell said she was motivated to get involved in the campus community after hearing a program mentor and recent IBL scholar speak to her group.
“She took a couple minutes explaining everything she was involved in, and at the end, she said, ‘And I’m a sophomore.’ She really inspired me. I saw her and I said, ‘I want to be like that.’”
Now a sophomore herself, Bell is embracing the many opportunities available to her as a Nebraska student. This past summer, she was an intern through the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for the University of Nebraska Foundation.
She serves as marketing chair and vice president of her Latina sorority, Lambda Theta Nu. In Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity, she is social chair. She’s also involved in the Mexican American Student Association, serving as the public relations chair.
“Making myself more exposed to different opportunities on campus allowed me to network and gain opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I weren’t as involved,” she said.
Bell hopes to study abroad while she’s in college, and after graduation, she is thinking about working in corporate brand management, possibly in a job that requires some travel.
For any prospective student who’s considering applying for the IBL program, she says the experience will reap dividends.
“The main benefit is meeting people you’ll be able to make a genuine connection with, and it just opens thousands of doors for you.”
IBL applications are due by the priority deadline on February 1, with a final deadline of April 1. Apply for the Fall 2024 Cohort.
Published: September 29, 2023