Kelley Challenge: The new IUPUI Upward Bound and Kelley School of Business partnership program that is setting students up for success


For years, IUPUI Upward Bound has provided students with the opportunity to participate in their Summer Academy, where students can live on campus, take academic courses, and prepare for college. This year’s Summer Academy was unlike others, as their usual pre-professional internship program officially transformed into the Kelley Challenge. 

By partnering with the Kelley School of Business, IUPUI Upward Bound was able to provide nearly 40 students with the opportunity to learn about interviews, business, and two different companies in the Indianapolis area. After interviewing five of the students who participated in the challenge, they had a lot to say about their experiences. 

Mawrina Misgina, a rising senior at Arsenal Technical High School, participated in last year’s pilot Kelley Challenge and this year’s Kelley Challenge. She found that there was less pressure and that the challenge was more helpful this year.  

The mock interview was my favorite part, just for the basic fact that I have no experience in working in a job, so I just want to see where I’m at.

Mawrina Misgina

Sandra Russell, a rising senior at Arsenal Technical High School, also felt the mock interviews were a good learning experience. Despite her initial anxiety, she felt the interview went smoothly and felt no pressure. 

Five employers participated in preparing rising seniors through mock interviews that simulate the process and experience of a real job interview. After the interviews, seniors were provided with a critique of how they did. Juniors and sophomores participated in informational interviews where they learned about eight different employers. 

To earn a spot in the Kelley Challenge, students had to express interest in the challenge and complete assignments to prepare.  

Jaylon Baity, a rising senior at Lawrence Central High School, said he chose to participate as he felt like the Kelley Challenge was a good opportunity to get work experience. 

I have learned how to better myself for the future. I have never done an interview before, I have never done a case study before—stuff like that is a good learning experience.

Jaylon Baity

Russell said she choose to take part in the challenge as she saw it as an excellent opportunity to learn about the workforce and time management through working with her team.   

“I wanted to have self-development and invest in myself,” Russell said. 

At the end of the challenge, students gave business case presentations to employer representatives from Anthem and GEICO. Leila Thompson, a rising sophomore at Warren Central High School, presented to the employers and thought it was a valuable experience despite a bump in the road. 

“One of my members wasn’t able to show up, and we actually did really, really well substituting for her,” Thompson said. “I think it’s just all about how your teammates communicate with each other.” 

The experience also taught Thompson, who is interested in business, that business is an attainable career and feels more comfortable pursuing it.  

Vanessa Pettyjohn, a rising senior at Warren Central High School, was initially hesitant to join Upward Bound; now, she has helped other students on the fence about joining by telling them about the program’s diversity and how it helped her. 

A friend, she is in the program now, but she was really on the fence about it because of things happening in her family. She has been going through a hard time trying to figure out this college thing by herself.

Vanessa Pettyjohn

Thompson and Misgina also convinced their friends to join by telling them about the variety of programs and opportunities offered to students.  

DeVol Tyson II, an academic coordinator at Upward Bound, said with the Kelley Challenge, in particular, they can help students gain experience in group work and public speaking that they will use during their college experience.  

“One thing that students will want to get to know is working in groups and bringing together their individual knowledge for a collective assignment,” Tyson II said. “As they get ready for college, a lot of assignments in college are group projects, so it’s good practice for them to work on that now.” 

Roxanne Gregg, the director at IUPUI Upward Bound, also said that programming like this helps students build a toolkit of soft skills. 

Enjoli Hampton-Brown, the associate director of professional development and engagement at Kelley Indianapolis Career Services, spoke about the growth of the program over last two summers.

“Last year, only 16 students participated. This year there were 40 students, as the program was opened to sophomores and juniors,” Hampton-Brown said. 

Along with the increase of students involved, the program was extended from a two-day format to a week-long format to allow for more wrap-around programming that would allow students to truly engage with case companies, according to Hampton-Brown.

The Kelley Challenge isn’t only able to be applied to Upward Bound, but to any program that would like to do a project like this with the help of Kelley Indianapolis Career Services.

“The Kelley Challenge is a high school initiative that the Kelley Indianapolis Career Services developed,” Hampton-Brown said. “Our employer partners are eager to build their early talent pipeline and get into high schools to develop brand awareness"

Although the program has taken place online due to COVID-19, the pandemic has helped improve the program in ways that may not have happened without it.  

“2020 turned everyone into experts or semi-experts in digital programming,” Tyson II said. “Now they are expected to know how to log into a Zoom platform. As they go back into the classroom, they are now equipped with a new skill that they didn’t think they were going to have.”  

Gregg also pointed out that before the pandemic, the program was limited to certain employers due to time commitments. After the pandemic, the variety of employer options expanded.  

“This being virtual allowed students to experience a variety of different things,” Gregg said. “It was more attainable to get a lawyer. It was more attainable to get five people from Anthem to sit on a zoom call or five people from Geico from various areas in the company to come.” 

Along with the program’s recent improvements, both the students and Kelley Challenge staff had amazing things to say about student support. 

“I feel like everybody equally helped us all around. I mean, my mentors were wishing me luck,” Thompson said. “I know DeVol and Roxanne were always here to answer questions, even like the staff from Kelley were there to help and to help with any questions that we had." 

Russell echoed Thompson’s statements on student support, saying that staff like Tyson II and Gregg check on students throughout the year and are extremely supportive.  

Gregg shouted out to the DUE staff for their efforts throughout the Summer Experience that supported students and emphasized how IUPUI Upward Bound plans to continue to partner with DUE in the future to expand future programming.  

“Missy Cooper, who is an avid champion of our program, presented about majors,” Gregg said. “Brandy Gilbert hosted the internship roundtable.” 

The Kelley Challenge staff themselves also found that they all enjoyed how everyone supported the students. Both Gregg and Tyson II agreed that Hampton-Brown was amazing, and Hampton-Brown applauded their efforts. 

“It was definitely a team effort,” Hampton-Brown said. 

Along with planning to continue the Kelley Challenge, Upward Bound is excited about the prospect of future partnerships due to the benefits these types of programs can bring to students. 

“You reap a lot by partnering with high school students. You reap so much more by the ability to make a difference in a student’s life,” Gregg said. “You’re opening their eyes to what is out there.” 

The Upward Bound program, which President Lyndon B. Johnson launched in 1964, is designed to bridge the gap between high school and college.