DePaul Alumna Creates Path to Shape Future Leaders

By Ovetta Sampson

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DePaul Alumna Corliss Garner

Corliss Garner (’96 BUS) relished her years as an undergraduate studying finance at DePaul University. Garner, senior manager of Diverse Markets and Community Affairs at BMO Harris Bank, says the opportunity to work full time while attending a well-respected university in the heart of downtown Chicago was a gift. Yet, after graduation, she drifted away from her alma mater.

But in 2008, when a colleague at her bank mentioned an opening on the advisory board for DePaul’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, Garner seized the opportunity.

“Becoming a board member at the Coleman Center reintroduced me to DePaul,” says Garner. “I learned a lot about what was happening at DePaul, including about the entrepreneurship program, as well as other programs at the university.”

During her time with the center, Garner worked with Scott Young, chair of DePaul’s Department of Management, and several other professors, academic staff members and civic leaders. She says she was impressed by DePaul’s commitment to entrepreneurship, leadership and diversity.

When officials from the Chicago Housing Authority approached Garner about potential institutions to cohost the CHA’s summer leadership and financial literacy program for high school students, Garner instantly thought of DePaul and Scott Young, she says. “I knew about DePaul’s commitment to leadership and management and I thought they could lend some value to the CHA’s program.”

Hosted by the college’s Department of Management, taught by DePaul faculty, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and coordinated by the CHA, the Financial Literacy and Leadership Institute held at the Driehaus College of Business in July offered teens who live in CHA housing a breadth of knowledge. The program featured skill-building lectures, field trips to financial institutions such as  the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and guest speakers that included Stedman Graham, chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates, and John W. Rogers, Jr., CEO of Ariel Capital Investments LLC. The program culminated with a formal graduation and luncheon.

More than 300 students applied to the program, and the students selected were chosen based upon their academic achievement and leadership potential. They were also paid for their participation, thanks to a generous grant from BMO Harris Bank.

Garner says CHA officials have been singing the praises of the program and DePaul’s commitment to it.

“The feedback has been phenomenal,” Garner says. “They were really impressed with the DePaul faculty who worked with the kids over the summer. I received nothing but great feedback and when I attended the wrap session and heard the students present. I was thoroughly impressed.”

Garner said she is looking forward to next year’s program and seeing the relationship deepen between DePaul, the CHA and BMO Harris.