Building relationships

New trustee sees a bright future for legacy students at Indiana State.

Recruiters began targeting Kathy Cabello when she was a 16-year-old high school student.

College coaches looking for the next women’s basketball phenom?

No. Dow Chemical Company looking for engineers, especially female engineers.

It was the early 1980s and the economy was struggling in Cabello’s — and Dow’s — home state of Michigan.

“My guidance counselor said, ‘You’re good in math, you should apply,’” Cabello recalled. “I didn’t know what an engineer was, but they were saying, ‘If you get accepted, you get a scholarship to go to college.’ All of a sudden I was very interested … I didn’t know whether my parents would be able to pay for college.”

She served co-ops and internships with Dow while completing a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Eastern Michigan University. Cabello went on to work for the company at locations in Florida, Michigan, Mexico and Indiana. She then earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and started her own business, Cabello Associates, in Indianapolis in 2002.

At the same time, she began paying back the faith Dow Chemical had shown in her by working with Project Stepping Stone, an initiative started by the National Society of Hispanic MBAs to help high-achieving Hispanic students go to college.

Project Stepping Stone resulted in Cabello, a first-generation American, whose father is a naturalized citizen is from Mexico, making several visits to Indiana State with prospective students.

“Every university has its feel and its culture, and when I started becoming more familiar with Indiana State, I started seeing that our students could thrive here. This is a great university,” she said.

Cabello’s connection to Indiana State just became stronger with her appointment by Gov. Mike Pence as a member of the university’s board of trustees.

“Higher education is really important to me,” she said. “It’s a way for young people to advance in their life, help families advance and help the future of our communities, state and nation.”

Cabello said she is excited about the changes she has seen at Indiana State in recent years — not just the physical changes as old buildings have been renovated and new ones built but also demographic changes.

“It’s going to be interesting how the make-up of the students evolves and how that is going to affect the university. There are now more women than men among students, which is a trend nationally, and the university is becoming more diverse in its student population as well as its faculty,” she said. “I’m interested in the success not only of first-generation students, but we will soon be the tracking legacy students. These are exciting opportunities.”

The new trustee fully supports Indiana State’s commitment to community engagement, calling it an important part of students’ education.

“It’s a great opportunity to teach students how to be a real contributing part of the community, that makes a difference,” she said. “Having lived in Indiana for 26 years, I’ve never seen the level of involvement that people here have of wanting to give to their community. It’s fascinating.”

Community engagement helps students build stronger relationships with faculty and provides them with problem solving experiences that help give them a boost in the job market. It can also help develop an intergenerational legacy of service learning.

“We can not only teach a generation of students, it’s going to carry on to their children so that it’s natural and automatic that they just give,” she said. “They won’t look at it as volunteering, like it’s a separate part of them. We can teach the students, ‘This is me. I just do it because it’s part of me.’”

When community service becomes ingrained in today’s students and their future children, it will also lead to more community involvement in the university, Cabello said.

In addition to serving as president of Cabello Associates, a strategic marketing and advertising firm focused on life sciences, healthcare and quality-of-life initiatives, Cabello is an Indianapolis executive board member and communications chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners, served as subcommittee co-chair of the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee and is president emeritus of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

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