LINDSAY CORNELIUS MBA student emerging as philanthropic leader
To hear Lindsay Cornelius tell it, Indianapolis is the best place to live: It's a growing city, with terrific new restaurants, fabulous art galleries, great parks, excellent museums, hip clubs and a booming downtown.
But like any major metropoli tan area, it has its problems.
And that has Cornelius, 26, determined to be among the legions of young men and women who care deeply about things like quality schools and affordable housing-and other causes that could further improve the city's quality of life.
As a result, the Butler University MBA student is quickly becoming the face of Indianapolis' next generation of civic and charitable leaders.
A year ago, Cornelius helped create Emerging Leaders, a program to inspire people under 40 to give money, time and talent to the Indianapolis community. It's a program of United Way of Central Indiana, modeled after similar initiatives nationwide.
Participants pledge to give at least $1,000 to UWCI and commit to at least two service projects at any of the 150 central Indiana agencies the money supports.
The 203 members-lawyers, teachers, health care workers, bankers, secretaries and students-also get together monthly for lunchtime conversations with local business leaders.
"I wanted to start something like this because I believe it's really important that young professionals find ways to connect," Cornelius said. "I think a lot of people get busy with working on furthering their careers and starting families, and it is hard to consider the options out there for service and involvement."
Cornelius got involved with United Way in 2003, after landing her first job at Deborah Wood Associates Inc., a 150-employee medical marketing firm in Carmel.
The company had never participated in a United Way campaign-something that surprised Cornelius, who had watched her father, Jim, run the fund-raising effort one year when he was CEO of Guidant Corp.
Eager to get others on board, Cornelius got her bosses to OK an initial campaign, and within three years the company had 100 percent employee participation.
"It just made sense that we needed to do that as a company and that I could help," she said, with her characteristic modesty. "My family instilled in me a pretty good sense of what it means to give back to the community and an understanding of what an incredibly blessed life I live, so there was no doubt that I needed to be involved in."
Service has always been part of the picture, she said, whether it was her dad's involvement in United Way, her mother Kathleen's efforts to support arts education initiatives or the service learning she was exposed to at Zionsville High School.
Emerging Leaders is another step in that life of service. So is membership at St. Monica Catholic Church, mentoring Indianapolis Public Schools students through Girls Inc., and helping senior citizens in Carmel through an organization called Prime Life Enrichment.
All of this work-plus her experiences at Deborah Woods Associates and her studies in the Butler MBA program-is helping Cornelius figure out what she wants to do with her life. She knows that marketing continues to intrigue. She knows that Indianapolis is home. She knows that philanthropy will always be in her blood.
"I wish I knew what my calling is," she said. "I know that school and my family are a huge part of my life. But I also know that volunteering is what I pay attention to in such a significant way and I think that it is important to know not only what you care about but also what your community needs."