“From the very beginning, my parents [Shawn, Sr., and Michelle] always emphasized education,” Jones said. “When my sister [Michaela] and I made good grades, from kindergarten to high school, they took us out to dinner to reward us. That was kind of how academic excellence was instilled.”
Now that Jones is grown, she still likes to feed her stomach and her brain.
Jones was valedictorian of her high school class, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in the Master of Business Administration in Human Resources program at the University of Southern Indiana. She is on track to graduate in 2018.
“A master’s degree has really always been in the plan,” she said. “My undergrad was in accounting, so I had to make the decision, ‘Okay, do I pursue a Master of Accountancy or do I go for the MBA?’ I felt the MBA was better for me, because I really wasn’t certain I wanted to work specifically in accounting. I wanted to have that diversity on my resume. Once I discovered an interest in human resources, it turned out to be perfect that USI had recently launched the HR concentration.”
In 2016, she earned her undergraduate degree at Tennessee State University, where she was also involved in dance. Jones, who began dance training at five years old, was head majorette captain for the Sophisticated Ladies in the Aristocrat of Band. She hopes to eventually make her passion her profession.
“I know I want to build a foundation within corporate,” Jones said. “I want to start with either an HR position, or possibly go through a rotational leadership program to gain experience and credibility. Later on, I want to open my own dance production center, which would include a studio where I would technically train students and also an auditorium for shows and competitions.”
“I was about to graduate from Tennessee State, and my younger sister had just begun visiting colleges. During her visit to USI, my family had gotten in touch with Dr. Mayola Rowser and Provost Ronald Rochon,” Jones said. “My parents were sure to mention that they had not one, but two valedictorians including myself. From that introduction, I was able to meet Dr. Rowser and Dr. Rochon while I was at Tennessee State, and they sold me on USI. That’s pretty much how I got here.”
Jones has also worked as a graduate assistant in recruitment and marketing for USI Graduate Studies since August 2016.
“It’s put me in a great position,” she said. “I am a liaison between the students and the Graduate Studies office. We’re able to have our voices heard, and I am able to contribute to that, which is really nice.”
Additionally, she helps with recruitment, research, marketing material and correspondence with students.
“We’ve done so many great career expos and other marketing events,” Jones said. “I’ve been able to help with that, but I’ve also been able to do a lot of marketing research to figure out ways to determine a target audience for USI graduate studies, and how we compare to other universities with our programs. It’s been a lot of fun, and the experience can definitely be used later in my career.”
When Jones graduates and is ready to move into the workforce, she will have a range of diverse experience under her belt gained from her various stints, including those as internal audit intern, property research analyst, tax preparer and, of course, dance instructor. The addition of the knowledge from the MBA program to her work experience should help open up plenty of career opportunities.
“One of my favorite courses was ACCT 601: Seminar in Management Accounting, but it wasn’t your typical accounting course, which is why I liked it,” she said. “All of the exams were case-based, so I was able to create my own case and analyze that for the exam, basically proving that I knew the concepts.
“It was cool because I was able to use my personal entrepreneurial goals, so everything was really relevant and put me ahead with my business plan. My second favorite course was MNGT 611: Leadership Skills and Innovation with Dr. [Jack] Smothers before he became the [MBA program] director. There was a lot of teamwork and simulations.”
Additionally, Jones has been able to apply some of what she has learned to her current job.
“It’s been applicable, especially with the leadership simulation,” she said. “I was able to use that and contribute some ideas on how we can make things flow a little smoother in the office.”
As Jones moves into the home stretch of the MBA in Human Resources program, she is eager for graduation day and the beginning of her career while she still makes time for dance.
“I try to dance as much as I can,” she said. “I love to teach as well. I just choreographed and instructed dance for an Evansville musical production ‘Once on This Island Jr.’ that performed in July. When I’m not dancing though, I love to eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and explore Evansville.”
Jones has four courses left to complete the program. She still views her decision to pursue an MBA as one of the smartest decisions she has ever made.
“I would definitely say, ‘Don’t let the commitment scare you — because it’s very manageable, even if you have a full-time job,'” she said. “As far as preparation, just stay ahead of the game, get that book early and get the ball rolling.”
A nice snack wouldn’t hurt, either.