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Selling Success

May 8, 2024 Erica Hulse
Headshot of Caroline Thomas in front of a white door.

Spring 2024 Outstanding Graduate for the College of Business and Outstanding Graduate for Marketing, Caroline Thomas, will represent the College as banner bearer at the upcoming University of Louisville commencement ceremonies. We had the opportunity to connect with Caroline and learn more about how she worked to overcome the challenges of beginning college amid the COVID-19 pandemic, being a financially independent student, becoming a leader amongst her peers, and securing a position within sales development at GE Appliances. She also had some valuable insights for students considering earning a degree in marketing.

College of Business: Could you describe your background and what life was like growing up for you?

Caroline Thomas: I grew up in Bardstown, KY. Throughout my childhood, I saw the robust growth that Bardstown has had, making it the bourbon capital of the world. More personally, I grew up with two loving parents and sisters. I attended public school all my life and was involved with many different high school organizations. Some were the National Beta Club, Key Club, Take Care of Yourself Club, and Student Athletics Management. 

College of Business: What made you decide to earn your bachelor’s degree at UofL?

Caroline Thomas: I chose to earn my bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisville for several reasons. Firstly, UofL’s strong academic reputation and diverse range of programs appealed to me. I was confident that pursuing my degree there would provide me with a high-quality education and valuable skills for my future career. Additionally, UofL’s vibrant campus atmosphere and sense of community were major draws for me. I was excited to engage with a diverse student body and participate in various campus activities and organizations. Furthermore, UofL’s location offers unique opportunities for internships, networking, and cultural experiences. I knew that being in a dynamic city with a rich history and thriving industries would enrich my college experience and broaden my horizons.

College of Business: What made you pursue your bachelor’s degree in marketing?

Caroline Thomas: I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree in marketing [because] I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of creativity and strategy in the business world, and marketing seemed like the perfect field to explore these interests. Growing up in the age of smartphones and social media fascinated me with how these would impact the world around me, so marketing was the perfect major to explore further. Moreover, I recognized the immense importance of marketing in today’s competitive marketplace. Whether building brand awareness, creating compelling advertising campaigns, or analyzing market trends, marketing is pivotal in helping businesses connect with their target audiences and achieve their goals. I was drawn to the idea of being at the forefront of driving business growth and innovation through strategic marketing initiatives.

College of Business: How did you first develop an interest in marketing?

Caroline Thomas: My interest in marketing initially sparked from my fascination with social media and content creation. Growing up in the era of smartphones and social platforms, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power these technologies wielded in shaping consumer behavior and business strategies. Intrigued by how brands leveraged these digital platforms to engage audiences and drive growth, I decided to dive deeper into understanding the mechanisms behind effective marketing campaigns. As I immersed myself in exploring various social media channels and experimenting with content creation, I began to recognize their immense potential for businesses to connect with their target audiences in innovative ways. This realization fueled my curiosity and drove me to pursue a major in marketing, as I was eager to harness my passion for digital media and leverage it to make meaningful contributions in the ever-evolving landscape of marketing.

College of Business: Have you experienced any challenges in this field of study, and if so, how have you overcome those challenges?

Caroline Thomas: Starting college during a global pandemic meant that the traditional college experience I had envisioned was far from reality. The transition to remote learning, limited social interactions, and uncertainty about the future created a sense of disorientation and isolation. As a result, I struggled to find my footing and adjust to this new normal. Over time, after getting involved on campus in many different organizations, I was able to find my footing and adapt to the “normal” college experience. 

College of Business: What faculty members most left an impact on you during your time in your undergraduate program and why?

Caroline Thomas: There are too many to count, but Kenneth Hartung was one of my first in-person professors post-COVID-19. Professor Hartung has always been a resource for me – whether looking for jobs, looking over resumes, being a listening ear, etc. Without him, his guidance, and his funny quips through lectures, I would likely not be where I am today.

Kathleen Gosser, one of my virtual professors, quickly became a mentor in my life. Dr. Gosser taught me so much about franchising, how franchising impacts everything around us, and how achievable franchising is. 

Steve Gohmann was never my teacher, but I interacted with him throughout my involvement with the Center for Free Enterprise. As a financially independent student, I relied heavily on all scholarships I could apply for. One that immediately piqued my interest was the semesterly reading groups that the Center hosts. Since the spring semester of my freshman year, I have participated in the Center’s reading groups. These reading groups have immensely opened my eyes to the world around me and how economics and politics impact the business world every day.

College of Business: What experiences are you taking away from your time in the College of Business and UofL?

Caroline Thomas: My time at UofL has afforded me numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth. By serving as the former College of Business President, CoB Student Council President, raiseRED Sponsorship Coordinator, Kappa Delta Sorority member, and many other roles, I have been able to engage in campus organizations, participate in networking events, and attend guest lectures that have allowed me to expand my horizons, develop leadership skills, and build a strong professional network. Moreover, being part of UofL’s vibrant and diverse community has enriched my college experience in countless ways. Interacting with individuals from various backgrounds and cultures through my roles as a Student Orientation Staffer and Student Success Ambassador has broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of global business dynamics.

College of Business: What does being selected as the Outstanding Graduate of the College of Business and the Outstanding Graduate for Marketing mean to you?

Caroline Thomas: Receiving the recognition of Outstanding Graduate of the College of Business and Outstanding Graduate for Marketing is an immense honor and deeply meaningful to me on many levels. First and foremost, these accolades validate the hard work, dedication, and perseverance I’ve poured into my academic and extracurricular pursuits throughout my time at the University of Louisville. They represent the culmination of countless late nights studying, pushing through challenges, and striving for excellence in every aspect of my education. Moreover, being recognized as an outstanding graduate is significant because of my journey to financial independence and self-sufficiency. Throughout my college years, I have taken on the responsibility of supporting myself financially, relying on a combination of student loans and diligently applying for scholarships to fund my education. This recognition acknowledges my academic achievements and underscores the resilience and determination I’ve demonstrated in navigating the financial challenges of pursuing higher education independently.

College of Business: What advice would you offer students considering pursuing a degree in marketing?

Caroline Thomas: Firstly, take advantage of elective courses to explore different facets of marketing beyond the core curriculum. Exploring diverse areas within marketing can help you uncover niche interests and potential career paths you may not have considered before. Secondly, seek internships, co-op programs, or part-time jobs related to marketing to gain hands-on experience in the field. Practical experience enhances your resume, provides valuable insights into the day-to-day realities of working in marketing, and helps you develop essential skills that cannot be learned in the classroom alone. Additionally, take advantage of networking opportunities within your university, industry events, and professional organizations to connect with professionals in the marketing field. Building a strong network can open doors to internships, mentorship opportunities, and potential job offers. It’s also crucial to stay updated on industry trends by following relevant publications, attending webinars, and participating in workshops to ensure you’re equipped with the latest knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the competitive marketing industry. Furthermore, hone your written and verbal communication skills to effectively convey your ideas and connect with your audience, as effective communication is at the heart of marketing. Lastly, embrace creativity in your campaigns, strategies, and problem-solving approaches to stand out in a crowded marketplace. 

College of Business: What plans do you have after graduation?

Caroline Thomas: After graduation, I plan to embark on a new chapter with GE Appliances as a Sales Development Program Associate. This opportunity entails a comprehensive two-year program where I’ll immerse myself in contract sales for the first year, followed by a deep dive into retail sales in the subsequent year. This structured approach will provide me with invaluable hands-on experience and a solid foundation in both sectors, ultimately paving the way for a successful transition into the dynamic field of sales.

Are you considering a degree in marketing? Gain the skills you need by earning your BSBA in marketing or pairing your major with a minor in marketing at the College of Business.

About the UofL College of Business:

Founded in 1953, the UofL College of Business fosters intellectual and economic vitality in our city, region, and the global business landscape. Our academic programs, research, community outreach initiatives, and commitment to student success inspire lives and businesses to flourish through entrepreneurship, innovation, critical thinking, diversity, and the power of people.

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