When Allie Lane came to Purdue University Fort Wayne in January from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of minor league basketball, she figured the networking group she founded two years ago was left behind. But when the Indiana Pacers, which is the Mad Ants parent organization, announced in May that it would be moving the team to Noblesville, some networking members reached out to Lane because they weren’t ready to let the group disappear too.
When something that’s probably supposed to end finds new life in another form, that’s a pretty good pat on the back that you did something right. Lane reformed the group this fall as PFW Connects, and the influence continues to spread. Attendance is increasing, and, though it's only been up and running for two months, the LinkedIn page already has more than 650 followers. On top of that, former guest speakers have also been known to return as attendees.
PFW’s new director of development for Mastodon Athletics, Lane built a strong reputation over eight seasons as the Mad Ants’ director of business operations. Selling sports in Fort Wayne is difficult, but she built solid relationships that continue.
Sponsored by American Senior Communities, PFW Connects’ goal is to be a resource and asset to the region, Lane said, including community members, students, alumni, and co-workers, with individuals from all types of professions represented. The group meets for 90 minutes starting at 8 a.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Steel Dynamics Keith E. Busse Mastodon Alumni Center.
“We want to have that persona of bringing people together and helping connect them,” Lane said. “They are not a sales pitch type of event because we are not trying to sell them on an MBA or anything like that. We want to get leaders in with topics that are hot right now that help them professionally or personally. It’s really just about professional development.”
As awareness of the opportunity grows, more members of the campus community are starting to sit in. There were 40 attendees at the Sept. 21 event, featuring executive coach Jody Fosnaugh of Fort Financial Credit Union, and 52 on Oct. 19 to listen to local entrepreneur Rob Kee talk about conversational intelligence.
Meg Underwood, the director of professional development and outreach for the Doermer School of Business, attended this year’s first gathering and gained some fresh contacts she’s now inviting to take part in programs for students.
“PFW Connects was a great opportunity to learn something new and meet new friends and old,” Underwood said. “I’ve already had three meetings as a result of the PFW Connects two months ago. I will definitely be attending again and encourage others to as well.”
Lane loves researching hot business topics and then asking folks on her extensive list of contacts on and off campus who they know that might be interested in speaking.
“It’s about getting people on campus, building that awareness that we are more than just a Monday through Friday operation of students coming to school kind of thing,” Lane said. “It allows us to tell someone who may attend, `Hey, we have this program that might benefit your employees.’”
Being able to effectively build those relationships is part of Lane’s skill set the university quickly saw as a benefit.
“I am excited for this new program and thankful for Allie’s leadership in making it happen,” said BJ Hull, PFW’s chief development officer, who attended the last event. “PFW has two main points of connection in our development work—our alumni and the community. This program is a great way to establish relationships with both while engaging many of them with PFW for the first time.
“This is about providing a great product for the community and our alumni to expand their professional networks and skills. As a university, part of our mission is to serve our regional community. PFW Connects is one of the many ways we work to do so.”
Sessions are free to attend and include coffee and pastries, while supplies last. Contact Lane at [email protected] to learn more.