Ball State student Cameron West sits with graduate Stephon Jones during a mock job interview at the University’s Career Center.
Graduate Stephon Jones mentors students, serves on Ball State councils and advisory boards
Stephon Jones, ’85, has mentored eight Ball State students, a high school and a middle school student from his local YMCA in Indianapolis, and actively engages with 20 young business executives from various parts of the United States.
Well, that’s one way to spend time as a recent retiree. But Mr. Jones wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been blessed with a series of gifts and achievements. It’s selfish to keep to myself those things that helped me,” Mr. Jones said.
Many of those things that helped Mr. Jones, he said, were rooted in his college experience at Ball State.
“I’m really proud of the opportunities I had, and the relationships I built, at Ball State,” Mr. Jones said. “I got a chance to interact with my professors one on one. I’ve had faculty advisors in my fraternity who I was very close to—like Dr. Hal Chase, who’s still a hero of mine. Those interactions with professors and faculty—like Robert Foster, the director of Special Programs at the time—helped me, even with non-academic issues.”
Particularly impactful on Mr. Jones was the support he received from the Ball State community when his mother died unexpectedly around the start of his sophomore year.
“It was quite devastating,” he recalled. “I could’ve given up on completing college, but I had a lot of support from the faculty and the students around me. They gave me the confidence to finish.”
Mr. Jones is equally grateful for the education he received at Ball State, and the opportunities, in and out of the classroom, to lead and engage with others. He became captain of the Cardinals men’s track team, and got involved with the campus’ Black Student Association, eventually serving as the association’s president during his senior year.
One of the biggest lessons Mr. Jones learned at Ball State, a lesson he wants to impart upon current Ball State students, is the value of networking.
“I want to make sure students learn how to network. A degree is great. But if you don’t have somebody pushing you or willing to vouch for you and your skills, then you may miss out on a lot of opportunities—even if you are fully qualified for those positions,” Mr. Jones explained.
Mr. Jones’ Ball State experience helped put him on the path to a fulfilling career in consulting, and a meaningful life overall. After graduating from Ball State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems from Miller College of Business, he served for 10 years in the U.S. Army—where he rose to the rank of Captain. He has lived on four continents. Recently, he retired from CDK Global, formerly a division of ADP.
But the words “retirement” and “inactivity” are not synonymous for Mr. Jones.
He remains involved with Ball State in many ways. He is president of the Ball State Black Alumni Council (formerly known as the Black Alumni Constituent Society); is an at-large member of the Ball State Alumni Council; is chair of the Miller Leadership Academy Advisory Board; and is a mentor for Miller College of Business’ SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Acumen, and Readiness) program.
Mr. Jones also makes time to interact with undergraduates in his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, and regularly volunteers at his church and local YMCA.
“It’s very important for alumni to be available to our undergrads, to be mentors, and to get them prepared,” Mr. Jones said. Specifically, he mentioned the emergence of mentoring programs within Ball State’s colleges and Career Center that provide opportunities for graduates to conduct mock job interviews with students for practice.
“I did not make it on my own. Ball State gave me a great step up,” Mr. Jones added. “People along my path helped me get to where I’m at. It’s my turn to make sure I’m providing help for others to find their path. Hopefully, every alum will want to do that.”
Mike Earley, ’78, chair of the Ball State Alumni Council, thinks Mr. Jones’ engagement and activity with the University can inspire other graduates to do the same.
“I have found Stephon to be a leader and an individual who is willing to get engaged and do what it takes to bring people along with him in support of the strategies of our University,” Mr. Earley said. “He has the ability to communicate in a way that people quickly buy into what he is saying.”