COBA Alum Kara Ulmer Changes the World

by   |  11.30.12  |  COBA Alumni, Current Students

Many students hope to travel the world and rise to lofty positions in international corporations, while some hope to work with monetarily impoverished people on the other side of the world.

Kara Ulmer has done it all.

Kara Ulmer

A 1998 graduate, Kara has put her International Business degree to good use as she has worked in various capacities for several prominent organizations. Although the myriad of companies for which she has worked would be impressive on its own, what’s even more significant is the weight of the positions she has held. At Verizon, Kara worked as an analyst during the company’s inception and initial growth as a new merged entity. She then worked as the Director of Analytics for the US at Alliance Data Systems, Inc. before accepting a position at Barclays Bank in Northampton, UK that eventually led to her promotion to Director of Strategic Planning and Analytics for the Barclaycard division.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that Kara really can’t do much more. If that’s the case, you’re wrong.

In fact, Kara now works as the Executive Director for Freedom Stones International, an international social enterprise that seeks to provide employment for women and teenagers who have been sexually trafficked. “As an international social enterprise, we are a unique combination of business principles, marketing strategy, and international development,” explains Kara. “It is a specific challenge to employ people who have been through significant trauma as they work toward full capacity and healing.”

Because Freedom Stones believes that poverty is at the root of trafficking, the enterprise partners with local organizations around the world to set up micro-lending programs that generate income for individuals who previously had no good way to earn a living. Through this process, Freedom Stones strives to assist individuals in acquiring independence, or, in their words, to “enable families and individuals to move from a place of brokenness to a place where they are ready to move beyond dependency on an organization and into a local sustainable livelihood.”

In her role as Executive Director, Kara leads the organization in both strategic planning and marketing and operations, a role that she enjoys in part because of the unique international relationships it facilitates.

“I love to see our artisans flourish through fair and supportive work environments,” observes Kara. “I also love to see our consumers join in the struggles and healing process that so many women and girls face in South East Asia regarding sex trafficking.”

A Freedom Stones Artisan at Work

Kara believes that the time she spent at ACU, both in COBA and studying abroad, effectively prepared her for the workplace. Even learning to successfully balance the various aspects of college was sometimes challenging.

“In order to complete the semester abroad, I took 21 hours of coursework and worked in both the COBA lab and the cafe. Managing this workload on campus and balancing social time was challenging but reflective of real-life,” explains Kara. “The semester abroad also helped me to adapt to various cultures and people. In my senior year, a class on business writing helped me prepare my resume and job search skills, which served as practical preparation for graduation.”

One look at Kara’s resume should leave current COBA students wondering what it takes to be as successful as Kara. Her advice is to be bold. “Never be afraid to constructively challenge the status quo in your job, always look for opportunities to improve your work and the performance of those around you. If you do this with respect and integrity, you will be recognized for your diligence and innovation.”

She certainly is.