In May, Sara Katherine Kirkpatrick will become the third generation of her family to graduate from High Point University.
But she’ll be the first to work for General Electric, and one of the only college graduates in the country GE selected for their Commercial Leadership Program.
Kirkpatrick, a business administration senior from Thomasville, North Carolina, is a Presidential Scholar, the founding co-president of the Professional Sales and Entrepreneurship Clubs, and a member of the track team.
She’s a heptathlete, participating in seven events from running the 100-meter hurdles to throwing the shot. On the track and with the two clubs she helped create, she learned how to persevere.
“The leadership, time management and organizational skills learned from my busy schedule and various leadership roles – combined with the ability to perform in a fast-paced, high pressure environment from being a Division 1 athlete – have given me the confidence and skills that I need to succeed in the corporate world,” Kirkpatrick says.
And she will succeed.
Discovering her Passions
Last September, the Sales Club hosted Erin Prymas, a representative from GE Healthcare. Prymas told students about GE’s Commercial Leadership Program, a highly-selective, two-year training and development experience that positions participants for a bright future with General Electric.
“Her presentation about the GE Healthcare Commercial Leadership Program offered the first post-grad position that I could be passionate about,” Kirkpatrick says. “I knew from the moment she finished speaking that the CLP program was what I wanted to do after college.”
Every year, hundreds of college students apply for a few slots in the program, and GE always picks students from much bigger schools.
Kirkpatrick applied anyway. Her experience at HPU, she thought, would surely give her a leg up on the competition.
GE saw Kirkpatrick’s potential, so they called her for a phone interview.
Her enthusiasm shone over the phone.
They asked her to come to Milwaukee for an on-site interview.
She went. She interviewed again.
And then she got the phone call that changed her future.
Landing the Job
Sweaty from track practice, her legs loose from running hurdles, Kirkpatrick stood on the High Point Greenway and listened to the voice mail on her phone.
She froze. It was Prymus. Great.
She didn’t think she did all that well when she interviewed in Milwaukee. She told Larry Quinn, her marketing professor and mentor, as much.
She was sick. Still, she called Prymas back. Even with the wind blowing along the greenway, Kirkpatrick heard the words: “We would love to have you at GE.”
Kirkpatrick could barely breathe. She was one of 13 college students nationwide hired for the program.
Her mind spun back to her day with Prymus on campus last fall. The tour she gave. The lunch. The dinner. The discussion about GE’s program and thinking, “I want to do that!”
“Still there?” Prymus asked.
“Yes,” Kirkpatrick responded. “But I’m trying not to squeal.”
She felt weightless, relieved.
She showered, quick-walked to a weekly Sales Club meeting at Cottrell Hall and searched for Quinn, one of the club’s advisers.
“Guess what,” Kirkpatrick said. “I got it!”
A smile broke wide across Quinn’s face.
“Of course you did,” he said.
A Firm Foundation
At HPU, Kirkpatrick has flourished and fine-tuned her natural gifts through a holistic education.
She’s competed as an athlete.
She’s fearlessly founded and steered new clubs on campus.
And now, she’ll take everything she’s learned at HPU and flourish at GE.
“I have gained a better understanding of who I am as a person and found a job and career that I can be passionate about,” she says. “HPU has truly provided an inspiring environment with caring people to create an unforgettable college experience.”