The sense of community he felt on campus brought Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native Korey Patty to The University of Tulsa in 2004. Patty attended a small school in Baton Rouge and was looking for a college that would offer the opportunity to do everything and get to know everyone. His older brother had just gone through the college search process and convinced him to take a look at TU. “I saw those traits at TU, and then received a great scholarship offer to attend,” he said.
“The experience at TU was great,” said Patty. “My friends and I had the opportunity to try everything we wanted to.” For Patty, that meant joining a fraternity and helping out with the women’s basketball practice team while establishing relationships with students from diverse backgrounds. “Looking forward, that’s such a useful thing,” he said. “Not only do you have a network of folks you can reach out to if you need anything, but you also get the chance to develop that ability to connect and find common ground with people from all backgrounds.”
The marketing major discovered his knack for presenting when he enrolled in Bill Hinkle’s advertising class and prepared for the National Student Advertising Competition. “Being in that class and honing those presentation skills before competing in Dallas was a memorable experience,” said Patty. He also recalls that a class in service marketing opened his mind to considering the strategy behind positioning a service in the marketplace.
He finished his degree in 2008 at the peak of the recession. “That afforded me the opportunity to take a step back,” explained Patty. “I moved back home and realized it would be a good idea for me to go to grad school.” So, he found work at an energy company while preparing to return to school full-time. Patty enrolled in a two-year program at Louisiana State University, and while it challenged him, he notes that TU prepared him well to meet the demands of graduate school.
With his MBA in hand, Patty joined Southern Strategy Group (SSG), a government relations firm based in Baton Rouge. Though he had never considered that type of work, he used his writing background to create policy proposals and communicate program changes. He left SSG to work in economic development for the State of Louisiana for the next two years, where he was responsible for connecting with companies that didn’t have a presence in the state. “The job required a lot of forward thinking in terms of industry analysis and targeting businesses that made sense for Louisiana,” said Patty.
In 2017, he took on a new role that puts all of his skills to work for a good cause: fighting hunger across the state as executive director of the Louisiana Food Bank Association. The association’s members include Louisiana’s five regional food banks in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. “They’re the boots on the ground doing the work of feeding people and connecting them with programs that can provide for their needs,” he said. “Our organization is an advocate for good policy that can combat hunger in communities.”
Though working in the nonprofit space wasn’t part of an intentional career path, Patty says fundamental skills such as critical thinking, networking, telling a story and working with people remain the foundation of success. “The industries I’ve worked in might vary, but the things that make you successful apply to any of them. The group work we did at TU gave me a sense of community and the ability to interact with people from different places and economic backgrounds, and that’s been so valuable in my career. The search to find common ground carries me forward — not just in business, but also in my day-to-day life.”