When it came to choosing a college, Leonelle Thompson (BSBA ’04, MBA ’06) didn’t face any tough decisions. She represents three generations of Golden Hurricane alumnae and says with a smile, “TU is in my blood.” Her mom graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education and her grandmother with a master’s degree in education. “Growing up, it was TU in our house,” she recalls.
Recently named assistant dean and director of the Collins College of Business Career Center, her professional experience has led Thompson back to the very place that cultivated her ambition. She now works in the same office as Tami Barrett (BA ’95), the admissions counselor who recruited her as a senior at Tulsa’s East Central High School.
Though she hails from a family of educators, Thompson didn’t see herself in a classroom, but she did know her career would involve education in some way. “Growing up, it was instilled in me to help others, and I loved the people aspect of accounting.” She also planned to earn a graduate degree at TU, something her mother advised her to complete right after her undergraduate studies.
Thompson finished her accounting degree and immediately enrolled in the MBA program. She held several internships during her time at TU starting after her sophomore year, including turns at Williams, Tulsa Public Schools and ConocoPhillips. After interning with ConocoPhillips for two summers, she accepted a full-time position after completing her MBA.
“I toyed with public accounting, but decided to go to ConocoPhillips,” Thompson explains. She spent 11 years with the company in various roles within the tax function and also in training and development for new finance hires. “These employees had solid technical skills, but needed help navigating the corporate world,” she said. “I got to train them on soft skills like how to craft and send emails and how to apply what they had learned in school, and I absolutely loved it.” She also credits ConocoPhillips for introducing her to her husband, whom she met in the tax department. The two were married in the spring of 2017.
A series of economic downturns led to changes in her role and eventually to Thompson seeking another job. “QuikTrip was hiring during that time and I wanted to move closer to my family,” she said. Thompson was hired as an accounting supervisor and describes her time at QuikTrip as phenomenal.
She had previously mentioned to [former Business Career Center director] Calvin Moniz (BSBA ’06, MBA ’08, JD ’15) that if he ever left, she would be interested in his position. That day came not long after she had settled in at QuikTrip, but Thompson said it was an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up.
“I feel like I can play a big role in helping shape students before they get to the workplace,” Thompson says. She has hosted student focus groups to learn how the Business Career Center can help them navigate the process of choosing a career. “I would also like to engage our alumni in the process,” she adds. Thompson also wants to ensure that the center’s services meet graduate students’ needs. “These students can be part- or full-time, they may already be working or may be online students. We need to make sure we are reaching out to them.” Her position includes helping working professionals work through the process of changing jobs, or even careers.
Thompson says that new programs, like the recently introduced business analytics minor and graduate degree, create additional opportunities for students. “It makes our students more marketable,” she explains, “because everything is now so data driven.”
And she still gets the opportunity to teach. Thompson currently teaches Business in Society, an elective that gives students (many of whom are not business majors) a general overview of the business world. In the spring, she will teach Essential Business Skill Development, which is a required course for all undergraduate business students and will cover the development of workplace competencies.
Ultimately, Thompson says, “I feel blessed to be in this position. I always knew I wanted to work in some form of education. I’m exactly where I wanted to be.”