‘Carolina gave me so much’

“When I think about my purpose, I think about the idea of creating a legacy of helping to lay a pathway for others to follow, to support others and to be able to make it a little bit easier for someone to achieve the type of success that I’ve achieved.”

Ilana Finley ’00 is creating her own Tar Heel legacy by endowing a scholarship through the Carolina Covenant.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism, Finley took an opportunity to head to the West Coast. What started as an internship at Nike led to her becoming vice president of global communications and social impact for Converse.

As a native of Washington, D.C., she thought Portland, Oregon, would only have her for a few months, but at the end of the summer of 2000, she applied as the executive assistant to the communications director of North America at Nike. Her manager encouraged her to use the role to get her foot in the door. It turned out to be the perfect passage for advancement – little did she know that job would propel her to a successful career.

“That was 23 years ago. I’m still with the same company today and now focus specifically on the Converse brand as a part of the Nike Incorporated portfolio,” Finley said. “It set me up for a powerful career in the company.”

While Finley was studying journalism at Carolina, she felt that as a student-athlete on the track and field team, she was incredibly supported by the University.

“The University provided incredible resources and support to ensure that I was able to achieve both academic and athletic excellence, which I just really appreciated.”

Finley went to UNC-Chapel Hill with the help of student aid so she understands the incredible importance that additional student aid, loans and grants can play in supporting the financial future or the financial opportunity for students to attend school.

“After learning about the Carolina Covenant, I really appreciated the important role that scholarships can play,” Finley said.

Now back on the East Coast, in Boston, Finley is excited to stay better connected to her alma mater through philanthropy and service. On top of supporting the Carolina Covenant, she joined the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Visitors. Her service starts in October 2023.

“Carolina gave me so much; I am happy to be able to do something that gives back in a way that is a sign of my gratitude, my experience and what being at UNC did for me.”

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