Where Are They Now? Alumna Allison Lanier discovers love for business at USCA

Allison Lanier graduated from the University of South Carolina Aiken in 2010, but her career path led her right back to the higher education space. She earned her bachelor's degree in business administration and honed her craft at larger corporations before landing at Greenville's Up&Up Agency, a marketing firm that caters to colleges and universities.

A native of Hilton Head, Lanier attended the University of South Carolina Beaufort for her freshman year. A change of heart steered her to USC Aiken's nursing program, but she quickly discovered that she was destined for the business world.

"USC Aiken had the reputation of being the best in the USC system for nursing," Lanier says. "I wasn't familiar with Aiken, but I wanted to attend one of the best nursing schools in the state. Once I was there, I fell in love with my business classes and decided that's where I needed to be."

Business professors such as Sanela Porca-Konjikusic and Mike Ritchie offered experiential learning opportunities that helped Lanier choose a career path. She explains her professors also brought in outside resources, such as alumni and business leaders, to share their stories.

She says, "Hearing from successful people out in the workforce was helpful. It showed us that success isn't a linear path, but more of a squiggly line, and the path to get there isn't always what you expect."

After graduation, Lanier held roles at larger corporations like Verizon Wireless and Augusta Sportswear before landing a position with PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division as a district sales manager. After two years, however, "life happened," and Lanier took on a caregiver role for her mother.

Finding it difficult to maintain her schedule with Frito-Lay, Lanier began searching for something less hectic and more purpose-driven. Enter Up&Up, where she has worked for the past six years. As the company's director of client engagement, she helps institutions of higher learning with brand platform and strategy, development of marketing materials, and enrollment marketing strategies.

"This role aligned with everything I had learned up to that point and allowed me to see a whole other side of the business," Lanier says.

The lessons she learned at USC Aiken still influence Lanier's work today. Her professors and guest speakers instilled the confidence she needed to present to her clients, and the curriculum offered experience with assembling teams of diverse backgrounds and functions.

She says, "In a marketing agency, we have businesspeople, creatives, writers, and account managers working together on a unified goal. My undergraduate experience prepped me for working with different functionalities and ways of thinking to figure out solutions for clients."

Without question, Lanier's experience at USCA  has helped guide her career. If she could go back and do one thing differently, however, it would entail greater involvement on campus. As a working commuter student, she didn't take advantage of opportunities for campus engagement, a lesson she hears regularly in her work.

"Participate," she says. "It's the number one thing I hear on college campuses. Getting as immersed as possible is a big thing and can open a lot of doors in terms of relationships and work opportunities. Get involved, find your community, and it will give you a better experience."

When choosing a college, Lanier encourages students to start with an outline of what is truly important in terms of values, living arrangements, and education, and develop an understanding of how institutions pair with those values. In her own experience, USCA was the right fit.

"I wanted to be part of something and not get lost," she says. "USCA might be in a small town, but it offers a ton of opportunities. You'll get a great education and then go off and flourish wherever your journey takes you."

For more information, contact Leigh Thomas, thomas29229@yahoo.com