Alumna at Nike endows Covenant scholarship

“Carolina gave me so much,” says Ilana Finley, a 23-year Nike veteran and Converse vice president.

Ilana Finley sitting in front of white backdrop with black suit jacket, white shirt, patterned pants and converse shoes.
(Photo courtesy of Carolina Stories)

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

“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,” she said.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree 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.

A native of Washington, D.C., she thought she would only be in Portland, Oregon, for a few months. But at the end of the summer of 2000, she applied for the position of 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.

“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.”

Finley felt incredibly supported by the University, as a journalism student and as a student-athlete on the track and field team. “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,” she said.

Finley went to UNC-Chapel Hill with the help of student aid, so she understands how important loans and grants are in providing opportunities for students to attend school and supporting their financial future.

“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 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.”