Business Week Executive Team members, from left, Mariam Chaib, Chris Dall, and Christina Bender.

It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.

And in the business world, it’s not just who you know, it’s spelling their name correctly when you email them. It’s showing up five minutes early to the 7 a.m. meeting over coffee. It’s being able to navigate the menu at a fancy restaurant later that night when you’re trying to seal the deal over dinner.

Those are the kinds of essential soft skills that Illinois State students will pick up at Business Week, which kicked off Friday and runs through Thursday, March 28. The three lead student organizers have already put these skills and many others to good use over the past year as they plotted Business Week 2013.

“It’s like planning seven weddings, back to back to back to back,” said Chris Dall, a junior finance and sales major and Business Week’s logistics director.

Business Week enables students to interact closely with alumni, employers, and business leaders on issues ranging from leadership to communication to career management. Events include a professional development and etiquette dinner, mentoring program, and an entire day devoted to corporate social responsibility. (Organizers stress that Business Week is not limited to College of Business students, nor is it only for juniors and seniors.)

ADM Site Visit

Business Week 2013 kicked off with a site visit to the Archer Daniels Midland corporate headquarters in Decatur.

Business Week culminates countless hours of prep work for the 24 students on the planning team, led by President Christina Bender, Vice President and Marketing Director Mariam Chaib, and Dall.

Three years ago as a sophomore, Bender became the youngest member of the Business Week team after hearing a pitch from an older organizer in one of her business classes.

“The way that she carried herself, the fact that she could speak in front of a classroom of 30 people, it was very inspiring to me,” said Bender, now a senior marketing major with a minor in international business. “I wanted to be able to do that.”

The Business Week team started work on the 2013 lineup almost as soon as the 2012 festivities ended. The “little Business Week family,” as Bender puts it, met at 7 a.m. every Tuesday—the only time most students were free, and a good time to weed out those who aren’t serious—and divided up the work.

Bender handled big-picture issues, delegating to create a “smooth, efficient” Business Week and partnering with other College of Business student organizations. Chaib led a revamped marketing effort that started last fall, banking on a new “BW” brand and more social media outreach. Dall took notes and attendance at meetings, then ordered all the food and helped line up room reservations.

“Every single piece of food at Business Week, I know about and ordered,” Dall said.

They got a crash course in event planning and professional conduct. They oversaw younger team members as they traded emails with business bigwigs, encouraging them to use professional email signatures and to carbon copy everyone on everything. Keeping all those emails straight was important.

“It’s like trying to keep a dog in a bathtub,” Dall said.

But the hard work pays off. Dall says he’s landed internships based on his Business Week experiences, which began as a mentee his freshman year. He’ll be doing another internship this summer in St. Louis, near his hometown of Aviston in Southern Illinois. (His dream job is in sales at Anheuser-Busch InBev.)

Bender and Chaib, both graduating seniors, have already accepted jobs at News America Marketing, a subsidiary of News Corp. Bender will be based in New York, Chaib in Los Angeles.

Bender, Chaib, and Dall have done a “great job putting together a comprehensive week of valuable sessions and information that will truly benefit all students and reconnect many alums with the University and current students,” said Tim Pantaleone ’07, a Business Week mentor coach who works as a financial business analyst at Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance.

“To think that Chris, Christina, and Mariam are running a program like Business Week on top of their studies, jobs and internships, community service, and other extracurricular activities is amazing,” Pantaleone told STATEside. “It shows true dedication to get up early for meetings and hold events on evenings or weekends. They are getting valuable experience that will help them succeed in their future careers.”

Chaib, a senior marketing major with a minor in international business, first attended Business Week as a sophomore. Business Week, she says, has enhanced her understanding of real-world marketing techniques and provided unique opportunities to connect with faculty members.

“If I hadn’t been a part of Business Week, I don’t think I would be the person I am today,” Chaib said.

Ryan Denham can be reached at