Business Week has been a cornerstone of the College of Business’ calendar of events for the past 40 years. As former Senior Director of Development Norris Porter observed, it is unusual to see a restaurant or store—much less an event—that has been around since 1979.
“For an event of any kind to go on that long, it makes it pretty special,” he said before applauding the faculty, staff, and students who created the quality professional development and networking opportunity.
Recalling his initial thoughts on Business Week when he first arrived at Illinois State University, Andrew Nappi, dean of the College of Business from 1980 to 1989, said: “I could see it as a program that would help to accomplish several important objectives for the college. One of the objectives, of course, was just to showcase the academic programs and departments in the college, as well as the accomplishments of the faculty and staff, and also it served to enhance the reputation of the College of Business across the University campus.”
In addition to helping to “build bridges” with other colleges at Illinois State and nurturing relationships with campus leadership, Business Week has a tradition of opening doors for students, Nappi said. Among the many benefits they receive are networking connections, advice for navigating the corporate world, and having the chance to practice professionalism
“It’s an opportunity for them to help their business acumen,” said Porter. “Business Week is another way for students to develop their professional skill set to interact and engage with professionals that will hopefully give them the experience or the network to get that first job.”
The 2019 Business Week, which will be held February 11–14, offers engaging, authentic, and professional opportunities that enable students to interact closely with alumni, employers, and industry thought leaders as they develop essential soft skills and understandings required for success.
Not only do Redbirds have the opportunity to attend a range of engaging programs over the course of the week, but the students themselves have consistently played a pivotal role in the planning process for the event. Indeed, from its earliest days, student involvement has remained a foundational part of Business Week.
“The students really took part in identifying the speakers and the topics and contacting the speakers, arranging for their visits if they needed an overnight stay or what have you,” said Nappi. “So there was a lot of decision making going on on the part of the students that supplemented their classroom learning experience. They learned so much.”
Porter explained that in the early days of the program each registered student organization had a member on the planning committee and individual students were responsible for finding a guest speaker to visit a specific class. “As I recall, almost everything happened within a classroom, other than the keynote speaker,” he said.
Today, Business Week activities take place in a wide range of settings from sweeping auditoriums to classrooms to putting greens on a golf course, and they can be as largescale as a keynote speaker addressing hundreds of future business leaders at once or as small and personal as a one on one conversation between student mentors and mentees.
The idea of students helping students was a driving force in the development of the Business Week Mentor Program, which since 2011 has grown from a start of about 20 students to over 120 mentors in 2019.
“It obviously hit a chord with students,” observed Porter. “It was kind of fun to see how the mentoring thing has grown and how serious those students that serve as mentors are. They want to make sure that the person they are mentoring has a good experience and it kind of sets them on a good path for future years.”
For the past four decades, Business Week also has helped to provide networking opportunities for students to learn from successful alumni. Nappi said interacting with returning Redbird graduates was always a highlight of his participation with the program. He particularly appreciated how they brought the “real world into the classroom to let the students see firsthand what was happening.”
“That was so important for them to come back and give advice to students who were going to soon be graduating and looking for jobs,” he said. “So the students got advice on interviewing techniques and what it was like to work in the company that these alumni were representing. They got advice on how to deal with issues and problems in a corporation.”
Porter added that spotlighting notable alumni as guest speakers at Business Week events was “aspirational to students” and underscored the value of an Illinois State degree. Furthermore, the speakers often challenged students “to be better than they think they could be.”
Nappi also emphasized the importance of bringing industry leaders to campus as part of the Business Week activities. Over the years, guest speakers have included successful men and women from a wide range of businesses.
“It’s a great opportunity to engage with someone who’s been very successful,” said Porter. He encouraged students to participate in the 2019 slate of Business Week activities.
“The most important aspect of Business Week for me as a dean was bringing the industry leaders to campus, who represented companies that were recruiting on campus and some who were not on campus recruiting but soon became interested as they participated and established contact with faculty and students and saw the quality of the business program,” said Nappi. “They often came with advice as to what the curriculum needed to meet the current needs of the marketplace, but they also provided opportunities for internships as a result of their visits.”
Additionally, he saw the event open doors for companies to support faculty research, establish scholarships, and become more familiar with the programs and resources available at Illinois State.
“My whole philosophy was you build relationships with companies and corporations and that relationship is going to materialize and bring benefits not only to the college but to the entire university,” Nappi said.
Here are this year’s Business Week events:
- Monday, February 11—Professional Development Dinner
- Tuesday, February 12—Transition Seminars
- Wednesday, February 13—International Business Showcase and Trivia Night
- Thursday, February 14—Hall of Fame Induction and Keynote Address