Speaking to the graduating class of 2020 during this spring’s online commencement, Michael Wang told his fellow graduates from the Illinois State University College of Business (COB) that they have spent the last few years building their toolbox.

“Every class, every organization, and every individual we came in contact with helped us to grow that toolbox. ISU has done a fantastic job of giving us the opportunities to do so, but now that our time is up, it’s finally our chance to use what we’ve learned,” said Wang, an advanced marketing analytics and integrated marketing communication major.

For his own part, Wang embraced on-campus involvement as an important tool to aid in his personal and professional development during his time at Illinois State. His efforts in this area did not go unnoticed, and he was named the 2020 recipient of the COB’s Jack North Student Leadership Award. The honor was named after a former State Farm Insurance senior executive vice president who served on the College of Business Advisory Council and was the chairperson for the first Illinois State capital campaign. The award recognizes a graduating Redbird of good academic standing who demonstrates a commitment to service leadership and integrity and has a strong track record of campus involvement.

During his time at Illinois State, Wang certainly exhibited these qualifications. He was heavily involved in the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and served as its vice president of marketing. Additionally, he was the project manager for the Marketing Analytics Society, volunteered as a Business Week mentor, served as a social media analytics intern in the COB, and worked as a marketing consulting intern for the campus newspaper, The Vidette. Off-campus, he completed internships with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Insight, and BCD Meetings and Events.

“Being involved in the COB opened up opportunities to do other things as well that weren’t necessarily attached to a club or organization,” he said, recalling one instance when as a junior, a professor asked him to speak to an all-senior class about the benefits of setting up a LinkedIn portfolio. “Just being able to give back and do things for the COB was really cool.”

He is particularly proud of his time serving as vice president of the College of Business Executive Committee. This liaison role allowed him to learn more about the nearly 30 registered student organizations (RSOs) in the business school and to see multiple sides of the COB.

“I got to see the student perspective but also the perspectives from faculty, the dean, professors, and you kind of act like that bridge between the two. You understand why things happen a certain way, and it was kind of like you get to be a voice for both sides,” he said.

Wang also particularly enjoyed seeing the “healthy competition” between student organizations in the COB. As an example, he described how one semester a Pay It Forward Student Fund fundraiser challenged RSOs to compete against one another to raise the most money and have the most participation. Delta Sigma Pi was one of the student groups that had 100 percent of its members donate to the cause. Wang noted it was moving to realize he was “in an organization where literally every single person in the organization cares.”

“It was just very rewarding to see that all the members and that so many people wanted to give back to the COB,” he said, “and the moment there was a chance to do so, everybody hopped on that opportunity.”

The recent graduate encourages current Illinois State students to look for ways to be active in organizations on campus.

“Get involved as soon as possible,” he said. “Don’t think you have to wait for a certain thing to happen, like you have to reach a certain milestone before you’re able to get involved. (Start) right when you’re a freshman in your first semester. People love having freshmen in their organization because if they’re going to be there all four years, they’re going to give back all four years. People are actually looking for people who are eager to learn and eager to be a part of things.”

Wang now works as an advisory client service analyst at Willis Towers Watson.