Steve Vandiver’s favorite part of his job is mentoring the students on the Business Week team. In recognition of his commitment of time, energy and dedication to these students, he was named the 2021 Registered Student Organization Advisor of the Year for Illinois State University.
Amanda Anderson, who served as president of the Business Week student team for 2020-2021, was not surprised to learn her mentor received the award. She observed, “He’s constantly going above and beyond to help all who need it. I’m so glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves.”
She went on to describe him as a “great friend” and one of her “closest confidants at ISU” and applauded “his kindness, great advice and great sense of humor.
“He’s one of those people who no one ever has anything bad to say about, and what’s always impressed me most about him is his ability to balance his commitments at ISU–there are many–with his personal and family life. Steve was one of my toughest goodbyes upon graduation,” Anderson continued.
Vandiver, who works as the executive director of marketing and communication for the COB, describes himself as a Redbird “all the way through.” He graduated from the University in 1987 after majoring in Marketing and Finance. Many members of his family are also ISU graduates, dating back to his grandfather who earned his diploma in 1911.
Following graduation, Vandiver continued to live in the Bloomington-Normal vicinity and “never really lost touch with the University.”
“When the opportunity came to work here, I was very pleased. I felt really lucky to come back,” he added.
He was particularly excited to learn that his new role included serving as the advisor for the COB’s Business Week team. This opportunity went along well with his “passion for coaching” and drew on his previous experience working as a mentor for junior high and high school students through civic groups like Rotary Club and coaching softball.
“I am blown away with the students I get to work with,” Vandiver said, explaining how he loves the process of seeing them grow and take what they learned at ISU beyond graduation. He also appreciates their continuing commitment to the university, noting the Business Week team graduates are eager to come back to their alma mater to help with the program as alumni.
He also is a firm believer in the Business Week mission to provide students with opportunities to put into practice what they learned in the classroom and to develop soft skills related to communication and professionalism. Many students come away saying they “learned so many things that are practical in the business world,” the advisor observed. The program also helps students to find commonality with people currently working in the business world, connect with mentors and potential employers and learn best practices.
Dean Ajay Samant applauded these efforts, stating, “Business Week is a series of events at the COB where we showcase the talents and competency of our students. We bring in leaders from corporate businesses to speak at our college. Business Week gives our academic programs a higher level of national visibility. Our Business Week RSO students work hard year round to arrange these events. The past year has been particularly challenging with the events being held entirely online. I commend Mr. Steve Vandiver for his outstanding leadership of Business Week during challenging times.”
The students on the Business Week team also spoke highly of their advisor and described how he is deserving of the recent award.
“Since my initial interview for the Business Week team, I knew Steve is the reason why this RSO does such a great job every year,” shared Weronika Rybarska, who served as one of the mentor program coordinators on the 2020-2021 Business Week team. “Steve always has the ability to ensure everything is done just right even when difficulties arise but also keeps the team calm when we need some words of encouragement. I learned so much from him as a mentor with the way he carries himself, and I feel ready to enter the post-graduation world. I could not think of a better person for this award!”
In addition to working on Business Week, Lauren O’Donnell served on the social media marketing team for the COB, which is also under Vandiver’s tutelage. Speaking of those experiences, the recent graduate said of the advisor, “He does a great job of balancing being a leader but also letting the students take initiative and do what they want to do in the organization.”
For his part, Vandiver enjoys getting to know the students and seeing them “begin to get confidence in themselves” and overcome various hurdles and anxieties by working on planning events.
“I’m always really happy to see at the end of Business Week how proud they are of what they’ve done,” he said.
Student Adrian Kuzbik described how he first met Vandiver while interviewing for a place on the 2019-2020 Business Week team.
“He immediately made me feel comfortable and showed interest in all my answers, which was the start of building up my confidence,” Kuzbik recalled. “In addition, he offered me advice and the resources to pursue what I wanted to do in the future. This was all before even finding out I would be on the team.”
The student went on to describe Vandiver’s commitment, approachability and willingness to always make time to meet with students.
“Steve is willing to go to any ends to help his Business Week family,” said Kuzbik. “Steve is the glue that keeps Business Week together and thriving.”
For the 2020-2021 academic year, the team faced unprecedented hurdles. Vandiver recalled how in the fall the decision was made to host Business Week programs online. In light of that new challenge, he was particularly impressed with how the students responded and came together to make the event series a success.
“They could have sat back and said, ‘Well, we can’t do anything really’ or ‘we can’t do it in the same fashion or the same quality because we’re not allowed to be in person’ … (Instead) they said, ‘We don’t want to let anything go,’” he observed.
Throughout the academic year, the team members attended weekly 7 a.m. meetings, which Vandiver jokingly referred to as a “rite of passage.” Additionally, they met regularly with a Zoom consultant to learn ways to make the digital platform meet their needs. The team also went an extra step by adding two new diversity and inclusion events to the Business Week lineup. Vandiver was impressed with the turnout at each of the online events and especially enjoyed watching the student team members work behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.
Kuzbik credited Vandiver with helping to make the switch to online events a success. He described how the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the virtual format did not prevent the advisor from helping the team “envision the best outcome possible for each and every event.”
“If it were not for him there would’ve been no virtual events for ISU students to attend in order to develop professionally and expand their network with alumni,” Kuzbik continued. “With his constant support we dreamt big and managed to host multiple diversity and inclusion events, put on a case competition, organized and implemented a mentor program for ISU students to take advantage of, hosted an interactive trivia night, put together transition seminars involving multiple alumni to give knowledge back and brought the professional development dinner to life in a virtual setting … The transition was tough, full of long conversations and small amounts of frustration, but with Steve’s leadership and optimism, we were able to pull it together and perform all of our original events in a new environment. This showed me Steve’s empathetic leadership style and willingness to keep the ball rolling despite the challenges.”
The student concluded that the experience of working under the advisor helped him develop confidence and take to heart the ideas “always make time for others and stay positive when the going gets tough”
“All of this can only be accredited to Steve Vandiver,” he said.