Call Us Indispensable


Throughout the college, often in low-profile, high-responsibility positions, Commerce Council is quietly making a big difference. This organization is, in the words of its constitution, "dedicated to providing the students of the College of Commerce, as well as students in other colleges who have an interest in business, with a richer and fuller educational experience. Commerce Council assists in the college's ongoing operations, special events, and programs, by uniting students and faculty in mutual endeavors." The organization offers a variety of activities ranging from résumé-writing workshops and peer advising to helping organize graduation ceremonies and Homecoming festivities. Commerce Council, which was founded in 1973, makes itself useful to the college and community in numerous ways.

"What's key in the role of Commerce Council is that it is an umbrella group," observes Bill Williamson, associate dean of students. "Members handle college-wide concerns and events, like Commencement and Career Fair. These are important things that are not specific to a single department. Commerce Council is also noteworthy — and perhaps unique — for putting so much back into the college in the way of funding."

Last fling of the semester — a picnic at Illini Grove.
The group's involvement and influence are far-reaching. Nearly twenty-five committees cover areas and activities that range from philanthropy, publications, and social events to résumé-writing, peer advising, and alumni relations. Through the council, an exceptional array of opportunities is available for students to become involved in the life of their college. The group is also a wellspring of help for those who need it, from underclassmen facing decisions about what courses to register for, to out-of-town corporate recruiters who arrive on the Urbana campus to give interviews and presentations.

"Commerce Council has become a significant force in the college," notes Frederick L. Neumann, associate dean for academic affairs. "This is a group that gets things done, and done well. Students who are involved in Commerce Council find that they not only work for the group, they also get experience and grow. In the process, they meet some of their best friends — some of them friends for life."

The 1998-99 academic year closed as an exceptionally productive one for the council, which has expanded its role into several new areas. One big new project has been publishing and distributing the Commerce Student Planner, a calendar/organizer, given free of charge to all business students (while supplies last, which isn't long). The first Leadership Conference was held. A new Shadowing Program got going. Students are extending new welcomes to corporate recruiters. And more initiatives are ahead. A new charity committee will raise money for select causes, with a splashy kick-off — a faculty dunking booth on Commerce Quad Day. Proceeds generated by the doused profs go to benefit Journey, a spin-off group of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Autumn plans also call for volunteers to work with Commerce Career Services, helping introduce freshmen to the computerized bidding system for job interviews. An alumni committee is forming too, with the aim of organizing special events for alumni and students, such as a get-together at the Homecoming Tent Party.

"My work with Commerce Council was one of the most challenging things I did as a student, including all my classes," says Stephanie Katz, who stepped down as Commerce Council president in the mid-year changing of the guard that has become a tradition for most CBA student organizations. "For me the experience was about change, about starting a process and watching it grow," says Stephanie, who, having graduated with a B.S. in finance in December, recently joined Goldman-Sachs in New York. "It's a good way to meet people from the corporate world, and also to interact with faculty and other students." The group sponsors between three and five social events each semester, ranging from casual gatherings to an expedition to an indoor mountain-climbing facility and a special skill-building scavenger hunt.

The president of Commerce Council is now Roland Thomas, who took over in December 1998. A rising senior and accountancy major, he joined the council as a freshman and has been involved in committee work since sophomore year, including the committee in charge of Commencement. Commerce Council pays the complete costs for Winter Convocation, and has other major responsibilities for both ceremonies: obtaining the flowers for the stage, holding a competition to choose the CBA students who give the keynote addresses, arranging for ushers and marshals to lead the procession, assembling graduation certificates and covers, and even helping to hand out diplomas.

"The external vice president always stands up on stage, along with the Commerce Council president, and hands the diplomas to Dean Thomas," Roland says proudly. "It was a fun and memorable experience. And it was an honor." The group is credited with organizing the first CBA graduation ceremony, held in 1979. "Commerce Council decided to do the event on their own, and that's the way the first several Commerce graduation ceremonies were organized," Bill Williamson recalls. "It was really a yeoman effort."


"The members have three all-
important qualities. They show
willingness. They follow through.
And they have complete dedication."

- Lois Meerdink, Assistant Dean
Commerce Career Services

An evening at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club — judging from the intense concentration, a good time was had by all.

It's all, one might say, in the logistics. By learning to organize events and services, Commerce Council members gain important experience in hands-on management — the kind that just isn't available in the classroom. And if Convocation sounds like a challenge, consider the Career Fair. This two-day, twice-yearly event, has grown phenomenally since it was first launched. Even with table space available for approximately two hundred corporate recruiting teams, the fair is consistently sold out, with long waiting lists. As one in a consortium of groups that help organize the event (Beta Alpha Psi, the National Association of Black Accountants, the Minority Commerce Association, and the Finance Club, as well as Commerce Career Services), Commerce Council provides extensive logistical support, including set-up and take-down help for the recruiters, and registration services for the students. The Council's share of proceeds goes to pay for Winter Commencement, scholarships, the annual Club Officers Luncheon, and various events that benefit all students in the college.

Chair for the Spring Career Fair committee was Nadya Collins, a senior finance major who recalls: "For two days I went around troubleshooting problems. All the recruiters heard my name." It paid off — she's going to work for CDW, a computer company in Vernon Hills, whose recruiter was impressed with her performance at the fair. Since joining Commerce Council as a sophomore, Nadya has also given a lot of time to philanthropic activities, including renovation work for the Women in Transition Center in Champaign. During the past year philanthropic activities have included blood drives, a Thanksgiving food drive, a cookie bake that got members' pictures in the Daily Illini, working at Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, and a clean-up at Carle Park in Urbana.

The 1998-99 academic year got off to an auspicious start with the distribution of the Commerce Student Planner. A committee chaired by senior accountancy major Hamish de Freitas designed and produced the first calendar, underwritten through the sale of ad space to firms that recruit at Commerce. The 1999-2000 version is at the printer.

Also poised for an exciting future is the Leadership Conference, held for the first time last October. Chaired by IDM major Anita Gavini and finance major Lilly Liu, the conference committee secured Enterprise rent-a-car as sponsor for the one-day event. In addition to financial support, the company provided speakers, including a regional vice president. Titled "Shaping the Future," the one-day program included workshops on delegating responsibility, effective communication, motivation, and teamwork. Commerce student organizations were each allowed to send up to ten members, and the event drew between sixty and seventy attendees. Anita says the committee hopes to expand the event next year, and two corporate sponsors for the event are already lined up — Deloitte & Touche, LLP, and Hewitt Associates, LLC.

Over semester break came the launch of the council's new Shadowing Program. Chaired by MIS major Ketki Gadgil, the program has drawn interest from about a  dozen corporate sponsors, including Andersen Consulting, Ernst & Young, NICOR, CNA, and Baxter. Following a screening process, students were matched to companies, for a one-day visit, touring facilities and talking with managers and executives. Between eighteen and twenty students visited ten companies over winter break. "We're hoping the program will grow as we get the word out and secure more sponsors," says Ketki, who urges Commerce alums who are interested in hosting students to get in touch with Commerce Council. The spring cohort was smaller, but also very successful. When it comes to the corporate greeters of Commerce Council, the host relationship is charmingly reversed. Through the work of two committees, students are on hand to greet and help recruiters who come to the Illinois campus to do presentations and interviews. Members of one committee meet corporate recruiters who arrive at Illini Union in the morning, each weekday throughout the two-month fall and spring interview seasons. And a new committee is now committed to making the rounds to check on corporate reps who do evening presentations at the Union and Levis Faculty Center. The new committee has been chaired by finance major Marilena Conforti, who says of the arrangement: "The recruiters are impressed and sometimes surprised. Some have never been officially greeted this way before." "The services of these two committees provide crucial support to our office," says Lois Meerdink, assistant dean of Commerce Career Services. "It would be impossible for our staff to check in on all the recruiters who come to campus. And it's so important, because if there are any glitches, the students know how to get assistance. It's a job that requires tremendous dedication, for the students don't get paid. Of course, there is payback, for the recruiters are often impressed with the corporate greeters, and invite them for interviews.

"Alice Waldoff, who is director of the Commerce Office of Publications, has been the group's very highly esteemed faculty advisor since 1993. "Alice plays a very important role," says Nicole Young, a senior finance major who served as the club's president in 1997-98, and who will shortly join Arthur Andersen LLP. "She is extremely supportive. She's always at meetings. Her office serves as an informal meeting space and distribution point for the council. She is a great friend to so many people. She really does a great job. I have yet to see another student organization advisor be so involved. It is rare to find someone who cares like Alice does."

Concludes Lois Meerdink, of Commerce Career Services: "Commerce Council is a big group, and it's always receptive to new needs. The students are always interested in new ways to support each other and the college. I have seen them just really grow and blossom, doing more and more. The members have three all-important qualities. They show willingness. They follow through. And they have complete dedication. Membership in Commerce Council is a wonderful motivator, a way for students to get involved by playing a leadership role with the college."

Working the booth on Quad Day.

Best Case Scenario

In yet another show of strength, a team of Illinois accountancy students placed third in the Deloitte & Touche National Case Study Seminar held at the Conference Resort Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Team members were Zach Christensen, Meegan Huyser, Nick Ravelingeen, Mike Rodenbaugh, and Mindy Jo Smith. Ananda Ganguly, assistant professor of accountancy, and Commerce alumni Becky Coleman and Tom Fiske, who both work at D&T, were the team advisors.

According to Professor Ganguly, each team is given a different, difficult case from the national practice, cases that had gone before the professional standards board. For a team to be selected for the national competition they first must win against local teams. D&T invites the best accounting programs in the country to participate in the original contest.

Team members Zack Christensen, Nick Ravelingeen, Mindy Jo Smith, Mike Rodenbaugh, and Meegan Huyser

A case that has no "correct" solution is given to a team one month before the final contest. Students must apply their own judgment to each situation. "Fortunately, the Project Discovery accounting program now in place at Illinois develops just the skills needed for this kind of problem," notes Ananda Ganguly. The presentation is judged on how well both sides of the case are presented, not on whether or not the presentation agrees with D&T's judgment. For placing third, each member of the Illinois team received $250.

As a result of participating in this competition, Nick Ravelingeen thought he noticed a distinct improvement in the way he participated in class. "Immediately after the case study, I was able to analyze cases in class and research several accounting issues more effectively because I had a better understanding of how to use the FARS database and other search engines." Personally, this experience also fostered growth. "It gave me more confidence in my ability to speak in front of large groups of people," he observed, "and I am more open to the opinions and ideas of others now. Working with a great group, I realized that if everyone is committed to the task at hand, there is no reason why we can't succeed. The case study allowed me to recognize what I am capable of accomplishing, if I believe in myself and expend all my effort." What Nick says goes for the other participants. These opportunities allow our students to show how proficient they are, but they also provide a great learning experience.

W E L L   D O N E   T E A M ! ! ! !