- Synopsis: IntroductionKeywords: Zulauf; Dekalb; Southwest ChicagoTranscript: RAMIREZ: My name is Naomi Ramirez. I am here with our narrator Janet Viane.
RAMIREZ: Janet Viane. Today is Sunday, October 13, 2019. We're here today in the Zuluaf Building located in the DeKalb, Illinois to conduct an oral history interview with Janet. I'm so sorry.
VIANE: No, it's good.
RAMIREZ: Janet Viane for Northern Illinois University's 125th anniversary, oral history project. Thank you Ms. Viane for participating in this project, and I'd like to start questioning your background.
VIANE: Sounds good.
RAMIREZ: Would you like to say a bit about your background like where you grew up and your life before you came to NIU?
VIANE: Sure. I came from the southwest side of Chicago. Was born and raised in Evergreen Park, which is one of the first suburbs on the southwest side right out of the city. Then migrated to Orland Park where I graduated from high school, Carl Sandburg High School in 1976. Most of my family is from the southwest side of Chicago
- Synopsis: Experiences as an NIU StudentKeywords: University of Chicago;Undergraduate; Master's; Neptune Hall; Denamrk; Polish; SororityTranscript: RAMIREZ: How did you come to NIU?
VIANE: That’s actually kind of a fun story, Naomi, because I originally was registered and was ready to attend University of Illinois in Champaign. In about three weeks before school was to start, I just got this strange feeling that Champaign was going to be too big of a place, that I was going to be lost, I was going to be just a number, and I didn't want that even a lot of my friends were going to U of I. I just didn't want that. So, at the last minute, I applied to NIU, got accepted and made a very quick switch to come here, And frankly, it was by far the best decision I've ever made.
RAMIREZ: How was your time at NIU while you were studying for your BS and your MBA?
VIANE: That I don't know that we have time to talk about, but it was an incredible five years for me. I did both my undergraduate degree and my master's degree all within five years. During that time, I got to do it all, I just got to do it all. I started, obviously, as a freshman in a dormitory in Neptune Hall, which at that time there were not a lot of freshmen there. I got to pledge a sorority and spent a few years there. I got to live in an apartment and, you know, got that experience.I also attended the University of Copenhagen in Denmark during my second semester of my sophomore year. I just feel at the end of the day from a living experience perspective, I got to experience all of it. Then from a student experience perspective, I got the social side pretty well. Fortunately, it hit my GPA in the beginning but learned from it without a doubt. Then got the, what I'll call the professional or the career success side of things. I was able to get involved in a great club's initiatives that were happening on campus.As I showed you that I brought what's today a piece of loose sight that may not have a lot of monetary value but it is the 1980 Wall Street Journal Student Achievement Award recognition. I was the only one from the College of Business to receive that, back at that time. So, I was just given so much opportunity from a student perspective to make a mark, to make a difference, to have an impact. Then alongside that also I worked on campus, everywhere from the Northern Star newspaper to a great bar in town. Where I was a bartender for a while. I worked in one of those school department offices, and I had an incredible 360-degree experience at Northern Illinois University.
RAMIREZ: How was your time at Denmark?
VIANE: That was undescribable. I can tell you that any student that would get the opportunity to study abroad whether it's for two weeks or two years. It's just a tremendous time to grow up, and it really makes you appreciate what you have at home. It makes you realize how critical diverse cultures really are. It makes you realize that you can stand alone thousands of miles away from your family. It makes you realize that you have to make friends with people that may not speak your language, that you have to still make it through an educational experience that may be slightly different from the one you were experiencing at home. You just grow up, you grow up and then oh, by the way, you get to do a lot of travel where you see things that for most people would be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So, I was extremely grateful for the experience and walked out of it with a minor international economics, which was obviously helpful in the resume as well. So it was, Copenhagen is an incredible town. It's a beautiful, beautiful place. The people are extremely warm and the program that NIU ran through that University was great program.
RAMIREZ: Were you in your sorority at that same time or you joined after?
VIANE: I was. No, I was in it at that time.
RAMIREZ: Did they like correlate or was it like completely differently being a sorority and then going to study abroad?
VIANE: Completely different, separate. The sorority thing clearly is much more in the social side. Although there is a strong commitment to-- Philanthropic activity, it was very much on a social side. This was purely educational, so great experience, great stories. Probably most of them, I can't share, but great stories.
RAMIREZ: Would you like to share one? The one that just made the whole trip for you, the whole process like--
VIANE: Yes. One that I thought was really, soul-searching experience. My heritage is from Poland and I got the opportunity to meet with relatives that were from the mountains from the rural, very rural areas of Poland outside of Krakow Poland. And, they could not speak an ounce of English. I could not speak an ounce of Polish and we communicated the entire time through pictures and just drawings on paper. It was an amazing experience. The one thing we did share was a connection in bloodline and we were able to graphically work our way through that.To be in an area where there was no such thing as a bathroom, you know, there wasn't a lot of running water and electricity all the time in every place of the home. It was just an incredible experience to know that that's where my family is from. When I think about what I grew up with and what I had access to and all the experiences that I was able to gain. It was really a soul-searching experience, very humbling experience to say the least.On the opposite side of that, did we get a little crazy in the streets of Paris and, you know, in the islands of Greece? Absolutely, absolutely. Those stories I can't share, but it was all the way around something I wish every single one of my children would have chosen to go that route. Only one of them did and I know it really shaped him, but I would say I came home from that experience. Knew exactly what I wanted to major in, knew exactly how I was going to finish the rest of my experience here at NIU and I did. So, it was very impactful for me, personally.
RAMIREZ: Thank you for sharing.
VIANE: You're welcome.
- Synopsis: Accomplishments and AwardsKeywords: Outstanding Alumni Award; Distinguished Management Alumni Award; RR Donnelley; College of Business; First-Generation StudentTranscript: RAMIREZ: Alright and, there were two awards that you received as your time as a student an outstanding alumni award in 1994 and a distinguished management alumni award in 2010. Can you tell me more about the rewards?
VIANE: Sure. So, I, the first one was granted. I think it was actually the outstanding, I don't, outstanding alumni or outstanding young alumni, like to always think the young part would stay with it. But I had come out of here and had an incredible shot at a career. I'd landed right after my graduate degree. Actually, I started before my graduate degree was finished. I started with a company called RR Donnelley that back then it was an incredible multi-communicational, most people would notice a printer, one of the largest commercial printers in the world.I had a terrific opportunity to start my career with them. I stayed with them for 15 years and had 17 jobs in 15 years, which was amazing and 12 of those jobs were promotions. I ended up becoming their youngest female vice president at that time. And, I think those accolades, those achievements was combined with a lot of the volunteer work that I was doing for the College of Business at the time. Everything from the Advisory Board through various initiatives that the college was interested in.I was helping to support-- I helped take their, get funding to have them take their direct marketing education in the College of Business through the marketing department, help them take that to the next level. So, there are a lot of things that I was doing from voluntary basis for the College of Business here. But I think the combination of what I was able to achieve in 14 years after my graduation, and then what I was doing from a voluntary basis with college, those things probably led to me receiving that Outstanding Alumn Award.Then regarding the College of Management, multiple years later, I was able to parlay what was a career that started in human resources into a career that was driving general management P&L's, so I'd become a CEO of a mid-market business. I had really just taken a significantly focused major, if you will, in human resources and grew it into something that was much more general leadership in nature. So, I think that was a part of the little bit unusual coming out of human resources and moving into running businesses.But I think that's part of what led the management department to say “yes, that's one of our own and our all of our folks can do that”. I was honored and frankly humbled to receive both of those awards.
RAMIREZ: You said P&L, what does that say?
VIANE: Profit and loss, so in other words, being a general manager of a business, whether it's as a chief operating officer or a CEO, you know, the top position of a company, being responsible for both selling and producing the revenue as well as producing the product or service and getting it out the door.
RAMIREZ: Then were there any other awards received like the Wall Street one, that you didn't get from NIU?
VIANE: Yes, there were awards outside of here that were either related to societal organizations like the Society for Human Resources Management, or awards within my company, whether it was at Donnelley or at subsequent companies that I've worked for. Yes, but I think the ones I'm most proud of are the ones that come from NIU because they have a lot of people that they look at, lot of the alumnim right, that come from here. For me to be even nominated is an honor, but then to be granted the award, I think it's very big deal, which is why I still have this piece of loose at all, all these years.
RAMIREZ: What did the award symbolized for you?
VIANE: That's a great question. I think for me, being a first-generation family member to graduate from college, it's one of those parental moments where I felt like I could turn around and hand it back to my mother in particular. So, I think there's just something that says, okay, I'm representing my family well, and bringing home what they had always dreamed up. I think secondarily, it was also an opportunity for me to demonstrate to my children, that if you do work hard, and you produce great results, people do notice. So, it's probably those two things.
RAMIREZ: Can you tell me more about being the first-generation student?
VIANE: Sure. My father passed away when I was four years old. My mother had only achieved a sixth-grade education, but if you dial back several years ago, right. It was my father's dream to have one of his three children attend and graduate from college. My brother and sister are significantly older than I was, my sister, 18 years older and my brother, 13 years older. And, they had both tried college and didn't succeed. My mother looked at me and said, “your father wanted someone to graduate from college”, and so the pressure was on. I think that, for me to feel as though I was the one that helped to realize a family dream, that just means a ton. It means an absolute ton. I'll never forget when I decided to pursue my MBA, right after I received my bachelor's degree, I remember my mother saying, "Well, why would you do that? Why would you rather do that, you already have a college degree, why do you need a second one?" I just remember giggling a little bit thinking, to her, it was just all about that first piece of paper, she didn't care about anything after that. To me, it was obviously a relevant piece of paper that had to help me to take my career to a different level back at that time. So, it just meant a ton, it meant a ton to my family.
- Synopsis: Differences Between Past and Present StudentsKeywords: Student Life; Safety; Diversity; Barsema Hall; ChalkTranscript: RAMIREZ: How in your point of view does student life in the '90s differ from now?
VIANE: Well, actually, for me, it was student life in the late '70s-
VIANE: -early '80s. I think the basic things are still there. I think students leaving the home, leaving the nest and having that independence and probably doing things that might be a little crazier than their parents would have supported, I think that's probably all still the same. I think that there are more options for student life today than there was back then, whether it's clubs and organizations and movements on campus to just the different types of majors and career options then there was back 40 years ago.I think those things are all different. I also think a big difference today is student safety. I never have worried 40 years ago about being anywhere whether it was on campus or in the streets of Europe, by myself, never thought twice about it. Today that is a part of student life. And, I love the fact that NIU takes that part very seriously. I don't care what college campus you're on, it's a challenge. I think that the acknowledgment of and acceptance of diversity is much greater today than it was 40 years ago, you just didn't have as many diverse populations attending the University as you do today.I love seeing that, be a different element of the college experience and one that's embraced. So, those are probably the key things, but I think still, students at the age of 18-19, feeling like I'm finally independent from home, those behaviors are still those behaviors, it doesn't change.
RAMIREZ: Does anything pop out to you as like being a student from the '70s like, if you'd experience any different changes or like movements felt here in campus?
VIANE: I have spent the last 25 plus years volunteering on this campus. Maybe even more than that, if I did the math. So, for me, I've always felt connected here. I'm not so certain that I would look back and say, “oh my gosh, it's completely different today than it was 35-40 years ago”, only because I've been aware. I've been on campus, I've been a part of what's been going on here, so I don't feel any kind of stark differences.Of course, you have beautiful new buildings or newer buildings, right, like the College of Business, when I attended was in Works Hall, which is a very different building than what Barsema Hall is today. There wasn't such a thing as a beautiful Alumni Center that we have. There's aspects of the university, there was no convocation center there, there's just pieces and parts of the university that didn't exist back then that do today. New Hall, my gosh, I would have given anything to be in a dormitory like that.That part is different and beautiful. But at the same time, I place a lot of fun memories, and so the older buildings that I grew up in, so I'm okay with that too. But in terms of feeling there's a difference with student movements and things that are present on campus, I remember-- This is going to sound really silly, but I remember a lot more chalk signs on the sidewalk back then. That may sound a little crazy but you also didn't have social media back then so that was your form of being able to communicate, "Hey, there's this rally today, two o'clock, be there," in chalk and sidewalk. I've seen it today, just not as much of it. Maybe I'm missing it but there's other ways to communicate today than we had back then. That's probably the biggest difference.
- Synopsis: Time on the Foundation BoardKeywords: Foundation Board; Unleash a Husky; Peguin Players; InvestmentsTranscript: RAMIREZ: How was your time as a Foundation Board member?
VIANE: What an honor. You know, I spent many years prior to joining the Foundation Board as a member and a chair of the College of Business executive advisory board and was really solely focused on how the College of Business was succeeding. Then when I was asked to join the Foundation Board, which represents the entire university. I never realized what an incredible asset we had here until I joined that board several years ago. Just things like the Penguin players, which is an opportunity that our special education majors have to participate in an organization that helps young adults who are challenged in certain ways become actors and actresses, and allowing our special ed students to help support them in their process.I didn't even know all these years that we had a program like that. It is an amazing, unique experience. So, finding out the golden nuggets of this place, that all these years I had no idea existed, whether it was in our performing arts program or in our history program with the museum, with all these things that exists, but I had no clue. The foundation really educated me to what this university has to offer for every level and type of interest. That was a, that was a real eye-opener, and then obviously given the opportunity to raise money on behalf of scholarships for students to help Unleash a Husky, which is what the current tagline and campaign is for the foundation.Huskies if you just give them a chance, they're incredible, incredible, incredible animals, as are the students here. So, I was very excited to be a part of helping to launch that program.
RAMIREZ: Is there any memory you really value or that sticks out as your time as a board member?
VIANE: Wow, you know, I think it's not like one specific memory, but it is what I call a group of memories. Many of the students who receive scholarships through the foundation are asked to come back and share their experiences with us. So, we get a chance to see how the money invested in those students how it played out. Just getting to see the results of the investment, I think is probably the best memory. That's what you're in it for. That's what you volunteer for. That's why you choose to give back to this university. Watching the students succeed, is probably the best memory of all.
RAMIREZ: Is there one student that you really remember when they came back and reflected?
VIANE: So, the reason it would be unfair for me to answer that question is because I have chosen personally to mentor a lot of the students on a one on one basis that have either received scholarship funding or I've just gotten to know through the foundation. I don't feel it would be fair for me to call any one of them out because as a group for the dozen or so that I have mentored over the last four or five years that I was on the Foundation Board that wouldn't be fair because, in my mind, they're all memorable.
- Synopsis: Making Her Mark on the College of BusinessKeywords: Compass Program; Passport Program; Dr. Denise Sean Buckler; Direct Marketing Educational Foundation; The American Society for Personnel Administration; Society for Human Resources ManagementTranscript: RAMIREZ: Can you tell me more about the volunteer work you did in campus?
VIANE: Yeah, you mean as a student or as-?
VIANE: As a student, I volunteered for everything from the philanthropic projects that we would take on as a member of what used to be called ASPA, The American Society for Personnel Administration today is called SHRM the Society for Human Resources Management. So, as president of that student organization, we would take on philanthropic activities, fundraisers of certain types. I always enjoyed helping from that perspective and then at the same time, my sorority I was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, my sorority would always engage every semester in philanthropic activity. And so, that could be anything and everything from doing something related to the town, after camp or doing something to raise funding for a national charity. Over the years, there were just various types of organizations that we would raise awareness or funding for, so was excited to be able to participate in those. From a personal perspective as I went into the professional world, I'm probably most proud of being a volunteer for the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation. And when I became chair of that foundation, I knocked on NIU’s door in the College of Business department of marketing and said would really like to help you enhance what you're doing in the direct marketing education space and I'd like to basically give you a grant of money to do that. And to make that happen through Dr. Denise Sean Buckler who was in, she had just come to NIU, she was in the department of marketing as a professor. She ultimately became Chair of the Department of Marketing, and then became Dean of the College of Business for many years. It was great to be able to work with her when she first got here to give her that grant money to watch her grow that program. That program today has spawned into even something greater. To know that I was part of that was very endearing to me. Then when I became a member of the executive board, I also was instrumental in launching what's called a compass program in the College of Business, which is a program that asks the students to do more than just what they've learned in their curriculum, but to understand that other soft skills, as you develop as a professional are really critical to you and you need to get those types of experiences. Other developmental skills in the arena of business are important to you, and you need to get those experiences.And so, the compass program is almost helping them to learn more about their major when they get into the College of Business, helps them explore that in a broader way than any other university offers out there. Then once they are in the College of Business, the passport program, which is another program I was a part of helps them develop those broader skills. Volunteering to drive both those major initiatives which still exist in the College of Business today. I feel like I put my thumbprint on something.
RAMIREZ: Can you tell me about the passport program?
VIANE: So, passport, if I push to the tail end, passport is a program that basically gives you a second transcript when you graduate. When you graduate, you're going to get your transcript that's got all the classes you've taken, and the grades associated with those classes that you achieved. The passport program creates a second transcript for you that highlights all of the activities that you have participated in, that helped to develop skills in various areas that are critical to business. So, it’s the experiential transcript versus the academic transcript. At the time we created it, no other university in the country, no other public university in the country, I'm not completely aware of private universities, but no other public universities in the country had a program like that for their business majors.Our students come out almost double developed, if you will, both academically and experientially. And so, yeah, that's good stuff. It clearly allows our business students to go out there and differentiate themselves against any other business school graduate out there.
- Synopsis: Volunteer and Career ExpirencesKeywords: Michigan; Cornell; Minnesota; Purdue; GiGi's Playhouse; Red CaffeineTranscript: RAMIREZ: How does your education NIU help you in your career?
VIANE: I have a fun story about that. My short answer would be, it was my passport. It was my ticket to landing that first great job, to understanding that most Huskies are not silver-spooned students. They have to work hard for what they get; they have to work their way through college. Many of them do. It's no different today than it was back 40 years ago. And so, I appreciate what hard work gets you.My story is this, when I came out of grad school, my resume was selected by RR Donnelley to be considered for a position with their company. So, they came after me. Interview, got the job, was really excited about it. My third week on the job I was told by a very significant vice president in the company at the time that I would never amount to much in that company because I graduated from a second-rate institution. I was speechless, Naomi. I was speechless thinking to myself, “Are you kidding me? I have the Wall Street Journal Achievement Award in my hand. Are you kidding me?”I was surrounded by students that had joined Donnelley from Michigan, from Cornell, from Minnesota from, gosh, what other bigger schools they came from at the time. Anyway, Purdue was one of them. My point was, I was being looked at as not being as competitive because there was this assumption that my school was second-tier. You can only imagine the burn that put in my belly. The burn greater than an ulcer, I mean it was a burn. I spent the next several years as I mentioned to you earlier in our conversation, working like a crazy person. To demonstrate that, “I'll show you what a second rate institution looks like.”So, I told you 12 promotions in 15 years, 17 different job assignments, and youngest female Vice President, right, in that company's history. Oh, by the way, the Cornell Michigan, the Purdue, they let's just say they ate my dust shall we, but that's not the fun part. The fun part is the wonderful gentlemen, and I have nothing but admiration for this person, that told me I would never amount to much. As I was getting ready to leave the Human Resources function as Vice President and take over a business unit running it as the P&L Manager as the general manager for this sizable piece of business. Someone was going to need to take my job.And this gentleman was getting ready to retire and looking for some other assignment in the company and I was asked would I be at all interested in having him work for me. You can only imagine how the burn in my belly subsided that day. And if course, I gracefully said absolutely, absolutely. The reason I say it as gracefully is because if it weren't for that man saying, “You won't cut it, because you came from a second-tier school.” If it weren’t for that burn, I think I still would have worked hard. It's just who I am. It definitely gave me the inspiration to want to say, “I'm going to put NIU on this company's map. And I did, and we subsequently hired actually a lot of NIU grads. But when you ask me what has NIU done, how did my education fair in terms of my professional success, it's the bedrock. I am so grateful to have graduated from this-- I use the word incredible a lot, from this incredible institution. It's also the key reason why I volunteered for it all these years because I'm grateful for what it's done for me.
RAMIREZ: Are you currently a board member or not anymore?
VIANE: I actually just retired this past year. I didn't retire because I retired professionally, but I had to step aside for a bit because of a serious family illness that I had to take care of. I stepped away from the board for right now, but I'll go back to it.
RAMIREZ: Thank you for sharing that with me.
RAMIREZ: I saw that you were a Chief Strategy Officer for the
VIANE: Red Caffeine.
RAMIREZ: --Red Caffeine and then you were still a board member at that same time when you were working. How did you balance both of those things at the same time?
VIANE: No big deal, not a problem. So, yes, I am Chief Strategy Officer at McAfee which is growth consultancy dedicated to taking mid-market companies and growing them in the marketplace. I was sitting on the NIU Foundation Board, I also sit on the Board of Directors of Scott Forge, which is one of the largest and most successful employees’ sec ownership companies in the country. Then I also I’m on the Executive Board of GiGi's Playhouse, which is one of the fastest-growing non-profits in the country that is dedicated to providing enhancement centers for children with Down syndrome.We have roughly 50 centers across the United States and Mexico. And we will be at 100 centers by the end of 2021. I'm honored to be a part of that organization as well. How do you balance that? You just do. You know my mother, I was grateful for my mother, as I told you, my sixth-grade education mother, who said, “Get your butt in gear. There's plenty of time to rest when you're dead.” It's pretty simple advice. I've always been wanting to give back so I do that through GiGi's. I've done that, obviously through NIU. There's a host of other non-profits that I volunteer for.But I like that my children see a hard-working mother and they have become the same. I almost, how do I say this? I almost don't like that question, how do you balance? Because my answer is consistently you just do, figure it out, figure it out. If you want to do something badly enough, you'll figure it out. A little less television, a little less YouTube, a little less, you know, social media, a little less sitting, whatever, a little less of some of the things that just waste your time and a little more things that are meaningful.
RAMIREZ: Does being in all those organizations like allow you to travel a lot or?
VIANE: You know in the past, in the past it has. Right now, ironically, I travel more regionally, closer to the Illinois area than I do nationally or internationally. In the past, I’ve traveled quite a bit coast to coast. I don’t think there's a state that I haven't been in for business. And well, Montana I've never been to Montana ever, I’d like to go. Business travel has been a big part of life up until recently, which was okay. I'm okay with that.
RAMIREZ: When you travel, do you travel to different universities to speak about your experiences to try--?
VIANE: I have. Not so much in the last couple of years but previously, I've spoken a lot of schools locally here. Like UFI, like DePaul, so Northwestern. As far as Nationally, I, gosh, I have to dial back, I have and I'm needing to dial back in the memory bank here. I remember speaking out at Carnegie Mellon, many years ago this was back when I was in technical recruitment. I would speak a lot on the types of jobs that you can get in technology. I've spoken at Stanford, I've spoken-- Coast to coast, but that was more-earlier in career than recently.
- Synopsis: Advice for NewcomersKeywords: Windbreaker; President; Inolvement; ColdTranscript: RAMIREZ: Do you have any advice for students, faculty or staff coming to NIU for the first time?
VIANE: Good windbreaker. You know, it’s so funny walking from the parking lot today, just reminded, it's a windy day anyway. You can't come here and not feel the breeze a little bit sometimes especially in the colder months. My serious advice would be take advantage of everything it has to offer. I just feel like there's too many students who come here and just go to school, they don't go through the experience and you miss out, you miss out developmentally. I think taking an opportunity to meet other people through clubs, or through activities or through intramural sports or through the rec center or through football games or go see a volleyball game, good team. You miss out.There's a lot of people here. If you just stay in your dorm or stay in your apartment or stay in whatever your little niche is, you're never going to experience it. I had a, have a daughter who attended here, much to her dismay. She didn't want to come here because mom and dad went here, but she ended up here and loved it and experienced things that, frankly, put her in an incredible position to succeed early on in her career as well. I have a niece that goes here that's in the special ed program that have taken the opportunity to learn about Penguin players and has been in Penguin players now for two years in a row. There's so much here.I--, just take advantage of it and there's such great people here, whether it's across the colleges, the people that I've met, whether it's the administration Lisa, your current president, right, she's amazing. She's so amazing, get to know her. She's such an approachable president, a great fit for this university. I just take advantage, that would be my advice. Rest when you're dead right. Take advantage. I know you're laughing. [laughs]
- Synopsis: Familial Ties to NIUKeywords: Ex-Husand; Daughter; Niece; Internship; Tj Maxx; Marshall's; Old NavyTranscript: RAMIREZ: Your husband and your niece and your daughter went to NIU?
VIANE: Yes, my ex-husband went to NIU, my daughter, who graduated in 2013, I think that's right, and then my niece is a junior here now. My daughter, like I said she had a great, great experience. She wanted to be a fashion buyer and she was a marketing major and a textile apparel merchandising minor and got a job as a, had an internship that she got through NIU as a toy buyer, a toy buyer intern. Then got a full-time job through the same company and became a footwear buyer. She designed children's shoes, children’s footwear and she is now a beauty product designer. She's a senior product development manager for a company that produces beauty products and anytime you walk into an Old Navy, all the beauty products you see in there all were designed and launched by my daughter.She does all the beauty products for TJ Maxx and Marshall's and she's 28 years old. She's literally presenting to the CEOs of these companies at 20. Well, she started out, she was 27 years old, go figure. So, can't help but be a huge source of pride to watch her become so accomplished in such a short period of time and the same thing with my niece that is a junior here. She is doing extremely well, she's on the honors program. She's just excelling, to say the least, and so I'm very anxious and excited to see what she does with her special education training.
RAMIREZ: When you said your daughter got internships, did you get an internship while your time at NIU?
VIANE: I did not when I was in graduate school, not my undergraduate, I had a job back at home that I was going to dedicated to but I did have project assignments with companies when I was in my bachelor's program, but never a full, full internship but yes, my daughter got her through NIU.
- Synopsis: Giving Credit to the AlumniKeywords: Alumni; Marketing; 125th Anniversary; Lewis University, Homer SimpsonTranscript: RAMIREZ: What else do you think deserves attention during this 125th anniversary year?
VIANE: We have such incredible alum that I don't know if we, frankly, do the best job of sharing that with the world, such great success stories and unfortunately, I didn't realize though with a wealth of successful alum until the year that we went to the orange bowl for football. I know this is going to sound a little bit surprising, but I don't know, five, six, seven years ago, whatever the year was that we achieved orange bowl status for football was a very big deal, somewhat controversial that an NIU would make it to such a large bowl game as the orange bowl, but it wasn't until that orange bowl happened down in Miami, Florida, that all of a sudden these truly successful along that graduated from NIU that were, you know, living in yachts down in Miami, all of a sudden started coming out of the woodwork like “well, wait a minute, where have you been all these years?" That's what made me start to realize when I took the seat on the Foundation Board. At that same time, all came together, I realized how many truly outstanding success stories this university has created, and we don't tell that enough. We don't tell our story often enough, well enough, loud enough to let the world know how much of a great shot we've done producing future success. That's something I'd love to see added at the 125th Mark. It's time. It's time for us to really, really, really shout from the rooftops how crazy successful a lot, many, almost all, let's say I'm going to go really out on a limb here, our alum are successful.
RAMIREZ: You said you weren't satisfied with how they're like not talking about, do you have like any ideas to help push the success stories more out?
VIANE: I liked that the Foundation Board shortly before I had to, unfortunately, step aside, the Foundation Board was releasing this concept called Unleash a Husky and it was this concept of raising money. It was a campaign to raise money for scholarships and it was including the stories about how if you just give that little boost to this extremely skilled and intelligent and hardworking group of people, they will do wonders. And so some of it is starting to come out through that campaign, but I do believe the university as a whole from marketing-- Now I'm a marketer by trade, so you have to be careful, I'm going to be a little bit subjective here, right.We just have to let people know how amazing our student talent is and ultimately our alumni become. A few years back, I don't know if you're familiar with Lewis University, which was a small private university in Romeoville, Southwestern suburb. A great school, nothing but positive things to say about this school, but it's no NIU. Let's be very clear. They were taking on a billboard campaign up and down Interstate 55 touting individual alumni successes and, you know, notable people that how we do always tell the fact that the voice of Homer Simpson is an NIU grad.Well, of course, everyone pretty much knows who Homer Simpson is, but we do have a lot of other people that are just as successful and maybe don't have voiceover capability. Anyway, Lewis did a terrific job of touting some of their alum and they took out billboards and they made a campaign of it and it really did, did help their enrollment. It helped their story, help their overall brand and that used to drive me nuts because I would drive past it every day and think to myself, are you kidding me? Our alum are so much more notable, we need to be out there and we need to be telling our story. I'd love to see the university invest more in marketing our story because it's a good one.
RAMIREZ: Is there anything else you'd like to say, like to mention before we wrap this up?
VIANE: I owe so much to this place. You know its funny walking on campus here to this hall,to Zuluaf Hall in all of my years, 40 years of being on this campus, I have never once been in this building and I walked all the way around it today just as like, "Gosh, how could I never have set foot over here?" I owe so much to every single experience that I've had with this place and I only hope that those that go forward with this institution and are attending this institution 20 years from now, 50 years from now, take advantage and realize the same thing. This can be a place that can literally set the tone, the basis, the bedrock, whatever you want to call it, your launchpad for your career. That's the first thing.The second thing is that we have a very large alum population in the Chicagoland area that needs to be leveraged. There are over, I want to say the number, please correct me if I'm wrong. I want to say it's over 125,000 alum in the Chicagoland area. Help a Husky. Any Husky that reaches out to me that says, "Hey, I'd love to network with you," or "Hey, I understand you know someone at such and such company, would you be willing to introduce me?" I will always help a Husky. They don't have to be from the College of Business. I will always help a Husky. I'd love to see the other hundred thousand plus alum do the same thing just like I'd love to see the existing student population reach out to those hundred thousand plus. They will help. They will absolutely help.And so, I think as this institution continues to set its legacy going forward, that connectivity, particularly in the Chicagoland area, although I will tell you there are packs of Huskies across the nation is continuing to grow but particularly in the Chicagoland area, we are a force. We're a force. You unleash that force, I can't imagine what it would be like, so please leverage. If you're a student, please leverage. If you're an alum, please help.
RAMIREZ: Thank you.
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