As we all work remotely and engage with faculty, corporate partners and our colleagues in new ways, we still need connections with each other. We need community in times when we can’t be together. All the more reason to continue the BEC Staff Profile series, and what better way to do that than with the BEC’s fearless leader, Stella Wixom.

We sat down (ok, we zoomed) with Stella, Senior Executive Director of the Business Engagement Center to learn more about her. As usual, Stella entertained and captivated us – as she does with so many who are lucky enough to know her.

Stella started at the BEC as a relationship manager in 2008 and became the Executive Director in 2011. Representing the BEC in leadership spaces on campus and with corporate partners, she is adept at identifying and connecting the right people to facilitate conversations and collaborations between the University of Michigan and our industry partners.

Stella has been a recognizable face in leadership at U-M over the last decade.

 

She leads the BEC’s staff of 13 with a dynamic energy and strong passion for her team and what they do. Those of us who know her love her (admittedly she’s my boss, but I’d say it anyways). Let’s get to know her a little better:

 

Q: Tell us three things most people don’t know about you…

With much family there, Stella visits Greece as often as she can.

  1. I’m a first generation college student.
  2. I speak fluent Greek.
  3. I love to play golf.

*We called her out on these answers. Anyone who has met Stella knows she is Greek and plays golf. This is her trying again:

  1. I’m a first generation college student.
  2. I’ve rode a hundred miles on my bike in the mountains of Virginia.
  3. I love Prince and his music.

Forging connections is one of her strengths, whether around U-M initiatives or a love of music.

 

Q: What are three career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

Communication: How important it is to be honest and clear in communicating with others. Good communication can get you far in your career.

Risks: Don’t be afraid to take them. Do your homework, trust your gut, then take a leap of faith.

Respect: Be kind and treat others with respect. We all need to make the world a better place, and one of the easiest things we can do is be kind and respectful to others.

 

Q: What do you like most about your job?

By far, it’s my team. The kind, compassionate, exceptional staff of the BEC makes ‘coming’ to work every day a pleasure. 

It’s also what we do that I love. Being able to connect the great University of Michigan with some of the world’s leading companies and organizations brings together the best of the best in service to solutions that the world needs. We find those connections and bring them to life. Every single day, I love that.

Doing all of this lets us build these great relationships. I’m a people person, and knowing I’m building relationships that matter and connecting fundamentally with other people around something we all care about – that is a great feeling.

 

Q: What are three words to describe the BEC?

Collaborative, smart and professional team, customer service

*She gets a free pass on not following the three word rule, she’s complementing us…

 

Q: What are you most proud of in your tenure at the BEC?

2019 Business Engagement Center Team

The BEC was founded in 2007 and I started here in 2008, so I was a very early member of the team. Having the experience to help the BEC grow and flourish over the years into what is now a best in class organization makes me so proud. 

We collectively have done amazing things here, and the chance to be a part of that and help lead that is a monumental part of my career.

 

Q: How are you pivoting to remote work? 

We miss many aspects of the way we worked a few months ago, but this new way of working remotely won’t be changing anytime soon. I was holding off but I finally bit the bullet and did a full office set up at home. 

The remote work situation is bringing up a lot of memories from my sales days when I worked at home. Muscle memory is kicking in in all the right places and I’m able to get in the groove and accomplish a lot every day. 

 

Q: How are corporate partnerships affected or evolving based on the changes brought by COVID-19?

The good news is that all our corporate partners are at home and trying to figure this out too.  We’re figuring it out together.

We also see some great virtual engagement happening. Meetings are different, but the opportunities to work with our students has been a great way for many corporate contacts to connect with the university, give back, and work with populations of students they’d potentially like to hire. Virtual engagement offers greater capacity to ‘meet’ on campus and makes this much more accessible on both sides.

Halloween has long been a great day of community at the BEC. Can you guess what Stella is?

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?

I think true leadership is being a strong communicator – being able to communicate openly and effectively, without hesitation. Being a leader also means building a positive and supportive culture in your organization. All of this takes compassion, the ability to motivate others and the ability to build trust.