Alumnus helps business students prepare for professional world

When Steven Westfall entered the professional world after graduating from the Kelce College of Business at Pittsburg State, he remembers going to dinner with senior executives for the first time and being nervous. That memory inspired him to help today's students. 

KCOB

“I remember wondering, ‘Should I talk? Should I not talk? What about eating — what are the rules?’,’ he said. “I was young, just starting out, and it was a bit scary.” 

He also recalls thinking that having had an opportunity to learn etiquette prior to that dinner would have been a game changer. 

“I would have had more confidence, more self-esteem, felt more comfortable, and been able to navigate the situation more easily,” said Westfall, who grew up in the small town of Galena, Kansas. “Being in those settings is when you build relationships, and body language, persona, knowing what to do, can make a big impact either way for you professionally.” 

Today, Westfall (‘89 BBA, ‘90 MBA) navigates the world of business just fine: he’s president and CEO of Tuthill — a large manufacturer of industrial goods with numerous locations. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award (‘07), has served on the Foundation Board as a trustee (‘09-12), and is a lifetime member of the Presidents Society. 

Westfall

And, remembering those experiences of his youth, he’s now the underwriter of a valuable new program at Pittsburg State: an executive luncheon designed to help business students gain professional skills like he wished he’d had. 

“He’s a great example of an alumnus who not only went on to a successful career, but one who is giving back and making a difference,” said Lynn Murray, director of outreach and business engagement in KCOB. “Students love him – he's very generous with his time and money.” 

Westfall came to campus last semester as the KCOB Executive in Residence, sharing his expertise and experience with students and faculty. 

It was a springboard to a decision he made to continue to help KCOB students in an innovative way: to give them the opportunity to have lunch in an elegant setting at Crestwood Country Club with professionals from the business community. 

“By the time they graduate, all students in all sections of the Business Professionalism class will have gone through an experience like this,” said Katie Sweezy, an adjunct lecturer who teaches the class. “We’d rather students make mistakes with us than at an interview or professional meeting. Those settings can be a little scary, and this is a chance for them to begin to feel more comfortable and confident.” 

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One such student was Martha Elimo, a junior management major from Baxter Springs, Kansas. 

“I was a little jittery — definitely not used to this environment. It was something new, and something I could grow from,” Elimo said. “I’d call it a bonus experience at college.” 

Dillon Butts, a computer information systems major from Michigan, said he had never had an experience like it before and was nervous. 

“I wasn’t sure about balancing eating and talking, how to introduce myself most effectively, and the rules to follow like which fork to use when,” Butts said. “I think this was a really important aspect of our education. It gave me insight and make me more comfortable.” 

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Holly Kent, director of development for KCOB, praised the community’s business professionals who agreed to participate in the luncheon as mentors. 

“Our community always steps up,” Kent said. “They saw how important this kind of learning is to our students’ future success, and we didn’t have any problem getting them to agree to participate.” 

Westfall, who has many family members who are Gorillas, said he was thrilled to be able to give back. 

“I consider Pittsburg State a second home, it’s part of me,” he said. “My wife went there, our sons did, my sister, nephews, and nieces did — it’s a family thing, it’s an important part of who I am, and when people in the professional world ask where I went to college, I’m always proud to tell them Pittsburg State.” 

More professional experiences beyond the classroom: 

Pittsburg State’s Office of Career Services helps students prepare for the professional world by offering a Speed Etiquette event each semester at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, in which community leaders and business professionals share quick tips and strategies with students in KCOB and other colleges in a format similar to “speed dating.” 

Female students in KCOB have founded Women@Work, an organization focused on partnering with leaders on campus and in the community for learning, mentoring, and networking. Their second annual workshop was held in March in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Learn more:

Kelce College of Business

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