"I have heard nothing but outstanding things about the business school," said Billy Felz, the new assistant dean for student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire College of Business. "I look forward to starting my next professional journey here."
Felz, who grew up in Wisconsin and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the UW-Whitewater, has worked in a variety of administrative positions in academic affairs, academic advising, residence hall management, and student activities. He comes to UW-Eau Claire from New York University where he was the associate director of academic programs for the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management.
Felz assumes the position held by Dr. Jack Hoggatt. Hoggatt, who was chair of the Department of Business Communication prior to his appointment as assistant dean and director of the college's Center for Advising, Development and Enrichment (CADE), will retire from UW-Eau Claire this summer after working for the university for over 35 years.
Meet Billy Felz, assistant dean and CADE director
Gretchen Hutterli, assistant dean for external affairs, interviewed Felz to learn more about the college's new assistant dean.
GH: Welcome to UW-Eau Claire, Billy. How does it feel to be back in Wisconsin?
BF: It's sort of surreal. I'm still getting used to the friendly people, the lack of crowds everywhere, all of the wide-open green space and driving a car. It had been over a decade since I last had to drive one. I did love living the NYC lifestyle, but after 15 years I was ready for some changes that I think Eau Claire will be able to provide. I get to be in close proximity to family and old friends, and there is fried cheese everywhere.
GH: Yes, we do love fried cheese curds! Tell us about your college years and how you happened to select UW-Whitewater.
BF: When I was applying to colleges I never even considered UW-Whitewater, because it was so close to home. So I actually started at UW-Lacrosse. I first visited UW-Whitewater in October of my freshmen year while visiting a friend there. I really liked the campus, and felt an instant connection to the school. I did some research about the programs offered there, and I filled out the transfer application that week.
GH: I have to ask the question that every student gets asked . . . what was your major?
BK: I majored in communications, and wanted to focus on broadcast journalism. I had high hopes of being a news anchor at the age of 18! After some academic exploring, I decided on public relations with a minor in art history. These programs allowed me to demonstrate my creative side while doing lots of writing, researching and public speaking…a combination of things I really enjoyed doing.
GH: We encourage our business students to engage in activities outside of the classroom. What sort of activities were you involved in?
BK: I was paying for my college education so I worked a great deal. .. freshman year as a graphic designer for a department, and sophomore through senior years as a resident hall assistant and lifeguard/swim instructor. My senior year I also did an internship at the campus art gallery. For fun I played on several intramural teams, water polo being my favorite one.
GH: Looking back, do you have a favorite memory or experience from your undergrad years?
BK: It's really hard to pick one favorite memory, but I can definitely pick out a favorite feeling….that sense of having a group of friends around you who were always available to hang out and order some Toppers' breadsticks late at night.
GH: I know many UWEC students and alums can related to the feeling of community that you described. So you graduated from UW-Whitewater and took a position working at a small liberal arts college in Iowa. A year or so later you accepted a position at New York University in New York City. Tell us about this transition.
BK: The first time I visited NYC was for my interview at NYU. As the plane was descending over the city, I remember thinking that there was no way I could live in a place that was so BIG. I tried to come up with a compelling argument for the pilot to just let me stay on the plane for the return flight to Milwaukee! However, I am glad I got off the plane as it was the best decision I ever made. I loved the city once I got there. I had no regrets about moving there, and for the first three months, I couldn't believe I actually lived there.
It's such an incredible feeling to survive and thrive in a new and challenging environment/situation like NY. Sometimes students are hesitant to move to a new community, but I encourage them to explore opportunities outside of their comfort zone. Having a study abroad or National Student Exchange experience on their resume makes them a standout candidate. And students may find that some of the best job opportunities may be in major metropolitan settings so I encourage them to be open to looking at those possibilities.
GH: Excellent advice! And now your career has come full circle and you are back in Wisconsin. What excited you about the assistant dean position at UW-Eau Claire?
BK: I was looking for a position that would allow me to work directly with students on a daily basis while utilizing my experiences and skills in a leadership role. The assistant dean position offered exactly what I was looking for.
GH: Let's talk a little bit about your past experiences. How have they prepared you for your new position?
BK: Working and living in NYC for 15 years has prepared me for resolving challenging situations and crisis management. In working directly with students, I have a solutions-focused approach to resolving issues and problems. NYC was a very fast-paced environment, so I definitely learned to be very efficient in my workstyle. For three years at NYU, I managed a residence hall with 1,200 students that had the highest number of conduct cases. In those judicial meetings, I honed my skills at building a solid rapport with those undergraduate students, and worked hard at making them feel like they had an active role in the conduct process.
GH: I know you are new to the job, but do you have a vision for CADE?
BK: My "CADE vision" is still a work in progress! The key foundations of it will be built on keeping students informed, involved and successful. I really enjoy interacting with students, so I hope that students will see me as approachable and engaged. I think the concept of responsibility defines a big part of my role in the College of Business. I want to encourage students to understand the importance of being responsible for their success and mistakes.
GH: The college's mission statement is, "We prepare students for success." In your opinion, what can/should CADE do to help students be successful?
BK: I think we need to help students define what is their meaning of success…is it completing the degree….getting a certain GPA…..getting hired at a specific firm or organization? Once they have that down, it's our role to direct them towards the resources and opportunities to make those successes happen.
GH: We've talked a lot about work. What do you like to do in your free time--any special interests?
BK: I always use some of my spare time to work-out. That includes weights, running, biking and kickboxing. I enjoy being creative, so I like to do photography, illustrating and graphic design. I also collect superhero toys and comic book art, having over 400 action figures and statues displayed in my home.
GH: I look forward to seeing that display. Billy, thank you for letting us get to know you better. I know I speak for the entire College of Business when I say that we are very excited to have you here at UW-Eau Claire.