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Jayhawk Career Network

Mentor Spotlight: Jeff Bollig

We’re highlighting Jayhawks who serve as mentors to fellow alumni and students to celebrate National Mentoring Month.

Jeff Bollig, b’84, is the Director of Marketing/Communications at Acendas Travel. Bollig earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration from KU. He now lives in Olathe, Kansas.
 
Connect with Jeff on KU Mentoring+.

What do you do at your job? And how did you end up in your current career?

I am the Director of Marketing/Communications at Acendas Travel, a top-50 travel management company based in Overland Park, Kansas. We also have a presence in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls, and Chicago. Our revenues are derived from Corporate Travel, Vacation Travel, and Meetings & Events. My focus is to collaborate with associates to convert prospects into clients and to help retain clients for the long-term. I oversee a diverse marketing communications program utilizing digital tactics, earned media, events, partnerships, video, social media and other means to achieve company goals.

Each of my career stops has focused on the marketing communications discipline; however, because the organizations and industries have differed, the strategies and tactics have as well. I have also supplemented my professional career by participating in various volunteer/philanthropic organizations and have pursued personal projects utilizing my marketing communications knowledge, skills and abilities. That variety has made for an interesting, rewarding and challenged-filled career/life.

An internship led to a position in college athletics, and from there, my career progressed through a mixture of good fortune, the pursuit of opportunity, networking and advancement. In my current position, I was approached by a good friend who was asking my help in identifying candidates to fill a role. After a few discussions, he ended up offering the position to me – unexpectedly, I might say.

img_jcn_nmm_jeffbollig_headshot

Who is a mentor for you, and how did they help you?

I have had the good fortune to be associated with several people who have helped me navigate my personal and professional lives. I believe that there are people who can serve as mentors for shorter periods in one’s life, and those who have a more lasting relationship. You can take away positive influences from each.

I had the benefit of wonderful parents who provided a strong foundation for character and positive value development. While parents are not generally thought of as mentors, there is no doubt their guidance has been crucial to my development. There were numerous teachers and coaches who instilled the concepts of teamwork, dedication, sportsmanship, focus, etc. There are several of whom I keep in contact to this day. Professionally, I have been associated with a variety of people who have made a strong impression on me as role models, supervisors, peers, etc. They have helped me and continue to help me by offering guidance on leadership/management of staff, advancing in a career, skill development, etc.

As I look back on my career, I have been blessed by so many people who took a vested interest in me. Their advice, encouragement, and friendship provided the building blocks for my personal and professional development. Sometimes, they were there solely to provide an ear to listen. As a means to pay it forward, I have been involved in various mentorship programs. While I hope I have been a positive influence on others, the experience has also benefited me as I have learned from the interaction – especially from those who are early in their careers.

What advice do you have for current college students or young alumni?

It was the first year of my career when I experienced that “Ah-Ha” moment. I remember it like it was yesterday. To digress just a bit, I was like most college students in that I was ready to be done with formal education. I thought I had already gone the extra mile by completing a master’s degree. Just months into my first job, my boss registered me for a conference workshop. Knowing nothing about it in advance, I found myself attending large sessions, small breakout meetings and even smaller roundtable discussions. I was loaded down with numerous powerpoint presentations and handouts. It seemed that I met more people than I had previously done in my entire life. “I had not signed up for this,” was my initial thought. But I quickly realized that we should never stop the quest to learn, and we can do that in ways other than sitting in a classroom.

So my advice to current college students and young alumni is to: a.) never stop learning and b.) interact with others and build a network of people who can teach you and help advance your career. In short, I steal the advice of Ted Lasso – “Be curious.”

What is your favorite KU memory?

There have been so many wonderful memories of my time at KU, some lasting just a moment in time while others covering a longer period. However, there is no doubt that my most impactful experience, and one that created a lifetime of memories, was my internship as a senior in the Sports Information Office in the KU Athletics Department. It was also an experience that launched my career in marketing communications.

I met so many wonderful people, several of whom served as mentors. I do not deny that the games were fun to attend, but I also had a blast working the events that began early in the morning and lasted well into the night. Because the department was responsible for providing a positive experience for the student-athletes, it was also a learning lab for the dozens of students who were not athletes. There were student trainers, managers, fundraisers, event personnel and so on. The various coaches and administrators made it a priority to see we had a positive experience as well. Nothing makes an experience even more positive than free pizza! From my time there, I learned a great deal and made friends (and mentors) for life.

From left: Bollig, William Hanna, c'86, Azizi

Do you have a favorite story of connecting with other Jayhawks through KU Mentoring+?

I have enjoyed my various mentoring experiences, especially the KU Mentoring+ opportunity because it reminds me I was in their same shoes! It might have been a long time ago, but the circumstances were much the same.

One special relationship began in February of 2023 when I received an email from Ahmad Baset Azizi, a refugee from Afghanistan who recently graduated from KU. He had learned of my status as a KU mentor and, after studying my LinkedIn profile, reached out to me. Many have probably heard of Baset through two different features by Steve Hartman, who has the “On the Road” production with CBS TV. His is quite a story.

Baset came to the U.S. because he wanted to learn how to better play the trumpet. He became connected with a Philadelphia, Pa., music teacher who helped raise money so Baset could attend an academy in Michigan – while his parents remained back home. When it came time to attend college, he was faced with the challenge of not having the necessary funds. But then-KU Provost Neeli Bendapudi learned of his story and secured the necessary financial aid for Baset to be a Jayhawk. An incredibly bright and driven young man, he graduated from KU with multiple B.A. ‘s – Political Science, Global & International Studies, Trumpet Performance, and Minors in Intelligence & National Security Studies and Middle East Studies. He was the 2022 Recipient of the Campanile Award, given to a single graduating senior who has displayed remarkable leadership, character, and respect for KU.

Baset had developed a wonderful track record of internships and various work projects but was in need of a position to launch his career and support his family, which had come to America from Afghanistan. Through a series of Zoom meetings, we developed a strategy to get him started. First, it was to further build up his LinkedIn profile and reconnect with those who he had interacted with in the past. Second, he would reach out to those contacts to let them know he was in a career search mode. Third, I would help him connect with highly-respected companies to learn more about what they do, what they look for in an associate, and what skills they see as vital for those entering the workforce. As much as Baset was looking for a position, he was also looking to learn more about the business/corporate culture in the U.S.

We kept in contact throughout the year as I helped arrange some meetings for Baset. He also worked on his network. One day I got a wonderful text from. He was to interview with a  company out of Reston, Va., that does work to help refugees and immigrants complete the appropriate paperwork and sign up for programs to support them. A few weeks later, he got the job.

To celebrate, Baset and I met for lunch. I also invited KU Law School graduate William Hanna, an attorney with Kansas City-based Stinson Law who had done considerable pro bono work in the area of refugee establishment. I thought they would benefit from the connection. They did – and more. Baset had become involved with a non-profit aimed to help make the establishment process more efficient and less cumbersome. The non-profit needed attorneys to help as well. I am happy to share that William, who was named “One of 50 Kansans You Should Know” by Ingram’s Magazine, is now helping that non-profit in support of Baset’s efforts.

The experience has not only been personally rewarding for me but also shows the value of networking and the quality of the KU alumni network.

Need a mentor? Want to serve as a mentor? KU Mentoring+ is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University of Kansas. Professionals who are looking for opportunities to connect with KU and provide assistance to Jayhawks are also welcome. Learn more about KU Mentoring+.

 

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