From the Department of Communication Studies classroom to the bright lights of Hollywood, Jim Vidakovich (’69, speech arts) has taken his College of Liberal Arts degree and made a significant impact on our CSU community and the country through his career and service. Establishing a record distinction in his field as a top business development specialist, media strategist, and executive coach, Vidakovich inspires the next generation of Rams to make their dreams a reality.
Vidakovich began his career as a broadcast journalist, making a name for himself in the media industry before joining the Children’s Television Workshop, where he spent 11-years in various roles for Sesame Street. Vidakovich and the Sesame Street team received an Emmy for their work. Today in his role as a media and management strategist, Vidakovich works with top level executives and their teams, currently acting as the media strategist for many of NBCUniversal’s network, cable, and entertainment television productions. A few of the noteworthy shows he has worked on include The Apprentice, The Office, West Wing, the Law & Order Franchise, and Project Runway. He works with executive producers, show runners, writers, and talent to strategize how best to position television shows during the launch phase.
Above and beyond Jim’s phenomenal career in television, he also has a record of distinction as a facilitation and meeting expert, and author. His book, Trainers in Motion: Creating a Participant-Centered Learning Experience, published in 2000, became a bestseller in the corporate training community. Using his CSU education and inspired by the success of Sesame Street, the book provides a model for future managers, supervisors, and directors to have a more interesting and successful approach to training styles.
“He is a strong example of what a liberal arts degree and a drive to succeed can do for our graduates. He continues to leverage his media connections established throughout his accomplished career to support Colorado State University and the College of Liberal Arts,” shares College of Liberal Arts dean, Ben Withers.
Vidakovich has demonstrated service throughout his career, and continues to do so through the ACT Human Rights Film Festival at Colorado State University. His commitment to the ACT Human Rights Film Festival as a primary organizer and developer has brought service to the university, as it has established CSU as an active participant in human rights and demonstrates Jim’s commitment to bring human rights to national attention. ACT is Colorado’s first-ever weeklong film festival dedicated to human rights documentary and narrative fiction cinema. The event showcases curated films that cover a spectrum of human rights issues and invites audience members to participate in meaningful conversations with the films’ subjects, directors, and producers.
At CSU, the ACT Human Rights Film Festival has flourished, garnishing praise from the community and inviting guests from around the world to the CSU campus. Vidakovich’s industry connections, tireless promotion of the festival, and strategic input have made the ACT Human Rights Film Festival a premiere program out of the College of Liberal Arts.
“Bringing his enormous talent for planning, story-telling, and audience-building to the ACT Human Rights Film Festival and the college more broadly is an integral part of moving us from a locally and regionally relevant institution and programming to the possibility of national and international recognition,” explains Greg Dickinson, chair of the Department of Communication Studies. “In the best of the liberal arts tradition, Jim thinks critically about our current place in the university and the universe and then helps us articulate what might be next.”
Vidakovich led the charge to help recruit an A-level festival guest to this year’s festival and the Department of Communication Studies committed to making this happen. This year, the inclusion of Harry Belafonte, renowned activist and actor, in conjunction with the screening of Emmy nominated film, I Am Not Your Negro resulted in regional press and a sold-out theater.
In addition to Vidakovich’s exceptional commitment to the development and on-going success of Colorado State University’s ACT Human Rights Film Festival, he has been an active member of the Liberal Arts Development Council (LADC) since 2015. His naturally vivacious personality and his immense experience in working with complex organizations have proven invaluable to the efforts of the LADC. He joins other successful CLA alumni to help in forwarding the College’s mission and enhancing initiatives to secure contributed revenue to help realize long-term development goals.
“Jim made a commitment to serve his alma mater and CSU has greatly benefitted from this extraordinary gentleman’s time, talent, and energy,” shares Thad Smith (’74), president of the Colorado State University Alumni Association.
Each year, the Colorado State University Alumni Association honors an outstanding alumnus/a from each of the University’s eight colleges. His service to Colorado State University and dedicated support of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival have made him a vital member of the CLA family. To honor his achievements and service, Vidakovich is the 2017 recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Honor Alumni Award.
“Jim exemplifies what a successful, engaged alumnus can do. He demonstrates pride in CSU through his time, talent, and treasure. I can think of no better person to receive the CLA Honor Alumnus Award,” says Dean Withers.
Vidakovich will be honored at the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards event during CSU’s Homecoming week on Thursday, October 12.