Do AWESOME Stuff

2014 04 17 JW Image 40 1024x682 Do AWESOME Stuff

Zach with NIU Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a guest post (a student profile really) of a conversation I had with freshly-minted NIU business alumnus Zach Fiegel, pictured with NIU Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler. This story reflects Zach’s NIU experiences as he described them to me just prior to his graduation on May 10, 2014.  It’s important to mention that Zach wanted this article to reflect the accomplishments of a wide range of fellow students-friends who Zach collaborated with during his time at NIU. I hope my writing reflects this. Congratulations, Zach, on the start of your next series of adventures! Thank you for the great conversation as always and for not hesitating to sit down with me when I approached you — even at the 11th hour in the semester!

 

Do AWESOME Stuff … live a BOLD life

“Every experience can be life changing. It really can.  It’s up to each of us to approach things that way,” NIU Business senior Zach Fiegel says, echoing the perspective of a visionary or an entrepreneur.

It’s not a stretch for Fiegel and his friends who are fellow students in social entrepreneurship to have a sense of those waters.  They immerse themselves in an entrepreneurial mindset – in the idea of changing the world, transforming themselves and others for the better – as a matter of course, and they do it as a team.

Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs changing the world Do AWESOME Stuff

NIU's Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs changing the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case in point:  as members of the student organization NIU CAUSE, with Fiegel its president, the group put everything they had behind a colleague’s idea to provide other students with financial help.  They raised $2,500 this semester and created a $1,000 annual NIU CAUSE student scholarship, while donating the remaining $1,500 to three different NGOs.  Earlier in 2013, Fiegel and another team of students in a social venture class won $10,000 seed money for their business concept and then shortly afterwards invested those funds in a social venture located in Nigeria.

It’s in that spirit of boldness that Fiegel applied blindly for a summer internship with the NBA, an organization whose interns and new hires tend to hail from Ivy League schools.  Fiegel disrupted that pattern by landing a spot in the program.  Then after the internship, he applied for and was accepted into their New York-based associates program, which serves as entrée to an NBA management career.  Fiegel begins the associates program this summer after he graduates in May with an NIU degree in marketing.  He hopes one of his professional rotations includes NBA Cares, the unit that manages the social responsibilities of the league and the league’s efforts in high schools.

Zach NBA1 Do AWESOME Stuff

Zach with fellow NBA interns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was on the eve of his next series of bold adventures that Zach and I caught up for a student profile.  In our conversation, I asked Zach to share his reflections on his NIU experiences overall, as well as what he’s learned both in and out of the classroom.

NIU CAUSE students give check to Northern Food Bank after making and selling 41 pizzas in one day in November 2013 Do AWESOME Stuff

NIU CAUSE students donate to the Northern Food Bank after making and selling 41 pizzas in one day in November 2013

“I’ve met so many awesome people,” Fiegel says, holding direct eye contact when he speaks.  His good nature invites dialogue.  His warm tone inspires confidence.   He values individuals and each person’s uniqueness – he states this explicitly and demonstrates it consistently.   “I’ve developed so many great friendships and relationships…had such great times doing important things.  Things I care deeply about and things others care deeply about.”

Zach and CAUSE friends wraps up the first annual Social Impact Summit Do AWESOME Stuff

NIU CAUSE student created Social Impact Summit in its first year, which realized more than 170 attendees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of those things includes a team effort to conceptualize a life-changing for-profit venture, then developing a full business plan around the idea and presenting the concept to angel investors in spring 2013.

To get there, Fiegel collaborated with individuals from across the university (business, engineering, community & civic engagement), each of them students in the social venture class in the Department of Management.  The course explores commerce in a different way and serves more as a business incubator than a traditional class.  Answers aren’t found at the end of the book, for example, and in truth, textbooks aren’t the focus.  Instead, the creative ideas of students are.  Students arrive in the course first by way of an interview process and then by invitation only before they dive into workshops and conversations of discovery with their fellow students, professors, and outside experts.  The context for all of this is to positively impact each component of a more complete business metric known as the triple bottom line or 3Ps:  People, Planet, Profit.

At its essence, the social venture class is about “breakthrough ideation” … a perfect environment for the likes of Fiegel and many other NIU students whose hearts and minds align with doing something meaningful.

“It was an incredible experience and not without challenge,” Fiegel laughs quietly before he continues to explain.  “We worked from a blank slate to come up with a for-profit social enterprise.  We brainstormed so many times… we had a lot of false starts, a lot of ideas we couldn’t fully corral.  The most challenging part was coming up with the ideas at all, then picking them apart, defending them, rethinking them, really holding them up and testing them.  The key metric we used – it may sound corny – but it really was this:  does the idea hold the promise to be life changing.  The idea had to literally change lives or we weren’t interested.  What came out of all that effort was a venture we called ‘Vitalert.’  Vitalert uses the cell phone as an instrument for change by alerting users to nearby danger.  It’s basically an app that combines features along the lines of Twitter and Google Maps.  We thought Nigeria would be the best market for its launch because Nigeria has an extremely high usage of cell phones and is also one of the most violent places in the world.  Nigerians typically learn about violence by turning the corner and walking right into it only because they don’t have timely information about existing danger around them or about bad situations that may be developing around them in that very moment.”

Even 525,600 moments – or a full year – later, Fiegel still speaks passionately about the concept.  He riffs off interesting stats like how more mobile phones exist in the world than bank accounts and emphasizes the group’s “a-ha” moment when they began to view the phone in a completely different way:  from a device for selfies to a life-changing, potentially life-saving instrument.  From his enthusiasm alone, it’s not difficult to imagine how the entire team won the angel investors over.  And in fact, that’s precisely what happened.  Four teams of four students presented their social venture concepts last May, each challenged to explain and defend the soundness of their ideas, business plans, marketing plans, and revenue models as well as the impact on the three pillars of People, Planet, Profits.    And in the end – after all the “really great presentations” and all the “really cool ideas, really cool stuff” – Vitalert landed the first place prize and a check for $10,000 in angel funding at NIU’s second annual Social Venture Competition.

The Vitalert student team wins angel funding to seed their social enterprise concept called Vitalert Do AWESOME Stuff

the Vitalert team and concept winning angel funding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m really competitive … all of us are,” Fiegel says, “but it’s interesting how rapidly every team came to support each other’s ideas.  We all listened to each other’s presentations.  After Vitalert won, our team received tremendous support from the other teams.  Somehow we were all competing but really in the end we were all collaborating.  That seems to be the way it is in the social spaces.  Everyone works really hard on a great idea.  All of us were inspired by the brilliant people involved in the social entrepreneurship sector because their ideas really do reach the breakthrough level.  And yet at the same time everyone is genuinely supportive of each other.”

The Vitalert story would be compelling enough right there, but it’s what his team classmates and Zach decided to do with the $10,000 seed money that draws you in even more.

“After we won the Social Venture Competition, we took a hard look at ourselves.  Two of the members – Mike and Addison – were graduate students with jobs already lined up.  I was still in school.  I had another year to finish and so did Kaitlin.  I just really didn’t know if we could put enough into starting up a venture while completing school.  We all wanted to do justice to the $10,000 seed money.  So we talked about it as a team and voted and decided to invest the $10,000 in a worthy non-profit,” Zach shares.

Imagine it’s the beginning of May.  Classes are finished:  finals taken, grades reported, and barbeques begin to fire up.  But instead of kicking back entirely or travelling to a beach for a couple of weeks, you and your team members decide to develop a Request for Proposals.  Fiegel describes how he, Mike, Addison, and Kaitlin switched perspectives and roles in what seemed like the blink of an eye:  from pitching an idea for angel investor funding to evaluating a multitude of ideas as angel investors themselves.

“We created the RFP after looking at examples online.  None of us knew how to do this.  We listed the criteria we wanted the applicants to document for us.  Things like measures for social impact, sustainability, revenue models.  Then we researched and selected a group of finalists and sent the RFP to them.  So we’re reading through all these proposals – all really good, really excellent – and it made it difficult to identify a short-list of finalists, but eventually we selected 7-8 finalists.  Ultimately, the one that won was the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) in Nigeria.   YTF brings together education and technology to help provide opportunities for young people – basically kids – who find themselves in families at the bottom of the economic pyramid.  YTF appealed to the interests of our team because the venture has a focus in Nigeria, and we couldn’t imagine anything more impactful than helping kids to transform their lives so they can lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty.”

Zach pauses briefly as if in thought, then adds, “Plus YTF describes itself as a place of ‘impatient optimists.’  That really resonated.  All my friends and I rally around the idea of being unreasonable enough to move past the status quo.  We feel a kindred spirit with Impatient Optimists.”

Indeed, Zach and his peers describe themselves as Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs who view the world in a vastly new way.  In a different enough way, in fact, that within days they somehow connected with an organization of Impatient Optimists located half-way around the world.  As he describes how this virtual meeting of the minds and hearts came about, Fiegel illustrates perfectly what the connected economy and the connected Millennials know all so well:  how very small, hopeful and very personal a very, very big world has become.

“I learned about YTF because one night I was particularly distracted by my twitter feed and came across a tweet from the various individuals and organizations I follow in the social space.  I clicked on a link in a tweet and read this article about a Microsoft executive who gave up a highly successful position to work with the Youth for Technology Foundation in Nigeria.  I was so fascinated by the article and the foundation that I researched the name of the former executive and sent her an email with our team’s RFP.  We stayed in contact ever since that first email.  Then when YTF’s proposal won, she was ecstatic; really thrilled that YTF had won the $10,000 funding.”

Sounds easy enough, right?  Like so many of his colleagues, Fiegel’s manner remains outwardly relaxed, yet conveys laser focus and a collaborative spirit that’s spiced with a massive dash of “why not?” Embracing transformation is simply who they naturally are even if there’s nothing simple about it.  Still, this young man from Chicago’s northwest suburbs lives, breathes, and walks the talk of “why not?”  He and his friends willingly roll up their sleeves to do the unbelievably challenging work of breaking through the status quo, and they do it for the sole purpose of manifesting something powerfully uplifting and powerfully important.

The first student made CAUSE pizza all possible because of a team effort between a great student idea a great group of students and a great pizza restaurant owner Arty of Pizza Pros Do AWESOME Stuff

CAUSE students making life-changing pizza as part of the group's fundraising efforts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why not? … to be sure.  And equally to be sure, an open and willing heart-mind connection provides a great deal of help, truth be told, is an outright prerequisite for anyone intent upon making a positive impact.

Only don’t ask Fiegel or his friends if this is the case for them.  Zach will tell you they’re all just regular people.  The thing is…Zach really is very down to earth.  His twitter bio includes this intention:  “My goal is to increase genuine smiles globally.”  He’s truly an unassuming guy who also happens to be caring enough, passionate enough, wise enough, and aware enough to know how life speaks to his heart and to be committed enough to blaze that trail in fellowship with friends the world over.  Plus, he and his friends have paid very close attention to those they count as the many trailblazers leading the way.  They range from his immediate family to a wide circle of close friends, professors and those individuals from a variety of countries and cultures who unapologetically and bravely live into their dreams no matter how large or many the obstacles.

In fact, Zach had visited with several of them just weeks ago.

Zach in the NIU sweatshirt with his microfinance friends and class just before the Microfinance site visit in Mexico this past spring break 2014 1024x682 Do AWESOME Stuff

Microfinance class gathers in Barsema Hall en route to Mexico

 

Over spring break, Fiegel – along with his social venture classmates and professor Christine Mooney – travelled to Mexico, where they met several social entrepreneurs located in the more poverty-stricken area of that country.  To paint the picture of the impact this had on him, Zach uses broad brushstrokes.  He describes at length how eye-opening the experience was in terms of really understanding how big and very different the world is from what he originally thought.  When he shares why his perspective so dramatically shifted, you almost sense his memories of the trip revealing themselves right there in living color as if streaming in the air from YouTube.   He speaks about realizing how incomplete it is to think that life moves only in a straight line.  The idea of only two options – straight ahead or falling backward – pales in comparison now for him, now that he has seen a vastly more complex, vastly more dimensional world – almost, as Fiegel muses, “a “Rubik’s-cube” of incredible people of all kinds and incredible life experiences of all varieties.

Microfinance students travel to Mexico spring break 2014 1024x678 Do AWESOME Stuff

Microfinance students with social entrepreneurs in Mexico

“I’ve changed alot and I’m aware of it,” Fiegel admits as the conversation pivots slightly when he answers a question specific to his own personal transformation. “I may not know all of how I’m going to change – that’s what life is about, right?  But, I do know the world’s a big place with a lot of different people and situations, and I do know I don’t know everything and never will.  I’m lucky to also know I’m building from a strong foundation.  My family provided me with a solid base.  My mom and my dad are my heroes.  They were young when I was born, and they sacrificed so much so that I could have opportunities.  Dennis Barsema is a great role model, another amazing person who I aspire to be like and someone who is also very important to me…someone I now also consider to be a great friend.  My high school football coach, my high school basketball coach, my high school English teacher – all so important to me.  Really, there are so very many people I’ve learned from, who took the time and interest in me to help me grow.  The number one thing I take away from all of what they taught me is how important it is to help others.  One of my goals is to be a good role model to my brothers and sister.  My parents did everything they could so I could have more opportunities.  I’m so grateful to them and to everyone.  I think it’s important that I pay that forward to my younger brothers and sister.  That I pay it forward in everything I do.”

As he stands in the Rubik’s cube of life’s pathways and peers into the immediate future, the past, the highs, the lows, and the many unknowns to come,  Zach’s one recommendation – if he had only one to make – to a new student or really to anyone boils down to this:

NIU CAUSE and students take a selfie with NIU President Baker during a break at the 2014 Social Impact Summit Do AWESOME Stuff

NIU CAUSE students in a selfie with NIU President Baker at the 2014 Social Impact Summit, which realized more than 225 attendees

“Here’s what my friends and I always say:  do AWESOME stuff … with capital letters in the word ‘AWESOME.’  Don’t sit around.  Be proactive.  Take that first step.  Explore.  Whatever you put your interest or time into, put your best into it.  Sometimes the hardest thing is showing up.”

Fiegel pauses briefly, then smiles as if in appreciation to a whole lot of people and for a whole lot of experiences; as if with tangible excitement for the positively unreasonably bold things to come. Then, with an energy likened to quiet confidence and with all his friends right there with him in his mind’s eye to speak in one voice, he urges:

“Make yourself show up.”

 

HOW FIEGEL & FRIENDS SHOW UP IN THE WORLD

  • Budding Social Entrepreneurs & Angel Investors who, along with his student teammates, envisioned a for-profit, social venture called Vitalert.  Their business idea took first place in NIU’s 2013 Social Venture Competition along with seeding of $10,000 to bring their idea into reality.  The team then created an RFP, evaluated proposals, and invested the $10,000 in a social venture in Nigeria.
  • Co-founder, President (see next item) and co-member of NIU CAUSE, a university-wide student organization focused in the social entrepreneurship space that grew organically from 7 to 35 members in one year’s time.
  • President of NIU CAUSE for two years and humbly taking on the formal title even though Zach prefers to describe himself as “collaborator and friend.”  Zach explains:  “I worry about titles taking over the culture, spirit, and focus.  I had to be convinced titles were necessary.  Eventually, I came to recognize how they can help with structure.  But I don’t place my focus on them.  Trust, respect, and open-mindedness are what matter to me.”
  • Budding Sales Professionals and Pizza Pros, who brought life to a student idea that a really good pizza can change lives.  After a series of cold calls, the efforts of the CAUSE students resulted in a long-standing relationship with Arty, the owner of Pizza Pros restaurant in DeKalb, who opened early every week so Zach and his CAUSE colleagues could use the facilities to bake 20 homemade pizzas and deliver and sell them to their NIU customer base (selling them completely out each time, in fact).  “Arty has been truly amazing.  We’re so grateful to him for helping what must have looked to him like crazy kids,” Zach shares.
  • Budding Angel Investors who with all his CAUSE colleagues invested CAUSE pizza sale profits in 2013 in a social entrepreneur located in Mexico.  In 2014, they invested additional CAUSE profits in three other NGOs.
  • Budding Named Scholarship Investors who together with the CAUSE gang raised enough funds in 2014 to establish an annual $1,000 CAUSE scholarship for NIU students, thereby bringing to life an idea championed by one of Zach’s fellow CAUSE colleagues.
  • Activists all, these CAUSE friends, sold, baked, and delivered more than 41 pizzas in one day (and in between their classes) during NIU’s food drive and then donated the proceeds to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, raising enough funds to provide more than 3,000 meals to those in need.
  • Visionary CAUSE Tribe that co-founded and co-led from start to finish the university’s first-ever day-long Social Impact Summit (including lining up the keynotes, all nationally regarded in the field of social entrepreneurship, and marketing the event).  More than 170 individuals attended the first Social Impact Summit in 2013, and more than 225 attended the second annual summit in 2014.
  • Highly Engaged Students, Advisory Board members, co-ed Business Fraternity members, Club Sports members, Huskies Superfans…
  • All around regular people…

 

 

 

Don’t Panic: Top 15 Tips for Finals

Editor’s note:  Don’t panic, but finals week is just days away.  The good news is there are a variety of great ideas to help you cross the finish line. Check out these Top 15 Hot Tips for Finals, listed in US News Education.  We curated and rephrased the advice here (below). Also be sure to check out NIU’s De-Stress Fest on April 30th!

 

Top 15 Study Tips

1.  Use Bite-sized Study Strategies.  If you have 7 days until a final, don’t wait until the 11th hour to start cramming.  Do this instead:  “…divide the course into sevenths and study two weeks’ worth of lectures each day.”

2.  Protect your Time and your Focus.  Here’s where your time management skills *really* come into play.  Drop any unnecessary or any time-consuming social activities so you can use that time to focus on your studies.  Every moment counts.  According to the list on US Education:  “…Even a few strategically placed extra hours can make the difference between doing just OK on finals and doing a really great job.”

3.  Face your fears.  Instead of studying an equal amount for each final, look at all of your finals and figure out which courses are the most challenging for you.  If you know a final exam is going to be difficult, evaluate how well you know the material (be honest with yourself).  Then, if you need to, devote more time studying for the difficult final exam and spend less time avoiding it by focusing on other courses that you are strong in.

4.  Get a lay of the exam terrain.  Ask your professor to share what’s likely to be on the exam.  Readings?  Discussions?  Material from lectures?  Is it comprehensive or will it cover only a certain number of chapters?  When you know the context for the final — the extent and the boundaries — you can organize and structure your studying.

5.  Understand how your professor asks questions.  Ask your professors about the approach she or he will take with questions.  Will the final be a big question or two?  Or will it be a series of focused questions that cover specific material in the course?

6.  Study examples.  If your professor ever said — “That would make a good final exam question” — then you might want to “take the hint” and review that particular topic and example.  Other resources to include in your studies include Study Guides or Review Questions, most particularly if they are pointed out by your professor.

7.  Engage in Group Study or “not so much”.  If it helps you stay focused and on track, study groups are great.  If you find them more a distraction than anything, just remember it’s your time and energy that you want to protect so that you can do the work you need to do.

8.  Attend review sessions.  Eighty percent of success is showing up!  If your professor offers a review session, make sure to be there.  Review sessions are often the most under-used resources but can be the single biggest help to you.  When professors give you a review session, you get a glimpse into how they are thinking about a topic or what they consider to be the high points of a course.  Think of it as a cram session with your professor — and it’s really the only worthwhile cram session to take part of!

9.  Utilize your notes (when allowed).  If your professor allows you to bring your notes to class, make sure your notes are organized and clear.  That means take them out and look at them.  This will also reinforce the material and the refresher — along with clean notes — will make it more likely that you will express your ideas clearly and well during exam time.

10.  Size up the test right when you get it!  Before you start answering questions, take a couple of minutes when you receive the test to get a lay of the land:  how many questions are on it?  how much does each part count?   Then make a decision upfront about how much time you will spend on each question.  This will help you focus and help you manage your time during the exam.

11.  Write clear essay answers.  Unless your professor indicates otherwise, much of what is graded here has to do with the correct answer AND with how well you develop and explain your answer.  So develop your answers fully and clearly.  Oftentimes it helps to think about how you would explain your answers to a sibling or a friend who isn’t familiar with the topic.

12.  Help the professor to give you a good grade.  Professors grade upwards of 70 finals over a two-three day period.  Make it easier for them to give you a good grade by providing them with neatly written essays.  Your essay should:  make clear the question you’re answering and should begin to provide the answer in the very first sentence.

13.  Pace yourself.  Think of a final exam as a work session that is divided into sub-sessions.  Stay focused in each part and take each question one at a time.  Between parts, take a short breather for a few short seconds-minutes before starting the next part.

14.  Don’t panic.  Remember that most tests are designed to have some harder questions and some easier questions.  That means that the overall degree of difficulty will vary over a 2-3 hour exam period.  Ignore the feeling of a “roller coaster.”  Stay focused on the material and don’t dwell on how well you think the exam is going.

15.  It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over.  Stay for the entire exam time.  Use any extra time to double-check your work:  go over your answers, proofread, or add more clarity to your essay answers.  Remember your goal is to help your professor to give you a good grade, so take the extra time to make sure the work you turn in represents you as well as it can.

 

Don’t forget to stay hydrated, eat healthy foods, get rest, and above all don’t panic.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL … YOU’LL DO GREAT!

a world view from Ukraine to NIU

Maksym at the Grand Canyon  1024x575 a world view from Ukraine to NIU

Editor’s Note:  It’s not every day that you find yourself on the other side of the world.  But that’s the reality for Maksym, an NIU accountancy major and native Ukranian (and pictured above, at the Grand Canyon).  Maksym has lived in the US for the past four years.  He’s an “NIU native,” meaning he entered the university his freshman year.  Now a senior and on the brink of graduating in May, Maksym places his focus not only on his future but equally – and more intensely – on the unfolding crisis between Ukraine and Russia.  Technology serves him more as a lifeline than anything, these days.  He uses it at every opportunity to check news reports, emails, and social channels reporting on the situation in Ukraine.  His parents and siblings still reside there, thankfully in the northern area of the country somewhat removed from current tensions.  Nonetheless, Maksym and his family remain acutely aware of the rapidly changing world around them…from both sides of the planet.  I met Maksym through a chance conversation in the hallways of Barsema Hall.  I happened to be carrying a sweater with embroidery that, I would soon learn, resembled the national flowers and colors of Ukraine.  This prompted Maksym to introduce himself to me and from there a conversation developed about his country, the importance of a global outlook, and his experiences at NIU.  Out of respect to Maksym and his family, the following interview shares Maksym’s views primarily about the significance of a global outlook and his experiences at NIU.

 

Maksym’s Long view from the other side of the Pond

Michelle:   Thank you, Maksym, for going out of your way to introduce yourself to me and for agreeing to share some of your story.  To begin, I’m curious to learn how you landed at NIU – all the way from the other side of the world.

Maksym:  In high school in Ukraine, I began looking at universities – just like most high school kids do.  But my situation was a bit different.  The reason is I played tennis professionally when I was in high school.  This gave me access to a powerful resource.  There are companies in Ukraine and in Russia that help find universities for professional athletes who are also students. Their goal is to match the needs and interests of each athlete-student – both in terms of sports and in terms of academics.  This is how I found out about NIU.

Michelle: What was it like to be a professional athlete in high school…that’s such a young age.  Did you travel?

Maksym:  I traveled all the time.  I played professional tennis in Ukraine and in Europe.  Before I came to the US and NIU, I had traveled to about 15-20 countries.  Travelling is something I became accustomed to.  I began playing tennis at 9.  I started the sport more for fun, but then I became very good at it, and later when I played professionally, I traveled a lot not only to compete but also to practice in different cities for a month at a time.  In Ukraine where I am from there aren’t many places that support professional tennis players – that’s why I spent so much time travelling when I was growing up and also studying at the same time.  Different cities provided practice facilities for tennis, so I had to travel there to practice.  And then I also had to travel to compete.

Michelle: Sounds like a world view comes naturally to you.  Did you find it difficult to fit in at any of these places?  Even at NIU…was it easy or challenging or somewhere in between to fit in here? 

Maksym:  I am very used to being immersed in different cultures, different places, with people from all types of backgrounds.  So, no, it wasn’t hard at all for me to be comfortable in those different cities when I was young and practiced tennis there, or even when I competed in different countries.  The hardest part was missing my family.  My family stayed in Ukraine.  I traveled with the professional tennis team.  Those trips were very focused.  I suppose I grew up fast that way in terms of, you know, having an open perspective about different places and cultures, different people.  With that experience, no, it wasn’t hard at all for me to fit in at NIU.  Plus, I came here knowing what I was doing, what my focus was.  I came here to study accountancy and I came here to play tennis.  I lived in the dorms my first year here.  I had a really good roommate who was also an athlete.  He is majoring in law.  He is from the US but he is very open-minded about different countries and different backgrounds.  He became a good friend who made it easy to fit in because he wasn’t at all judgmental about someone from a different country.

Michelle:  If you had only one recommendation to make – to a new student or anyone, really – about travelling abroad, what would it be?

Maksym:  It’s really beneficial to have the proper mindset.  Being open-minded to other places, other people, other experiences.  It’s so important to realize that there are other ways to do things, to acknowledge that people even think differently and that that’s not always a bad thing.  When you travel abroad, really experience the culture, even the food.  For example, don’t look for a McDonald’s or something that you already know.  Try something new. 

Michelle:You’re about to graduate in May?  Have you been on the NIU tennis team all four years of your time here?

Maksym:  I was on the NIU tennis team for three years and really enjoyed it, but I had an injury and so now I am the manager of the NIU women’s team.  I also want to help the university’s Tennis Club.

Michelle:  I’m sorry to hear about the sports injury, but I’m glad you found a way to stay involved with the sport. So you’ve been on a team and you’re leading a team.  How would you describe good leadership and a good team?

Maksym:  Leaders have to be responsible.  A dictator isn’t a leader…they think they are but they aren’t.  That type of leadership style takes away from others and avoids responsibility.  A good leader is responsible and helps others succeed.  A good leader also stands by their word.   I can tell a strong team by how good the relationships are between the people on the team.  They don’t necessarily have to be friends at all.  But they have to trust each other.  They are honest and respectful with what they say and they back up what they say.  Good team members admit when they can’t do something and they find help.  There is a saying in my country that translates into “You live age and you learn age.”  It basically means you live through a period of time and while you go through life, you are always learning.

Michelle: What’s been your most meaningful experience here at NIU and just in general?

Maksym:  My most memorable experience at NIU is sports-related.  It would definitely be winning the 2012 MAC championship for tennis.  That was so awesome.  (Edtior’s note to readers:  If you’re like me and had no idea NIU got the MAC championship in tennis in 2012, check out the hyperlink to an NIU Today story on it!)

Outside of NIU, it may sound odd, I don’t know, but in January of this year I traveled to Arizona. 

Maksym at the Grand Canyon2 576x1024 a world view from Ukraine to NIUI saw the Grand Canyon and actually stayed at the Grand Canyon overnight.  It was an incredible experience seeing it.  I don’t know if I can put it into words.  But seeing that place changed the way I see the world – in terms of what people value.  I was so engrossed in the moment.  I stared at a clear sunset.  It was perfectly clear.  It all looked so unreal.  I was so engrossed I watched the light changing and the way it reflected in the canyon changing until it was completely dark and it was morning.  The sunset is really almost impossible. 

Maksym visits the Grand Can 1024x768 a world view from Ukraine to NIU

I’ve never seen that image like what I saw at the Grand Canyon anywhere.  It was so quiet, so awe-inspiring that you can’t help but feel yourself removed from the routine of life. 

I know that experience changed me – it’s difficult to phrase clearly how.  How much the impact will be, I don’t know yet.  But I know it will be.  Right now, even though I’m looking for work and hope to pursue a master of accounting science if I get a tennis scholarship or graduate assistant position, I can say the experience changed my perspective.  I see the world differently now.  It really made me realize how incredible things can be and how important it is to pay attention in the moment, no matter where you are. 

 

 

GOOGLED!

 

Lexi GOOGLED!Editor’s Note:  Lexi Wozny, NIU Marketing major and self proclaimed “busy bee” provides this next guest post. Lexi shares her involvement with organizing the Google Search Party event (March 20th) — and as importantly, what she learned from listening to a Googler talk about doing cool things that matter.

At the close of her post, Lexi also shares a bit about herself, along with her contact information.  Lexi is also one of several students in the college’s “Uncommon” video — about student experiences at NIU Business.

(Lexi’s photo to the left is by Jeannie Liautaud Photography.) 

 

 GOOGLED!  by Lexi Wozny

Attending Thursday evening’s “Google Search Party” gave me insight into what it takes to become a Googler at Google.

 GOOGLED!

Demian Caponi, University Outreach representative at Google, Inc., came to the Northern Illinois University College of Business to meet and engage with students about sales opportunities at Google.

 GOOGLED!

A sales position with Google’s SMB (Small-to-Medium Sized Business) team is a consultative role. Successful members of this team are “teachers” to clients who want to expand their businesses online through online advertising. Along with being teachers, successful Googlers are collaborative and transparent. I’ve heard about Google’s corporate culture before, but Demian’s presentation brought it to the main stage in Barsema Hall Auditorium.

 GOOGLED!

Googler Demian Caponi on Google's Values & Culture

Google provides a great culture for its employees because they are changing the world- whether it’s a small “Mom and Pop” shop or a medium size start-up. Google Sales Representatives are always working towards making a difference. When they make a difference with their clients, they make a difference at Google.

 GOOGLED!

Making a Cool Difference that Matters!

After the presentation, it made me think about how much of a difference anyone can make if they set their mind to changing the world around them. Working with the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board and American Marketing Association executive boards we were able to execute a Google campus event and get students in front of the “2014 Best Place to Work For” company.

 GOOGLED!

Googler Demian Caponi (center) with AMA student officers

By applying Google’s values of collaboration and transparency, we gave NIU Business students an invaluable opportunity.

Lastly, some advice for some upcoming and incoming NIU College of Business students:  If you want to make something happen, go for it and utilize the resources around you. You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish.

 GOOGLED!

NIU Business student Lexi and Googler Demian

 

Cheers!

Lexi Wozny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Lexy Wozny

Lexi is a full-time senior, NIU marketing major graduating this May. Lexi is pursuing certificates in Professional Sales and Interactive Marketing. She is involved in Pi Sigma Epsilon as the Vice President of Human Resources, the Vice President of the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board, Twitter representative for the Marketing Student Advisory Board, and the Social Media Coordinator for the NIU Professional Sales Program. She has been an active student in the Experiential Learning Center as a junior consultant (Spring 2013) and Assistant Coach (Spring 2014). When Lexi is not being a busy-bee around the NIU College of Business, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, watching her guilty pleasure TV shows, and singing karaoke. Lexi is entering her sales career and hoping to relocate after graduation.
Lexi can be contacted directly at lexi.wozny@gmail.com or follow & tweet her at @lexxhope. 

 

 

The World at your Fingertips!

Social Media:  In one word it’s been revolutionary for the way we communicate in today’s world. The idea of Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instagram were unheard of 15 years ago for ways to communicate our lives to one another. These social media outlets have allowed for out of the box thinking and innovation. The ability to network and meet people are probably two of the most powerful things gained from these social media outlets. It’s created a need for companies to hire social media interns and strategists to help better their online presence. People do use direct mail still in an effective way.  The difference is that now direct mail needs to be used much more strategically and in a highly-targeted way.   A perfect example is what I do here as the social media and marketing intern for the College of Business.  Throughout the first semester, our mission was to help make things more accessible to students on our social media outlets. Examples of this practice were bringing attention to guest speakers, athletics results, etc. We also run contests about the college to help reinforce school pride in the students, and to help them learn how they benefit from their education here. This helps reinforce the core values of the College of Business and helps out our students with studying for tests. Some other examples of our blog posts include first-hand accounts and tips for succeeding in classes such as UBUS 310, a nine-credit business course required for all business students.

One social media outlet I want to bring up that stands out to me personally the most is LinkedIn as it provides the most value to the students here at NIU. As a freshman business major, your first impression of the college is the name Dennis Barsema because the college is in Barsema Hall.  But then very soon you learn more about Mr. Barsema.  Mr. Barsema is an alumnus of NIU as well as an instructor in the Social Entrepreneurship field. In my own personal experience when connecting with him it’s like being connected to over 500+ professionals and students. This in turn has many benefits for potential jobs and connecting with recruiters. I also use LinkedIn as a way to know my resume by completing all necessary requirements of obtaining an all-star profile. This helped me a great deal.  Recently at the Internship Fair on campus, I felt very confident about my resume and talked comfortably with employers. I’m constantly looking for more ways to improve and seeing how others highlight things on their profile gives me great feedback to better set myself apart from the fold. The opportunity to make connections with people here at NIU, alums and professionals in the industry is something we didn’t have 10 years ago. I’m grateful to Mr. Barsema for showing me the ways of LinkedIn and others along the way…I feel I’m ready to mentor others on how to use this great tool of networking.

As a start, here are two things you can do right away:

1. Talk with your favorite professor or advisor about tips for creating a LinkedIn account.  2.  Contact me directly at (robwiller@comcast.net) to learn more about how I created my account.

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=147764262&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Taking Initiative in College

As we transition into the week before Spring Break I wanted to take the time to discuss leadership roles. A leader is classified as a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country. No matter the project or organization, I encourage you to take on a leadership role at least once before you graduate college. It’s one of the most rewarding things you will do as an undergraduate and it’s something you will learn so much about yourself.

To relate this back to here at NIU we are given certain opportunities to take on leadership roles. Some examples that come to mind are group projects throughout the Upper Level of Business Courses, student organizations, internships and even jobs on campus. It’s something that you can’t really describe. It’s a moment of control yet you can see others grow with you. A perfect example is certain organizations here on campus where they just start off with a few members and then grow to 20 members. We always talk about boosting our resumes with these positions but the idea of running your organization is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. In my personal experience I ran our Tennis Club here at Northern Illinois University and I learned so much about myself by dealing with conflicts and hardships. The idea of playing a sport in high school and being able to follow my dreams of playing in college was one of the reasons I took on the role. Some of things involved with this role were taking meeting minutes, having everyone register for USTA, booking hotels and holding practices. I am so grateful for this role because it got me involved in other organizations and even farther along with the Sports Club Council. Now after last year being the President of Tennis, I have been elected to serve on a board of seven members where we distribute budgets for 30 clubs. One leadership role makes your life so much more entertaining and gives you that sense of urgency you need in the business world. Leadership Roles do show employers that you can manage multiple things besides academics but also help you build your own skills in communication and leadership.

Now my boss has asked me to lead a focus group – from identifying the participants, creating the framework, facilitating it to preparing a written and verbal report.  This is new ground for me…but I look forward to taking on the challenge!

4 Ways to Study Smarter

Editor’s Note:  We recently asked students on our Facebook wall for their suggestions on how to have a successful semester.  Here are some responses, all of them great ideas in easily digestible pieces that range from using an app to the extremes of going off the grid entirely. Check these suggestions out and see if any of them work for you.

 

  • Make a to do list of smaller, specific tasks so even if things like traffic (or Netflix) prevent you from getting the whole list done, you can still feel accomplished about all the tasks you were able to check off.  ~ Chloe Pooler, NIU Business student
  • I use the SelfControll app for my computer. I block websites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Buzzfeed, PGA, and other sites that distract me from studying. I usually set it for 5 hours so I can be as productive as I can without distracting myself.  ~ Liv Stanger, NIU Business student
  • When I’m studying for an exam, I disconnect the internet so I’m not distracted. ~ Dave Guilford, NIU Business student
  • I try to look ahead at future projects and then I plan accordingly. I normally make sure that I have things completed by Friday night in order for the weekend to be a breeze. If I put it off it just bugs me the entire weekend.  ~ Clayton Dean, NIU Business student

How to Succeed in School

Editor’s Note:  From time to time throughout the semester, we’ll find and share tips on how to have a successful academic semester.  We can all do some easy things that help, like staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and eating right.  But excellent learners also use specific skills to help them learn.  So to help you get as much out of the learning experience as you can (and make finals week less stressful, hopefully, when it arrives) here’s the first set of tips.  We curated this content and summarized it.  But for more detail and information, be sure to click this post title to read the full post “Tips for Successful Students.”  

Successful students:

  • Are responsive and active.  They get involved in their studies and that also means they get involved in the class.
  • Have learning goals.  Ask yourself:  what are your career desires?  What are your life’s goals?  When you have an idea how you want your education to help you, it really helps you make the most out of each learning situation to help you achieve your goals.
  • Ask questions.  Asking questions is the fastest way to bridge the gap between ignorance and knowledge.  And, as a favorite professor (now retired) used to say, “There’s no such thing as a foolish question. You only short-change yourself when you don’t ask.”  Another highly successful mentor was fond of saying:  “The truth is that nobody knows everything, not even highly successful people.”  …which was really another way of saying Ask Questions!
  • Learn that a student and a professor make a team.  Professors and Instructors are on your team, so be on their team too!  That way everyone succeeds!  You succeed in mastering something new and they succeed in being a good, even great teacher!
  • Sit toward the front, not in the back.  Excellent learners actively engage in the process by focusing their attention on the material and the classroom discussion.  That means they don’t hang out in the back row.  They wade into the classroom environment and by doing so they minimize distractions around them.
  • Take good notes.  Good notes are understandable and well organized, and reviewed often.  So take notes that make sense to you and look at them often.  All of this helps to reinforce your learning.
  • Understand that actions effect learning.  Behaviors produce experiences.  If you behave interested even when you’re not but if you make yourself sit up straight and lean forward, look at the professor, and listen, you’ll actually *create* interest.  On the down side, if you feel bored or disinterested and allow yourself to stay like that, you’ll create a boring experience for yourself and make it even more difficult to learn.
  • Talk about what they’re learning.  Talk it out!  We’re copying this verbatim from the full post because it’s so important:  “…Transferring ideas into words provides the most direct path for moving knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. You really don’t “know” material until you can put it into words. So, next time you study, don’t do it silently. “
  • Spread studying out…don’t cram for exams. It bears repeating:  Spread your studying out!  Study specialists universally agree on this:  You’ll learn more, remember more, and earn a higher grade by studying in four, one hour-a-night sessions for Friday’s exam than studying for four hours straight on Thursday night. Short, concentrated preparatory efforts are more efficient and rewarding than wasteful, inattentive, last moment marathons. 
  • Are good time managers.  Successful students don’t procrastinate.  They value time, their own and others, and they actively manage it.   “…Failure to take control of their own time is probably the no. 1 study skills problem for college students…”   So throughout the semester, be sure to TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TIME.

 

 

GO HUSKIES!

Editor’s note:  Next week is Finals Week, so we’re all hard at work studying in Barsema Hall.

Tomorrow night is the MAC Championship game, featuring our beloved NIU Huskies.  As a study break (because everyone needs to stretch and regroup mentally from time to time), we held a slogan contest on the college’s Facebook wall.  The fans shared their favorite slogans (some with great convinction) and we paired their winning headlines with images to create Facebook cover photos. Check them out (below).  If you like, click on the image(s), then download it and use them as your Facebook or blog covers.

GO HUSKIES!!!

COB facebook finish fight GO HUSKIES!

Bragging rights:  NIU Business alumnus Marty Johnstone led the charge for using the team’s slogan “Finish the Fight.”

COB college mac diesel2 GO HUSKIES!

COB facebook mac diesel2 GO HUSKIES!

Bragging rights:  NIU Business student and Social Media Wizard Rob Willer suggested this headline to celebrate the great 9-year run of beloved NIU Huskies Mascot Diesel.

COB huskie diesel 1 GO HUSKIES!

Bragging rights:  NIU Business student John Nazorek brought us this great tagline earlier in November.

COB facebook mac diesel GO HUSKIES!

Bonus wallpaper/cover image #1

COB football dec3 b GO HUSKIES!

Bonus wallpaper/cover image #2

“Getting outside your comfort zone.”

Over the course of my 2.5 years here at NIU I have had been faced with challenges. One of these challenges happened my freshman year. As I arrived on campus I feared that school would be too much to handle and I wasn’t going to enjoy my time here at NIU. Over the course of my first semester I gained valuable insight throughout my classes and eventually made some great friends here at NIU. As the next semester hit I began to step outside my comfort zone by joining my first student organization. This student organization is called Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honors Society which is an honors society composed of sophomores that spend a year together by meeting bi-weekly.  This organization is a great avenue for freshman as it gives you the chance to interview for acceptance into the organization. When I say it’s a great avenue I really mean it because it prepares you for a real life interview. Throughout my time in the organization I had the opportunity to make lifelong friends, helped the community through service events and even got to take a leadership role my junior year as a Junior Advisor. This in turn changed me from the shy person who is closed minded to the person who I am today. It’s not a question anymore of “who is going to be there” but instead it is “I’ll see you there.”

Getting involved has always been a challenge for me but once I found something I was able to join the rest is history. My main message I want to convey with this topic is don’t be afraid to jump outside your comfort zone. It’s an interesting idea to think about how that one organization can change you as a person but for me it really did. After Lambda Sigma I transitioned into my next organization NIU Club Tennis. This organization had its own challenges to start off with mainly being an actual club. Over the course of the year I was faced with a few issues involving committed members, not having a budget and lack of knowledge on how to run a club. It not only was a great learning experience but it gave me the chance to overcome challenges and help better run our club.