Friends helping friends

        Editor’s Note:  In the project management class (OMIS 352), students were challenged to create a project that makes a meaningful impact in the community.   Here’s the second in a four part guest post series on why a team of 4 OMIS students feel so strongly about their project, the Dreamworks Scholarship campaign. 

 

My name is Jake Eggert and I am a junior at the College of Business here at Northern Illinois University. I am a member of the NIU Triathlon Team and participate in Student Accountancy Society. I was very happy when my group and I decided to establish a scholarship as our community impact project for our project management class.

During my time at NIU, I have made many friends and met many great people. However, many of them I would never have had the opportunity to meet without the help of a scholarship so that I can attend school. I am invested into creating a scholarship because I want to provide an opportunity for another student like myself, to experience college and meet many great people.

Check out the Dreamworks web page here and if you feel strongly about this too, please help spread the word:  http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/dreamworks-scholarship/91552

Current posts in this series:

  • part 1 of 4:  Gabriella’s story is entitled  “Big Dreams, Little Wallets.”
  • part 2 of 4:  Jake’s story:  “Friends helping friends.”

“Big Dreams, Little Wallets”

Editor’s Note: This blog post will be part of a four part series introducing the four OMIS 352 students behind the project to organize a $10,000 scholarship for College of Business Students. For any readers who don’t know what OMIS 352 is it’s referred to as Managing Projects in Business. These four students took the time to organize this project all on their own by picking this focus of establishing a scholarship fund for College of Business students.  To start us off we give you Gabriella Lopez, she gives her take on why this scholarship is important to her on many levels.

My name is Gabriella Lopez and I am a first generation college student here at the College of Business.  I have been helped tremendously by scholarships from both NIU and private organizations. They have allowed me to not only begin and continue my education, but do so with the peace of mind that I will be able to make ends meet as the semester comes to a close. I work multiple jobs while on break from school, and even still, I don’t think my education here would be possible without this help. I am passionate about establishing this scholarship not only because I know how helpful it is to students with big dreams and little wallets, but because I want these students to be able to reach those dreams, despite whatever their financial situation may be, and let them know that we believe in them, and that they can get there.

Here is the link to the donations page for the $5000 scholarship.

http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/dreamworks-scholarship/91552

Also if you can’t donate directly to the page or want to help out even more come to the Dreamworks Scholarship Culver’s Night!

https://www.facebook.com/events/229417650549425/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar

Making the Decision: Where to attend college?

Editor’s note: Our first guest post of the semester is from Luis Martinez. Luis as mentioned below is a Finance Major here at Northern Illinois University. He is also involved in Investment Association, Omega Delta Fraternity and is a math tutor here at Northern.

My name is Luis Martinez; I am a junior Finance major. I am here to share about my experience here at the College of Business, at Northern Illinois University. It all started when I was a senior in high school, they had taken us on many trips to various Universities. I was always good at math, so I knew I would either be a math major or in some type of Business field. The two schools that stood out to me were, Marquette University and Northern Illinois University. These schools both have a great Business program, so it was up to me to decide where to take my talents. I came to the conclusion that I needed to visit these schools once more, so I did.

As I arrived to Milwaukee I started feeling out of place. This school was not where I belonged, I told myself. There was something missing, I didn’t feel like I was at home for some reason. This was like a spidey sense.  Therefore, I decided to visit NIU one last time to see if that’s where I belonged. Indeed, I felt like I was at home and the College of Business atmosphere gave me a rush of intensity, as if I were playing in the fourth quarter of a close game. I had made up my mind. I took my talents to NIU.

The staff and students here at the College of Business are just so motivated and filled with a joy like no other. Barsema Hall, in general is a beautiful building. The atmosphere reminded me of my high school, everyone was helpful, happy and here for business. The high school I had attended was Cristo Rey Jesuit High school. They taught me to be intellectually competent and to be a man for others; NIU has taught me to be an innovator, a doer and a leader. Furthermore, you can see that I love being here at the College of Business. Great program + Great Football team = The complete package. Go Huskies, and for you College of Business Students, do not let Failure overtake you, let it be your success.

Luis’ LinkedIn’s page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/luis-martinez/5b/2a2/144

 

 

On being Unreasonable


This is a guest post on how NIU students are changing the world through the college’s social entrepreneurship program in the Department of Management.

CAUSE On being Unreasonable

NIU CAUSE, a social entrepreneurship student organization

…a CAUSE to Live Into

Every generation has its moniker:  from the Boomers, Hippies to the 20-somethings of today.   But what’s really in a name?  Just ask a closely-knit group of current NIU students who in early April pulled off their first university-wide Social Impact Summit.  The event brought together more than 170 industry experts, students, and faculty for a day-long conversation on social entrepreneurship.  And while the students surpassed their goal of 150 attendees, they didn’t rest on their laurels.  After the event, they returned to their studies, which included refining the business plans they had been developing in their Social Entrepreneurship class.  Because in early May, these students will put their ideas to the test yet again.  During the 2nd Annual NIU Social Venture Competition, each of their business ventures will be judged by a “shark tank” of angel capitalists who will evaluate how their proposed new ventures intentionally add value to the Triple Bottom Line:  people, profit, and planet.

So when you ask this particular group of students to explain how they’re typically typecast, they’ll tell you their swagger has nothing to do with the label “entitled.”  Instead they’ll describe deeply rooted expectations.

They expect to change the world for the better.   Plain and simple.  If that sounds unreasonable, well, they’ll admit they have every cause to be.  Consider this:

  • 50% of the world’s population lives below the poverty line.
  • Over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • Around 1 billion people do not have access to clean water.
  • An estimated 14 billion pounds of garbage is dumped into the ocean each year.
  • The world’s population is outstripping the planet’s natural ability to replenish its own resources.

These sobering stats and more were presented by national experts in social entrepreneurship during NIU’s April 5th Social Impact Summit.  In spite of the magnitude of the challenges, somehow the attendees remained not only hopeful but energized.  Junior NIU College of Business student Zach Fiegel explains:  “There are so many incredibly intelligent, amazing individuals in the world.  If we focus together on these issues, imagine what we can accomplish.  And why not?  One of the motivations behind the Social Impact Summit and our student organization is an idea that was originally expressed by George Bernard Shaw.  He said:  ‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’”

For Fiegel, that’s a philosophy that resonates.  Fiegel is currently president of NIU CAUSE:  the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs.  In fact, as a sophomore Fiegel helped found the organization.  Just one year after its formation, NIU CAUSE has grown from a group of 7 students who were inspired by an idea – being unreasonable enough to change the world – to a full-fledged student organization that focuses its mindshare on that purpose.  More than 30 participants attend their weekly gatherings.  The group is overrun with enthusiasm, achieved the old-fashioned way.

“CAUSE has grown organically, through relationships and conversations with friends and friends of friends,” Fiegel shares.  “The students represent a variety of NIU majors – business, geology, anthropology, health sciences, engineering to name a few.  Our members include international as well as non-traditional students.  We’re a diverse group with different backgrounds and perspectives.  The thing that unites us is that we’re all individuals converging around this one idea:  to make the world a stronger, better place.”

You have to wonder why individuals so young possess this particular focus.  There’s a tangible wisdom in their commitment.  You sense it and feel it in their energy.  And then when you engage in conversation with them, you come to realize that many of them lived through the effects of a parent being laid off.  Others felt the impact of financial disruption around their dinner table.  All of them continue to witness the world’s challenges on a real time basis through social media channels.  When one of the Social Impact Summit keynoters asked attendees if they ever lived at or below the poverty level, nearly half of those present – many of them current students – raised their hands.

These are old souls in young bodies who identify with the radical idea of creating hope in a sometimes cynical world.

Fiegel describes the rationale.  “Social entrepreneurship in itself is an idea that people can rally around.  Plus, there’s the benefit of knowing that people who join a new organization like NIU CAUSE join for the right reason.  They get to build something the way they want to see it built.  They get to make an impact and they get to know that they do.”

Indeed, Fiegel and his fellow change makers have a great deal of latitude to shape NIU CAUSE.  Still, they don’t fly solo nor do they want to.  Their entire culture – their tribe, if you will – is about marshalling forces to effect real change.  They are guided by two NIU Business faculty members who advise them.  As members in the NIU CAUSE tribe, these professors foster a faculty-student relationship that is more a collaboration than anything else…where everyone stands to contribute and to learn, even the professors.

“The students came up with the idea for the Social Impact Summit,” NIU CAUSE faculty advisor Christine Mooney says.  “They wanted to do it from start to finish:  creating the theme, dealing with the logistics, finding the keynote presenters, securing event sponsors, getting the word out and running the entire Summit.  None of them ever created an event before.  I am so amazed by their commitment and creativity.”

An NIU professor in the Department of Management with background in strategic leadership, Christine Mooney recently received the Bill and Paula LeRoy Professorship in Social Entrepreneurship.  Mooney works with her NIU Business colleague Dennis Barsema, who is no stranger to making a difference.  Both the NIU College of Business facility and the university’s Alumni & Visitors Center bear the Barsema name.

Like the LeRoys, Barsema is a member of the NIU alumni base, having earned his degree in the department in which he now teaches.  And like the LeRoys, Dennis and his wife Stacey are passionate about making a genuine difference in the lives of others.  Along with giving back to his alma mater and developing the social entrepreneurship program, Dennis Barsema is currently on the Board of Directors for five for-profit and non-profit organizations including Oportunidad Microfinanzas, Mexico of Opportunity International.

Denise Schoenbachler, Dean of the NIU College of Business states,”I am so grateful to Dennis and Stacey for getting the NIU College of Business involved and vested in social entrepreneurship.  They’ve ignited passion in the students, faculty like Christine, the administration, and other alumni like the LeRoys.  This is only the beginning.  With Dennis and Christine at the helm, they are part of a group of national leaders focused on the important work of applying business expertise to some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

Since its inception, NIU’s social entrepreneurship program has garnered media attention from the Chicago Tribune to the Boston Globe (which described a short-list of three college level programs in this field and included NIU in the group, along with Harvard and MIT).  What makes NIU’s approach distinctive is its range and popularity over such a short period of time.  NIU’s program includes courses in social entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, a certificate program in social entrepreneurship, and a newly created social entrepreneurship minor.  The program capstone is the Social Venture Competition, where students pitch their business ideas to social venture investors.  The competition transforms the winning ideas into reality and in its first year, helped launch social business “Light Up Africa.”  Shortly after its formation, “Light Up Africa” went on to be named a semi-finalist in Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge and won a coveted spot in the 2012 inaugural class of Impact Engine, a social business accelerator in Chicago.

“The Social Venture Competition is testimony to the character and resolve of the NIU student,” shares Dennis Barsema.   “This is a generation that has volunteered more than any generation since the Great Depression.  They have a passion and concern for the social issues of our world.  And, they have the courage to follow their passion.  Our job, as educators and business people, is to give them the tools, guidance, and mentoring to do something positive with that energy.”

Indeed, NIU’s social entrepreneurship program is distinctive in large measure because of the way Mooney and Barsema teach the topic.  Their approach is as much in the doing as it is in the thinking.  Supporting Zach Fiegel and his cohort’s idea for the Social Impact Summit and putting all the students’ business ventures on the line for angel funding…those are just two examples out of a multitude.

Perhaps one of the most impactful ways is when the students travel with their professors to witness social entrepreneurship firsthand through short-term study abroad trips.  The most recent occurred a week ago, with a visit to entrepreneur Dona Alejandra in Mexico City.  Dona Alejandra is a client of the microfinance institution Aspire.  Aspire provides lending to the “missing middle:”  those individuals who require loans larger than the $500 loans provided by a traditional microfinance institution but smaller than the $10,000 loans provided by a  commercial bank.  The meeting between Dona Alejandra and the students was made possible through the help of Elly Rohrer, Executive Director of Investours, a non-profit in the microfinance space.  Here’s Dona Alejandra’s story:

image001 11 On being Unreasonable

Dona Alejandra

Doña Alejandra is a third generation baker from Mexico City. As one of 13 siblings growing up in a situation of extreme poverty, Doña Alejandra developed a love for the bread she learned to make in her father’s bakery: it symbolized sustenance. With one kilo of flour, she could provide food for her siblings and make product to sell.

Doña Alejandra’s mentality about bread has not changed, though she is now in her 50s, lives on the Pacific coast, and has a family of her own. She built a wood-burning oven and took out a micro-loan to establish her own small bakery. As the primary (and often only) income owner in a house-hold of four, Doña Alejandra works long hours to bake and sell hundreds of breads and pastries a week. An entrepreneurial woman, Doña Alejandra is always proud to share her story.

“Meeting all the amazing entrepreneurs in Mexico, including Dona Alejandra, was extraordinary because you see the transformation of their lives and families on so many levels,” Barsema says.  “The students were able to see how a small loan could lead these small business owners to a life of dignity, opportunity and hope for themselves and their families, and make tremendous improvements in their local community.  Without a doubt, they are great examples of perseverance and drive.”

Plus, at a very intrinsic level, the students also see their own professors walk the talk.

“The fact that someone like that takes an interest in other people and with this level of commitment…it amazes me,” Fiegel says.  “Mr. Barsema has achieved so much success in business.  He’s been an executive – including President and CEO – in five major corporations.  He could relax and not be involved with finding and supporting new business models to help others lift themselves out of desperate situations.  But he cares so much.  He’s so humble and generous.  He’s someone I hope to emulate one day.”

By all accounts, Zach and his fellow students are well on their way.  Operating funds for NIU CAUSE started at zero.  But after weekly sales of homemade pizza  (yes, the students make them from scratch and their Barsema Hall customer base declares the foodstuff to be “life changing”) as well as from revenues generated at the Social Impact Summit, NIU CAUSE has raised enough money to sustain its operations and then some.  True to form, the students intend to invest a portion of those dollars in a social entrepreneur.

And if that’s not enough on May 2nd at 6 p.m. in NIU’s Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center, the social entrepreneurship students will unveil what are certain to be business plans as ingenious as Light Up Africa…originally an NIU student generated business idea – now a viable business – that brings a renewable light source to a part of the world without access to the electrical grid.

All of which for these students makes for an impressive and uncommon journey, one where their expectations to change the world are emboldened even more.  But it really goes much deeper still.  This is a generation that cut its teeth on an age of disruption.  Now, as they stand at the threshold of life after college, they carry a different worldview.  Instead of getting blown over, they lean forward into action in the face of change.  They’re not lulled by a false sense of security.  They know how complex life is, even if it morphs faster than most can really assimilate or even trust.  But echoing the advice Steve Jobs gave to Stanford grads, they’re wise enough to know that:  “you have to trust in something.”

Where better to place your trust than in your own desire to change the world?  If that level of commitment earns those of this amazing ilk the label Unreasonable, that’s more than fine with them.   …and more than fine for the world.

Event Information

  • May 2nd The 2nd Annual NIU Social Venture Competition, 6 p.m., NIU Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center, DeKalb, Illinois.
  • April 5th NIU Social Impact Summit keynoters:   Megan Kashner, TEDx speaker and Founder-CEO of Benevolent.Net, a digital facilitation site that offers a secure and transparent means for those with the ability to donate funds and help another when it matters most; Amanda Britt, Founder-CEO of Panzanzee, Chicago’s social enterprise incubator, co-working space and continuous community that provides discovery, resources, trust and traction for entrepreneurs and professionals pursuing sustainable financial and social impact; NIU alumnus Alan Hurt, Founder of Light Up Africa, a student-generated idea launched into an actual social business with a distribution strategy that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit in its customers; and Chuck Templeton, Managing Director of Impact Engine, a Chicago-based 12-week accelerator program supporting for-profit businesses working to address today’s societal or environmental issues.

Story by Michelle De Jean, Director of Marketing, NIU College of Business

Making Waves with CAUSE

With all the news lately about NIU CAUSE  and their upcoming Social Impact Summit, we took some time to interview Sophomore Rob Willer to figure out what all the fuss is about. 

What is CAUSE?

CAUSE stands for the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs.  The organization is a bit complex and for the sake of brevity I’ll provide this link to their about page rather than reciting all their motives, goals, and projects ( http://niucause.com/about-niu-cause).

How did you get involved?

Well there’s a few reasons.  My old CA (Zach Fiegel)  is the current president of Cause.  He had talked to me about the organization a few times before but one day in class I was talking to a few students who were in the honors program.  They mentioned the Cause meeting that night and they invited me to come.  I wanted to get involved in the actual business program and I thought this was my chance.  Zach pointed to me in a meeting and asked if I had any thoughts on a certain topic and I thought that was really cool.  Since then  I took over the role of Social Media, then treasurer and now I help wherever I can.

So what exactly is your title/duty in the organization?

Treasurer, pizza maker, pizza seller, promoter, social media…you name it.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the upcoming Social Impact Summit.  What’s that all about?

A lot of organizations have been putting on these conferences lately and they involve schools and businesses around their area. We thought, all of these other schools and groups are doing it, why can’t we?  We really want this to be an opportunity to students and businesses to network as well as promote awareness of a socially responsible mindset.

The website states that there are three goals in mind.  To Educate students and social practitioners about the applications of social entrepreneurship, to Inspire students and social practitioners to find ways to enlarge their societal and environmental impacts or just plain get started in the social space, and to facilitate Networking among students and social practitioners who are passionate about making a difference and changing the world.

Who is coming out?

We have two keynote speakers, Chuck Templeton and Megan Kashner along with numerous other companies and social incubators.  Over 130 students are coming out as well and you can still register at NIUCause.com and click Register Today!

1st annual implies that it will be a recurring event….any details on next year’s summit?

One step at a time…we’re putting the final touches on this year’s event but we hope that in this next month once we’re done reflecting and taking a breath, then maybe next year we can hope to get some new businesses/speakers and reach our goal of 250 participants.

Was orchestrating this event more work than you thought?

Definitely, but it’s been very rewarding!  It’s been nice to interact with a bunch of these companies online as social media guy for NIU Cause and get them all together in the same place.  I see lots of the companies that are participating tweeting about how excited they are.  It really feels great that there are  people out there that are as excited as we are.

What skills did you develop from this?  What lessons did you learn?

Teamwork: at first there was just four of us going out to find sponsors for the event.  Then we started dividing the responsibilities out to more members to get more people involved.  You get a little overwhelmed at the beginning because you see all these people so involved but it’s actually pretty easy to find a place, just ask questions during meetings and jump in where you can!

How can students get involved?

Come out to one of our weekly meetings on Tuesdays from  5-6 pm in BH 227.  There’s no application… just show up.  Students can also follow us on twitter @NIUCAUSE  or on facebook for more updates!  http://www.facebook.com/NIUCAUSE

Rob also writes for CLNS radio and the Northern Star.  Keep an eye out for his articles online and in print as the baseball season gets underway!

The World Collegiate Sales Open

The following guest post is written by Senior Marketing Major Abbey Vanderwoude. 

Nicole and Abbey prepping 300x198 The World Collegiate Sales OpenLast weekend was the culmination of a 9-month long sales competition, the World Collegiate Sales Open.  The WCSO was designed by the legendary Dr. Dan Weilbaker himself, and is unlike any other sales competition. Nick Kochetta, Nicole Weldon, and I were deemed finalists who joined the other 17 students from around the world for the final series of events: a voicemail, appointment call, two role plays, two elevator pitches, and reverse job fair.  I have competed in other sales competitions in the past, but the WCSO was an entirely new experience. I was pushed way past my comfort zone with unusual events like the elevator pitch and the reverse job fair. The competition was also unique because it incorporated a series of curve balls to keep us on our toes. While these curve balls made the events more difficult, the effect was that the combined events added up to a realistic portrayal of the sales professional’s journey to earn an account’s business.

Abbey Groza Jerry 300x198 The World Collegiate Sales OpenAmidst the competitions events, we had the chance to mingle with the other contestants and learn about other sales programs around the world. The students each brought their own perspective to sales, and I know I learned a lot from them. When I walked out of my Final Four Role Play, I was down on myself for not “controlling the meeting,” and not running the call the way I planned. I spoke to another finalist at the Awards Banquet, who, interestingly enough, happened to be an accounting major, and his response was this: “It wasn’t your meeting.” He was absolutely right, and I am so glad to have learned that perspective from him. In addition to networking with other contestants, I really enjoyed networking with the competition sponsors and judges. Companies including White Lodging, ADP, McKesson, Bosch, Adobe, and Sure Payroll generously sponsored the WCSO, and all were eager to get to know the students.

Barsema Hall 300x198 The World Collegiate Sales OpenOne of my main takeaways from last weekend is that the NIU Professional Selling Program prepares its students extremely well for sales careers.  Although we were sitting in a room with students from the top sales programs around the world, our skills as NIU students stood out.  Our team was extremely grateful to be coached by the best, Dr. Peterson, and we know we would not have made it to the finals round without his guidance. From our experience in Marketing 350 and Marketing 450, we were able to overcome the curve balls thrown our way and, as Dr. Peterson would say, not let “the wheels come off.” It was an absolute honor to be a part of such an esteemed competition, but even more of an honor to represent the NIU Sales Program and make our peers proud.

Prizes 300x195 The World Collegiate Sales Open

 

Bringing In Your Dream Guest Speaker

Who do you want to see speak at NIU? Google? McDonalds? The Chicago Bears? Anything is truly possible in this day and age and I’ll show you a step-by-step process of how you can use LinkedIn to bring in your dream guest speaker.

But first a few LinkedIn basics I try to follow:

  1. Don’t over-connect with everyone

The reason I don’t connect with everyone who requests to connect is because you want to be comfortable asking favors on LinkedIn. As you’ll see below, I ask my connections to introduce me to a specific person in the Chicago Blackhawks. A good rule of thumb is to connect with someone you’d be comfortable giving your phone number to.

2.  Get a profile picture!

Even if it’s a close-up of you in your “going out shirt” temporarily until you get a professional picture taken (which are always going on in Barsema), get a darn picture! When I see someone I know on LinkedIn with no picture I immediately think they are inactive and therefore don’t respond to them. Get a picture. Now.

3.  Recommend and get recommended

But only from people you have worked with! Trading recommendations with friends not only is a rookie mistake, but also looks really poor when hiring managers see it, and trust me, they do. However, if you’ve worked with peers, in a meaningful way (semester long project, ELC, organization, competition, internship) then by all means, recommend your fellow Huskies and colleagues. Please don’t be the one requesting a recommendation with the same custom template LinkedIn gives you. If you can’t take the time to actually personalize your request, I don’t have the time to write you one.

Okay, now to bring in your dream speaker.

  • Hover over the “people” tab, click and scroll down to select “companies.”

 Bringing In Your Dream Guest Speaker

  • Type in the company you want to bring in (think BIG – Google, Apple, Nike, P&G, etc.)

 Bringing In Your Dream Guest Speaker

  • Click the company’s profile.
  • Under the “How you’re connected” section, select “see all.

 Bringing In Your Dream Guest Speaker

  • Look for 2nd degree connections. These are the people you want to invite! (Make sure they still work at desired company.)
  • Hover over the list icon on the right side of the “connect” logo. Select “Get introduced.”

 Bringing In Your Dream Guest Speaker

  • Select a connection to introduce you and be sure to customize your message.
  • Prosper! Good luck!

By using these 8 steps, I was able to bring in the Senior Director of New Media and Creative Services from the Chicago Blackhawks to speak for the Interactive Marketing Board and the American Marketing Association! If you’re interested in coming out to see Adam Kempenaar speak about social media strategies, branding, media techniques used, you can REGISTER for the April 3rd event for free here.

Cheers!

Mike

Life Lessons Abroad

The following is written by Mike Cahill, an Accounting Graduate Student at the NIU College of Business.

The Social Entrepreneurship Program at NIU is the perfect fit for any business student with aspirations to help make the world a better place. The mission of the Program is to show students how they can apply their business skillset to solve the world’s problems. Participating in the Social Entrepreneurship Program was one of the best choices I made as an Undergraduate in the College of Business because it really helped broaden my horizons. Learning from real world examples is what I like most about the classes in the Program

This past November I enrolled in MGMT 411 – Microfinance as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Program.  The class was very unique in that it was a small group (only about 10 students) and very discussion based. In class we were assigned case studies to develop our knowledge of the topic, and at the end of the semester we participated in a 4 day microfinance study abroad trip to Punta Mita, Mexico.

The trip to Mexico, led by NIU College of Business Instructor Dennis Barsema, was a tremendous experience. As a class, we met over a dozen micro entrepreneurs who were clients of a local Microfinance Institution (MFI) in Punta Mita. An MFI provides loans and other financial services (loans) to the poor, or people who would not otherwise have any access to such services. The loans enable micro entrepreneurs to start businesses in their villages, and the earnings from these businesses allow the entrepreneur to earn a sustainable wage. The experiences interacting with the MFI clients allowed us (the class) to see first-hand the powerful impact that access to capital can have on improving the lives of the poor.

Overall, the trip really brought the class to life. It was inspirational to hear the unique stories of each of the micro entrepreneurs. Every so often I stop to think about the micro entrepreneurs that I met, and about all of the hardships that they face on an everyday basis. It is really humbling and makes me thankful for all of the opportunities I am blessed with as an American. In the future, I hope to use what I have learned in my Social Entrepreneurship classes to help make the world a better place.

 

 

Tom Kneifel: Student Turned Author

The following post was written by Senior Marketing Major Tom Kneifel.  

Listening to all of my friends talk about being seniors and what they plan on doing after college really made me reflect on what I have done in the past few years. Every now and then I would reminisce with my roommates about all of the great ideas we had or adventures we went on while at NIU. After a while I realized how much we had done together and I had one of those “I should write a book” moments. Eventually it became an e-book entitled “40 Ways to Have More Fun and Freedom in College”.

I began the project by researching how to become self-published by selling an e-book. I knew I wanted to sell it electronically because of several reasons. The first reason is that in order to publish a book online it costs almost nothing besides the time to write the book. Also, I knew that my target market was a younger crowd who is very technologically savvy. The book needed to be easy to access from anywhere and e-books allow that.

The hardest part about writing the book was choosing the subject. After that I was surprised on how easy it was to become self-published. I downloaded an e-book from amazon.com which gave me step by step instructions on how to format a word document and upload it to their site. I then had someone make me a cover photo and that was it.

While I was looking all over amazon.com all I could find were books on how to study better or how to get into college. I chose to write a guide with ideas that a college student would want to know.  Things like putting a refrigerator in your bathroom or how to become a super-fan aren’t going to be found in the average college guide. If anything I wanted to inspire students to spice up their day to day lives and do something fun.

It took me a while to get enough courage to actually submit the book to amazon.com. I went through so many drafts in order to get the formatting correct. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Luckily I had a great group of people help me proofread and give me feedback. Sitting there staring at the computer screen I realized that I just had to go for it. What a rush it was to see something that I created on a website that can be seen by millions of people across the nation. I knew it was real when I got my first five star review. Someone took the time to buy my product, read it, and actually enjoyed it. That was an amazing feeling.

Marketing my book has been one of the on-going challenges for me. I get to apply the skills I learned in my sales classes to a real life scenario. I have to earn every sale by advertising on social networking sites and word of mouth. I am not looking to get rich off of this small e-book but I am definitely learning many things along this journey.

Check out Tom’s new e-book “40 Ways to Have More Fun and Freedom in College” on Amazon.com.  If you’re feeling extra generous, write a review and let him know what you think!

Keeping Cool When Changing Schools

This next post is written by my dear friend and brother, Zack Kochetta, from the perspective of an undecided transfer student.

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It is nuts, absolutely insane, how comfort sets in the moment I have to reconfigure my life completely. It’s terrific, no sarcasm or anything (said Zack Kochetta sarcastically)!  I’m learning quickly to just never get comfortable, purely out of superstition. But yeah, aside from irrationalities, that time has come again where one chapter is wrapping up and another one unraveling. I am an upcoming, incoming transfer student, and it’s got me feeling the pressure, similar to countless other transfer students, to whom I extend my deepest compassion. Hopefully I am speaking for a good handful of them as I express the hopes and anxieties of the whole process, so here goes nothing.

I would be lying (or a stinkin’ bum) if I said that the uncertainties of the future were not a concern of mine. In my education, I just need to receive the tools necessary to put my fears to rest, or else my text books will make for good bonfire fuel and I will do to my laptop what Michael Bolton and Peter Gibbons did to the Initech printer (please catch the reference). The scariest thing to me is the possibility of walking away from school without something to show for it. I don’t want to grab my degree, cap and gown on, and return to my seat at graduation feeling like I had been knocked out and in a cryogenic sleep for the past two years. That’d suck! It would make my final two years of school seem entirely pointless. To have a better handle on the concerns of the future is the main goal at hand, and if I feel that I haven’t gotten that….oy vey, will I be a wreck!

Another scary thing is the 180 degree lifestyle change. People say all the time that you can get that “college” experience while attending a community college, but I also learned during a psychology seminar held at my community college, of all places, that people lie all the time!  Go figure. The school I attend now is great and all, but there is no independence. I go to school, go to a couple clubs a week, and then basically come home at the end of each day. During the time I have attended community college, I have visited my brother (honorably known as 2.0) at NIU MULTIPLE times, and let me tell you, there’s a striking difference. I realize now that I am basically attending High School 102 and what I am preparing to transfer into is Basic Real World Survival 100. It’s freaky; it’s a big jump from a cushy near-blow-off class to a crash course.

Change Management where to go Keeping Cool When Changing Schools

And then there’s the thought of where the heck to go. There are so many school options that deciding on the perfect one is really tolling. However, I must say that Northern Illinois University is a school that plays as a true contender for me. They have a solid business program, a chill campus and surrounding activities, and some really fun “social gatherings” among peers and classmates for some good clean fun.  Essentially, NIU is quite appealing to me (I say this without promotional compensation from the school). Sincerely, it’s a great place and I would feel privileged to finish my degree there. Zack Kochetta approved! But to everyone who is still searching, the perfect place will be found, don’t worry.

It’s funny, because as I look at my list of concerns, I begin to realize that they are actually hopes. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities.  I long for the freedom and independence, and I look forward to finding a school to call home. So I really have nothing to fear and plenty to hope for, and that really puts things in a positive perspective.

I just want to grab this bull by the horns and ultimately tame it. I have the world at my fingertips and I just need to stretch a little further so I can wrap them around it and make it mine (not in a wacked out Dr. Evil kinda way, but instead, an inspiring one). And although I am a little fearful of what to expect in the coming years, I realize that my hopes will not be diminished, I will make the most of this experience and not end it feeling cheated. In the work I do within my field I will put forth my all, and when I get the chance I’ll live it up a bit; no time or opportunities to do something great will be wasted!

In summation, there is a lot to consider. It is overwhelming to say the least. But I know I, as well all other transfer students, can make it through this tough process. We have to know what we want, learn where we will best achieve that, and watch it all unfold into something great that will pave the way for the rest of our lives. To all other transfer students, good luck and god speed. Zack 1.0out!