“Living the Dream”

                As I enter the midway point of my first semester as a junior, thought I would take a look back at what has gotten me to this point. A simple phrase (as mentioned above) “Living the Dream” has been something I have said over this past year. What exactly is living the dream you make ask? Well in short terms for a while I wasn’t as willing to experience things in the sense of doing different things. I would find something that would interest me and only participate in that said thing. Without giving the idea of branching out to meet new people any thought.  For some odd reason during my sophomore year here at Northern Illinois, it all was about to change. Sitting in my EPFE 201 class with Dr. Cisneros I met two people who started the change for me at Northern Illinois University: Ben Clark and Jake Ferguson.

As we venture back into the days of NIU Cause (a social entrepreneurship student organization) days, I saw myself take on leadership positions and more opportunities with-in CAUSE such as social media, fundraising, and even physically making the pizzas every Thursday.  My next opportunity that was presented to me was club tennis. Now as you may already know from my first post here at Student Voices, I played tennis for four years in high school. Tennis has been an adventure for the last year as it has taught me many things in terms of recruitment, membership, finances and even community service over the course of a school year. One of my better friends at NIU became my vice-president of club tennis. It was a great opportunity for us to tour the Midwest with the rest of our club. We played in nine tournaments across four states and made lasting friendships with many club tennis teams. Now if that wasn’t enough it was time to get involved in the business world. The next few things on my plate were to attend guest speaker events such as Ralph de la Vega the CEO of AT&T or Elly Rohrer of Investours Mexico. The knowledge one can obtain from these guest speakers is priceless and is absolutely rewarding when it comes to real world experience.  The differences between each speaker make them unique in their own ways.  Rohrer is 25 years old but has seen so much of the world whether it be Colombia, Mexico and Latin America. She has experienced some of the most drastic changes in developed, developing or under-developing countries.

To sum up my experience here at Northern Illinois University it’s been everything I thought it would be and a lot more surprisingly. When I stepped into the College of Business four years ago for an open house I told myself that I was going to do an ELC project. The idea of gaining real world experience with top companies and professors is one of the best opportunities NIU offers.  When there is a multitude of student organizations that encompass all six majors here at the College of Business there is no excuse for not getting involved. It’s the best four years of your life and you’ll learn the most about yourself as you plan to make your way into the real world. I’m still not exactly sure what “Living the Dream” entails but I’m excited for what the future holds and grateful of all the memories I have had so far.

One step in the right direction.

As a student here at Northern Illinois University I was intrigued by the possibility of joining a business organization. During my freshman year I had already solidified the opportunity to participate in an honors society where they only selected 44 members of the sophomore class. It was a great way to meet people who were as motivated as I in bettering my education. In my mind the journey had just begun in terms of getting involved on campus. As I attended my first Honors course of my sophomore year I was looking for something new to take my ideas and passion towards. Jacob Ferguson and Ben Clark have become two of my better friends over the past year and were the first to introduce me to NIU Cause.

One afternoon I chose to follow them after class to a meeting where I then began to understand what I was going to invest my time in. NIU Cause is a social entrepreneurship organization and it’s unique because of how we solve real life problems using business principles. We work with real life organizations that help actual entrepreneurs who live in third world countries. During my first couple weeks at the NIU Cause meetings I wasn’t very willing to speak up or get involved. Not sure why at the time I guess it was just a little intimidating at first. It all started to change one weekend when the President Zach Fiegel my former Community Advisor noticed my coverage of the baseball winter meetings. Along with all my other activities, I also write for three sports blogs CLNSRadio.com, FishStripes.com which is featured on SBNation.com as well as Viewfromthebleachers.com which is on the ESPN Sweet spot Network. He brought it up at the meeting and asked the group if I could take over the social media for Cause. What happened next is history. Over the next several months I not only improved my communication skills but made lifelong friends along the way.

After doing the social media for a few weeks I was introduced to a new role on the NIU Cause fundraising committee. This was definitely out of my comfort zone as I participated with three other members narrowing down restaurants and stores to look for donations. As time passed one of our members Chris Leifel introduced the idea of doing a weekly pizza sale. Four members became the pizza makers of NIU Cause Pizza: Laine Smid, Rachel McBride, Chris Leifel and I. As the first semester came to a close we began a pizza sale on Thursdays where we would go to Pizza Pros’ located in DeKalb to make pizzas. In my mind I was thinking there was no way I could accomplish this as my skills in the kitchen were very limited. To this day I’m glad I took that leap of faith and went with them that Thursday morning. These were skills that yes might not be transferable to business classes but definitely earn me some points someday by calculating costs or using teamwork skills in making the pizzas. Rough estimates on our sales last year included making 200 plus pizzas. In addition, due to the sales and money we raised through other avenues we were able to donate 350 dollars for the Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center in Tanzania. We also contributed $500 to Rebecca Clark one of our members who with other college of business students collectively raised over $2500 for Mari Chuy. The campaign was started by the NIU Micro Finance Class where they wanted to help Mari Chuy achieve her dream of building a family restaurant in Bucerias, Mexico.

I have attached a video that better explains Mari Chuy’s restaurant project. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qGn8jWdtiU

Overall it was an amazing experience just in those five months something I’ll remember for a lifetime and will always treasure. Excited for what the future holds within this great organization and can’t wait to see it grow.

The Journey Begins

My name is Rob Willer and I’m a junior here at Northern Illinois University a marketing major and Spanish minor. With this post I wanted to provide some background on my life as well as some of my experience throughout these first two years. As a high school senior in 2011 at Plainfield North High School I was faced with a decision most students face and that is: Where are you attending next fall? Surprisingly to me that choice was Northern Illinois University right in the heart of DeKalb, Illinois. After visiting and researching many schools, Northern was the fit for me. Throughout my high school career, I participated in many things ranging from Golf, Bowling, Tennis and Cross Country as well as National Honor Society. Most students during these years take active approaches similar to mine but in reality almost all of those activities began my senior year of high school. This in my mind began what I like to call “the busy approach” where I’m just one of those people that constantly has to stay busy. What I’m about to say next probably emulates a lot of college freshman’s paths from high school.

The transition from high school to college is definitely an eye opener and took me some time to adjust. As a freshman here at NIU, most of my friends were going away to college just like me and it was weird to see each of us attend different schools that fall. During the fall semester of 2011 I made a set of goals by the time I graduated.  A few of these goals were to achieve higher than a 3.5 gpa my first semester here and in the simplest possible terms get involved which I’ll address later on in the post. The transition of course load in my mind wasn’t as bad as everyone made it seem. Over my senior year in high school I took a steady course load which included four years of Spanish, three AP classes and even a college equivalent class Rhetoric. Over those first two semesters I did fairly well with classes achieving my first goal of a 3.5 semester. After I received the notice for my final grades that semester and honors society approached me saying that I was selected to participate in their society.

In a sense this began my way of getting involved at Northern Illinois University.  Over the past year I have been involved in eight organizations which my role in each organization varied. Some of the organizations I’m apart of currently are NIU Cause (Social Entrepreneur Organization/Vice President of Communication), Sports Club Council (Oversee 30 Sports Clubs/Secretary), Lambda Sigma (Honors Society/Junior Advisor),  Northern Star (Cubs Blogger), College of Business (Marketing Intern), NIU Club Tennis (Advisor/Past President). GET INVOLVED! Change the world. College goes by fast and we have to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us. Stay Tuned for some more Rob experiences over the course of this year.

 

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!

What is this CAUSE all about?

I’m excited to interrupt the “Getting Involved” series of posts (which will resume next week) in order to introduce the very first Guest Post!  This week’s Guest Post comes from Ryan Sterling, a senior at NIU’s College of Business.  Ryan is also a co-Founder and Events Director of NIU CAUSE, a new student organization in the college.  Here are Ryan’s own words about NIU CAUSE, why it’s so meaningful, and how you can participate and make a difference in the world.

 What is this CAUSE all about ~ by Ryan Sterling Head Shot Professional What is this CAUSE all about?

In the coming months I will be taking the next steps in life, that of course being graduation and then a career in sales. I have been so fortunate to take part in so many opportunities here at NIU and in the College of Business (COB). All of which I feel have set me up for what I believe will be a successful career. That being said in my final semester I ask myself why I should put more on my plate by founding an organization. Well, the short answers are I love being involved, and giving back to the community. But CAUSE is so much more than that to me.

This semester I needed more credit hours in the college and so a friend recommended I take a course in the college called:  Management 311 Social Entrepreneurship (MGMT 311). Going into the course I didn’t know really much about MGMT 311 except Dennis Barsema was the instructor. In the first class Mr. Barsema asked if anyone would be interested in starting a social entrepreneurship (SE) club. The following class sessions I had become so empowered that I had to do something to improve the community around me and those abroad. After several meetings just this semester CAUSE was off the ground and running.

The name was one of the harder things to establish. We wanted to include SE in to the title and one of the founders came up with the acronym CAUSE and we liked it but we didn’t have a word to use for the letter U. After a few days an idea came to Dr. Christine Mooney (NIU CAUSE’s faculty advisor) while she was attending a conference. “Unreasonable” she said in the following week’s executive board meeting. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by authors John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan the book we are reading in MGMT 311. It was only fitting that we use the term because of what the definition means in the book “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world” whereas “the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” That is how the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs (CAUSE) was born.

Panel Picture 2 224x300 What is this CAUSE all about?After we met for a few weeks CAUSE was ready with a series of informational meetings to get the word out, and find out why other people want to make a difference. As the Events Director, I was responsible for putting together our kickoff event Panel Discussion this past Tuesday night which featured Rowan Richards of Steward’s Market and Kathleen Wright of Collaborative Group. The turnout and execution of the event was simply rewarding and I know my fellow peers were able to take something away from the experience. I encourage everyone to join NIU CAUSE and take part in the Entrepreneurship certificate classes. I am glad I learned about other ways businesses can positively affect their customers.

CAUSE logo 300x138 What is this CAUSE all about?Here’s how you can join CAUSE and make a difference in the world by attending our weekly meetings Tuesday nights in Barsema Hall Room 227 at 6:30pm. In addition, Follow @NIUCAUSE on Twitter, Add us on Facebook at C.A.U.S.E (Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs), or by sending your email address to  me at Richard.Ryan.Sterling@gmail.com and we will be more than happy to add you to our Google Group  which will keep you updated with upcoming events. This is a new organization so we are receptive to hearing about any way people want to make a difference and we are more than willing to help people make that impact.