Why NIU?: Choosing the Right College

Editor’s Note: A little more information about the author… Katie Zoellner is a senior Accountancy major with a double minor in Spanish and Economics.  She is involved in various College of Business organizations such as Delta Sigma Pi, Dean’s Scholars, and Beta Alpha Psi, where she serves as President Elect.  Outside the CoB, Katie is an active member of the Northern Ambassadors where she is proud to serve as one of the Student Coordinators.  In her spare time, she watches Disney movies, writes poetry, and takes naps whenever possible.  This is her first guest blog post, and she would like to thank her mom and sister for their help and feedback while writing it.  Go Huskies!

photo Why NIU?: Choosing the Right College

Katie Zoellner - Senior Accountancy Major at the NIU College of Business

Choosing a college to attend is hard; at least, for me it was.  Along with all the excitement my senior of high school year brought, it also brought the stress of applying to, visiting, and eventually deciding where I was going to spend my next 4+ years.  I applied to 10 (yes, really, 10) schools because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted out of my college experience.  I applied to schools that were big, small, public, private, urban, rural, in state, out of state – basically I tried to hit the whole spectrum, just to cover all my bases.

From the initial list of 10, I began narrowing my choices.  Eventually, I was down to three schools and was debating the pros and cons of all of them.  Northern wasn’t on that list.  I had applied on a whim, and the next day thought to myself “well I don’t want to go there…that was a waste of an application fee.”  Boy was I wrong.

After receiving a generous scholarship package, NIU was right up there on the list.  And I was terrified.  I was afraid NIU made the short list for all the wrong reasons.  I didn’t want to pick a school based purely on money, although it was a strong consideration.  I knew I couldn’t afford my quote on quote “dream school,” but I still had other schools I was thinking about.

After further consideration, I had narrowed my choices even further.  NIU and one other university were all that remained.  I visited campus on an Admitted Students Day, where I had the chance to get a campus tour and meet with representatives from NIU’s College of Business.  That day, I was fortunate enough to connect with an alumni presenter, Ralph Strozza, CEO of Interpro Translation Solutions, who was in the field I (at the time) wanted to pursue – translation.

This is where the scale began to tip in NIU’s favor – it was the right price, the right distance from home, housed fantastic academics, and I already felt valued by the CoB and connected to its alumni.

My mom then said to me something I will never forget:  “If you don’t like it, you can always transfer.”

This, to me, was an epiphany.  I was stuck in the mindset that the choice I made right then, as a high school senior, was going to determine the rest of my life (a bit dramatic, yes, but I was in high school – cut me some slack).  So I took a leap of faith and made the choice to come to NIU.  And that’s where the fun started.

College is an amazing opportunity to explore who you are and discover more about the wonderful world we live in.  Even though I wasn’t initially 100% sold on coming to NIU, I opened myself up to new experiences and gave it a chance.  I tried new things.  I made new friends.  I got involved in campus activities and organizations right away.  I was hooked.  I’m now in my senior year at NIU, with plans to graduate in May and then stick around for a while longer to complete my Master’s degree.  After that, I know I’ll be coming back to visit, because NIU is and forever will be my home.

If I hadn’t made the effort to transform NIU from “where I go to school” to “home,” I can almost guarantee that I would’ve transferred after a year.  And this is where I’ll circle back to the point I made at the beginning of this article:  choosing a school is hard.  There is no easy way to make that decision.

The best advice I can give is to choose a school where you feel that you can excel.  It doesn’t matter if this wasn’t your “dream school,” or if your best friend doesn’t go there too.  What makes or breaks your college experience is being in an environment that allows you to find and chase your passions.  The right school can help you do that.

Throughout my college career, I’ve learned that if you don’t like something, CHANGE IT.  This applies to life in general, but as far as college goes, if you’re unhappy at your school, look into other options.  Not every school is the right fit for every student.  But before you go and transfer, make sure you’re giving college a chance.  Try new things, meet new people, and if you’re not happy – move on.  Keep going until you find something you love.  Don’t remain stagnant.  Don’t wait for happy to come to you.  Go forth, find it, and refuse to settle for less.

The support I have felt from my Huskie family – my friends, my professors, and my fellow students – has helped me to grow both personally and professionally.  I’ve gone from a timid freshman to a confident senior who has a much clearer idea of what I want from my future.  NIU has helped me create my personal definition of happiness, and who knows?  It could help you do the same.

 

Bring It! Center – Charge Up and Refuel

Editor’s Note: This article was written to introduce and inform students on the various resources available to them on campus. This week we are highlighting the Bring It! Center, one of my personal favorite rooms on campus that not many people know about. – Jacob Ferguson, NIU College of Business Marketing and Social Media Intern

Bring It! Center

The Bring It! Center is a place for College of Business students to come together to study, collaborate on group projects and receive service, support and training with technology. In the center you will receive:

  • Help with the Anywhere Lab
  • Help with the Anywhere Printer
  • Help with Wi-Fi
  • Help with Password Resets
  • Help with NIU E-Mail

Location

The Bring It! Center is located near the Atrium in Barsema Hall Room 104.

Policies/Guidelines

  • The Bring It! Center will provide general support for any mobile device.
  • Food and drink are allowed on shared areas and each user is responsible for their own device and to keep the Bring It! Center clean.
  • The Bring It! Center does not provide support for desktops or any hardware repairs.
  • A waiver must be signed by students or faculty members before they can work on your device.
  • Mobile devices are not to be dropped off for repair.
  • No misconduct, including but not limited to arguments among group members, loud talking, loud music or any other distractions that disrupt the other groups or students studying.
  • Please be courteous to your fellow students.

Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Beautiful.

Editor’s Note: We asked students and staff alike, “If you encountered a new or returning student in a casual setting and began to talk about university life and NIU, what advice or encouragement would you give them?” One student decided to go above and beyond. Rachel McBride is a second year graduate student in the Masters of Nutrition and Dietetic Internship at NIU. She is currently a graduate research assistant for the Northern Illinois Food Bank and active CAUSE member. This is how she responded…

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Rachel McBride and NIU Alumnus Chris Leifel making pizzas for CAUSE.

Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Beautiful.

These are words of inspiration from my high school science teacher that have molded many of the decisions I have made in my collegiate career here at NIU.

Be Bold. Those of us in CAUSE might call this unreasonable. Don’t be afraid to stand out and stand up for what you believe in. The only way things change is when someone challenges the status quo. Find something to get involved in at NIU that will leave a lasting legacy. One way to do this is to be an active leader on campus through a student organization, as a CA, or in the Student Association. A leadership position will equip you with opportunities to be bold and inspire other students to make positive impacts at NIU.

Be Brave. Try new things! Even things that sound crazy weird and outside of your comfort zone. Who knows who you will meet and what adventures you could have. NIU has a lot to offer. For example, I am a nutrition student who took the Honors Microfinance Series offered by Mr. Barsema my junior year at NIU. I had no idea what microfinance was at the time (sounded pretty boring to me!), but this step into the unknown has changed my worldview and has inspired me to use the resources and skills I have been blessed with to help others who are less fortunate.

Be Beautiful. Your time at NIU will be a whirlwind of excitement with lots of awesome opportunities and stressful moments as finals approach. Remember to take some time to focus on you. You’ll spend a lot of time doing homework, working part-time jobs, and hanging out with friends. It is important to take time to relax, reflect, and decompress. Having a balance of work and play will help you enjoy your time at NIU and to be successful.

I hope you find these words as an encouragement to stand out, do some unreasonable things, and exude confidence while you are paving your way at NIU.

Can I Get a Little Advice?

Editor’s Note: We asked students and staff alike, “If you encountered a new or returning student in a casual setting and began to talk about university life and NIU, what advice or encouragement would you give them?” This is how they responded…

Students:

“Involvement. It’s a word we all hear, especially on and around campus. “Get involved”, everyone says. “It makes college much better and sets you up better for your future”. Many people say these things – and they are right. Over the past 2 years, I have been involved with a multitude of on campus activities, clubs, and jobs. I started by joining a few organizations until I found what I really wanted to do, and everything just took off from there. I was a part of a research program unlike any other in the country. This past summer, I was able to travel to The Netherlands and to Spain on two separate study abroad programs. Because of my involvement on campus, opportunities began to appear more and more frequently. Even if you do not think you would like being involved, I would highly encourage everyone to join at least one club or organization. It will make you feel more attached to NIU, which will become more than just a place where you take classes. It can become so much more, and the first step is involvement on campus. If there’s one thing to take away, it’s this: get involved now and you will thank yourself later.” – Jeff Kamholz, Junior Marketing Major

“My biggest recommendation to any incoming student is to not be afraid of the unknown. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the person next to you. This person could easily become your best friend on campus, and if you never say hi, you can miss out on that opportunity. Also, it is with this individual that you will build study groups with that will help you meet more people and  ultimately WILL help to improve your grades. This will also give you a strong support system that you can use for all your issues in college because there is almost always someone who has experienced what you are dealing with. Lastly, do not be afraid to talk to your professors, they are some of the most knowledgeable people on the campus and they are way cooler than you think. They have limitless stories and experiences that will help you with your studies and life. All in all, do your best to step outside your comfort zone, you never know what it can bring you!” – Marc Fasshauer, Senior Finance Major

Professors:

“If you got into NIU, you belong at NIU. If you belong at NIU, prove it to yourself by performing academically the way YOU know and WE know you can!” – Bill McCoy, Director of the BELIEF Program

“Engage, engage, engage! Be curious and ask lots of questions. Look for opportunities and seize them!” – Christine Mooney, Associate Professor of Management

“Get good at saying “No”.  You are going to get pulled in a lot of directions, and if you say “yes” to everything, you will fail to have the time to do the really important things that are your priorities.  Saying “No” is really saying “Yes” to your priorities”.  – Dennis Barsema, Instructor of Management

 

Summer Internship Experience: For-Profit Edition

Editor’s Note: With the summer just finishing up and the NIU Internship/Full-time Job Fair just around the corner we wanted to highlight students and their internship experiences. In this two part series we will highlight two students, one who interned with a for-profit company and another who interned with a nonprofit company. By highlighting these two sectors we hope to give students different perspectives so that when it comes time for them to make the decision of their own they’re better prepared.

Hello! My name is Luis Sandoval and I am a senior double majoring in Management Information Systems and Applied Mathematics.  I am also double minoring in Marketing and Computer Science.  I was originally an accounting student but quickly found out that I really didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.  It did not seem interesting to me but rather static. In addition, I also felt that there wasn’t much room for personal innovation and that did not align with what I envisioned for my future.

I have had the great opportunity to intern with AbbVie, a biopharmaceutical company, for the past two summers. The summer of 2013, I took on the role of a Business Systems Analyst and worked with the company on enhancing the overall performance and user experience of an international financial planning tool. At the end of my internship I had the opportunity to present my results in front of the project steering committee. This past summer, I took on the role of a developer and built an interface that allowed for the communication of an external and internal systems. During both summers I worked within a team, that’s just how the business world is.

Over the past two summers, I really developed my leadership, communication, teamwork and professional skills. I learned to put myself out there by simply putting myself out there. It may have been uncomfortable but I managed to overcome that. I was able to put myself in situations (networking, pitches, one-on-ones with directors and management, etc.) until it became more familiar to me rather than uncomfortable. That naturally allowed me to develop the skills listed above. I ultimately learned to put myself out there and I got used to being comfortable in uncomfortable and new situations.

I definitely did not have a good grasp on everything all the time. However, I asked tons of questions and did many hours of personal research outside of work. I feel that’s what everyone should do. You can’t just wait and expect for things to come to you. I am grateful to say that I will be starting full time with AbbVie in their IT Development Program in January.

Summer Internship Experience: Nonprofit Edition

Editor’s Note: With the summer just finishing up and the NIU Internship/Full-time Job Fair just around the corner we wanted to highlight students and their internship experiences. In this two part series we will highlight two students, one who interned with a for-profit company and another who interned with a nonprofit company. By highlighting these two sectors we hope to give students different perspectives so that when it comes time for them to make the decision of their own they’re better prepared.

Entrepreneurs 2 300x270 Summer Internship Experience: Nonprofit Edition

NIU Business Student Kerrian Miller and Co-Founder and Director at Human Connections Elly Rohrer posing for a picture with a local artisan.

Hello! My name is Kerrian Miller, I am a sophomore Marketing and Social Entrepreneurship student in the College of Business. This past summer I was fortunate enough to intern as the Marketing and Media NGO intern in Bucerías, Nayarit, Mexico. Three of the goals I set for myself when coming to NIU were to always challenge myself, enjoy what I’m doing, and gain real-world experience. While interning at Human Connections I was able to reach these goals and accomplish much more.

I interned at Human Connections, a non-profit organization that works with low-income artisans and tradespeople in the beautiful town of Bucerías, Nayarit, Mexico. They offer tours showcasing the artisan’s to locals and tourists. The tourists are able to gain a better perspective on the culture and appreciate the hard work that goes into sustaining a small business. The profits from the tour and donations are used to compensate the artisans shown on the tour and provide community classes for clients and their communities.

I had an amazing experience working at Human Connections. I learned so much in the short six weeks I was there. It was great to gain experience in consulting, marketing, and non-profit organizational leadership. This internship helped me to gain a better understanding of non-profits, immerse myself in a different culture, and it exposed me to people with such different stories. I was continuously learning, taking on new tasks, and being a positive contributor.

While interning for Human Connections, I helped create the strategic marketing plan. I loved offering creative and innovative ideas toward marketing material that would help us reach as many people as possible. Working on the website content and layout was very interesting. I had the opportunity to act as a marketing and financial consultant with many artisans and working with them was a very humbling experience. They were always very welcoming and appreciative. Towards the end of my internship I was creating marketing material for a client named Francisco. I know that he was grateful to have a new way to market his products and make tourist understand the work that goes into his craft. I left Mexico knowing that what I did made a difference in the lives of our clients.

Overall, being an intern this past summer has taught me to really think about where I want my career to go and to work diligently towards it. I now think about working internationally or for a non-profit organization. My interest in non-profits, social enterprises, and entrepreneurship has really grown. It was an amazing learning opportunity. I had such a great time working with students from universities from all over the country. Being an intern has made me realize how much I’m capable of. There was never a moment where I felt like I wasn’t doing something worthwhile. Human Connections is so invested in the artisans, tradespeople, and small business owners we work with. I have so much respect and appreciation for the team and work done at Human Connections. I know that having that experience will lead me towards more new and exciting opportunities.

And the Journey Begins…

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NIU College of Business Marketing and Social Media Intern - Jacob Ferguson

Hello! My name is Jacob Ferguson and I am a senior Operations Management and Information Systems (OM&IS) major here at Northern Illinois University. Before we get started I would just like to thank all of the previous interns and authors particularly the most recent one, Rob Willer, for all their hard work and their dedication to making this blog the best that it can be. The goal of this post is to give you a brief introduction to myself and to inform you on the direction that we at College of Business plan to take the Student Voices Blog this year.

I graduated from Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois in May of 2011 with dreams of going to college and my eyes set on one school, Northern Illinois University. One of my main missions since entering Northern Illinois University has been to leave it a better place than when I started and to enjoy myself as much as possible along the way. I think I have managed to accomplish at least one of those in my time here thus far. Furthermore, I am involved in such organizations as Delta Sigma Pi, CAUSE (Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs) and the Dean’s Student Advisory Board which I believe have all helped me to make tremendous strides in achieving the two goals mentioned above.

At the end of the day a lot has changed since beginning my time here at Northern Illinois University and it hasn’t always been good. I plan to be transparent in my posts and will try to give you a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to this place that most of us call home for four some odd years. Topics will be selected by students and we will focus heavily on guest posts to give you different perspectives. This blog is written for students and by students.

Go Huskies!

 

 

Do AWESOME Stuff

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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.

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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…

 

 

 

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