How to Succeed in School

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

Successful students:

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

 

 

Ladies who lunch: NIU alumnus-CEO sits down with NIU students

Crystal 235x300 Ladies who lunch: NIU alumnus CEO sits down with NIU students

Editor’s Note:  NIU Business freshman Crystal Higgins (pictured left) provides this next guest post. Crystal shares her experience meeting and talking with NIU alumnus and CEO Janet Pucino, who spoke about the glass ceiling in the corporate world.  …an incredibly timely topic given GM’s appointment of its first woman CEO.  

At the end of her post, Crystal also shares a bit about herself, along with her contact information.  

 

 

Bias Against Women in Corporate- A Book Discussion with NIU alum Janet Pucino by Crystal D. Higgins

I had the privilege of meeting Janet Pucino over a luncheon and book discussion, through my organization Women in Business Professions, back in October. This NIU alum has been the COO, CIO CTO and VP of some very high profiled companies, and is currently the CEO and founder of her own company Deep Canyon Media.

Pucino Ladies who lunch: NIU alumnus CEO sits down with NIU studentsJanet Pucino has worked in many different areas of corporate but has found one common thread in the climb to the executive board. Pucino has written Not in The Club: An Executive Woman’s Journey Through the Business World and mentioned that the common thread in the executive level had this sort of “boys club,” which is very exclusive especially with its practice of excluding women. Now I know this may sound like a clique or some high school cliché, but it is the unfortunate reality of corporate. The men in this exclusive club help one another succeed, and continue to stay at the top. For example, Pucino mentions in her book, that there are zero women on Apple Inc.’s, senior executive team, and only one woman is on their board. This is truly disheartening to know that even today, women are still not equal. Pucino was not only informative but enlightening into the unknown underbelly of the corporate executive world. She mentioned the difficulty that women have climbing up the corporate ladder, and wrote about the reality of a woman’s battle through corporate. Pucino’s novel didn’t male bash, but simply gave facts and helpful advice and tips on how to deal with the bias within a company or an organization.

During the book discussion I wrote down some of the many tips and advice that she had for currently employed women and for women that will be employed in the near future. So to my fellow women who are out there working hard, here are ten helpful tips to help you out in your career.

  1. Women have to be more qualified than their male counterparts if they’re competing for the same job; plain and simple that is the world we live in.
  2. When it comes to your career, keep your options open and keep your ideas about your career path open as well.
  3. “What gets measured, gets done.” That is one of Pucino’s utmost important factors, when it comes to showing how successful a person is or can be.
  4. In order to stay current in your field, subscribe and read the best articles and websites that are relevant to you.
  5. Involve yourself in the company you work for, but be picky about what organizations you join, and really invest your time.
  6. Do your best every day, regardless of the setbacks or circumstances.
  7. Don’t take a position in a company just because of the company itself. Make sure it’s what you want to do or it’s where you’d like to go.
  8. A lot of people that hire are looking for people who strive to progress, so try to update and improve your knowledge on the subject in which you’re working on or involved in. Also, stay up to date on what the company is doing too, by reading their newsletter.
  9. When things get aggressive or uncomfortable in a meeting between you and a male peer, leave the situation. Suggest to pick the topic back up at another time, and calmly remove yourself from the area.
  10. Many women are afraid to mention their desire to be promoted. They aren’t sure how to go about it, or when they should let their boss know. The best time to do so is during your performance review with your boss. Let him or her know that within a certain amount of time, you’d like to be in a management position.

These ten tips were just a taste of what is inside of Janet Pucino’s book. I encourage both women and men, to read it, so that you can be more informed about the nature of the executive world. Climbing the corporate ladder isn’t easy, but Not in The Club: A Woman’s Journey Through the Biased World of Business, gives much needed insight into the corporate atmosphere. Janet Pucino’s book is a must read. I can guarantee that you’ll learn something to help further your success in the future.

About Crystal D. Higgins:

Currently a freshman at NIU, Crystal is involved in various activities on campus. She is on the Passport Advisory Board for NIU’s College of Business, the secretary of Women in Business Professions, and a member of CAB (Campus Activities Board). Originally a business management major, Crystal is considering a marketing major instead, and would like to study abroad in the UK in the near future. She would love to have a career in the media/entertainment field and wants to move to NY, LA, Atlanta, Houston, or downtown Chicago in pursuit of her career. For fun, Crystal likes to travel, watch movies, learn about other cultures and traditions, and spend time with family and friends. She also avidly listens to music, and thinks it would be a really cool experience to learn how to DJ! Although she has only just begun her college career, she is optimistic for what the future entails.

Crystal can be contacted at higginsdcrystal@gmail.com

 

GO HUSKIES!

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

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

GO HUSKIES!!!

COB facebook finish fight GO HUSKIES!

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

COB college mac diesel2 GO HUSKIES!

COB facebook mac diesel2 GO HUSKIES!

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

COB huskie diesel 1 GO HUSKIES!

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

COB facebook mac diesel GO HUSKIES!

Bonus wallpaper/cover image #1

COB football dec3 b GO HUSKIES!

Bonus wallpaper/cover image #2

Keep your Eyes on the Prize

This is a Guest Post from the FB-Twitterverse.

Tonight is Game Day for the 10-0 NIU Huskies football team.

We asked NIU Business fans on Twitter and Facebook to come up with a winning slogan for a picture of a classic Stare-Down delivered by NIU Huskies mascot Diesel.

NIU Business student John Nazorek won with this entry:  “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.” (By the way, John’s name in that sentence links to his LinkedIn account…join his network!)

COB huskie diesel 11 Keep your Eyes on the Prize

 

John said the slogan related not only to tonight’s game but also to NIU Business students as they power through to the end of the semester.

Powering on to the finish…can we get a high five from Diesel on that?!  You bet.

a Life Changing motivation

Editor’s Note:  Last but not least, here is the fourth in a four part guest post series from a team of OM&IS students.  They talk about what motivated them to create and manage the Dreamworks Scholarship campaign as part of their project management class (OM&IS 352). 

My name is Tyler Gancarz.  My OMIS 352 team and I decided to start a scholarship for our community project (in OM&IS 352).  All the members of our team have been helped in some way from scholarships and grants — that’s really why we wanted to help other students in the same way others have helped us.

My experience at NIU and the College of Business has been a special one and I would hate for someone to miss out on something so life changing because of financial need.  This scholarship project is a way for us to pay if forward, an opportunity for us to give back to the college and help dedicated students who demonstrate financial need.  The impact this project will have goes way beyond the classroom and could actually change someone’s life in such a positive way.

Visit the Dreamworks website here and give to the cause if you feel strongly about this too.

Current posts in this series:

Giving help, Creating opportunities

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 third 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 Mason Bush and I am a senior at the NIU College of Business.  I’m in the first generation of my family to graduate college.

I wanted to do this project because I have personally benefited from these scholarships and would have had a very hard time paying for school without this help. The NIU College of Business is a great place to be and a great opportunity to get ahead in life. The school is relatively affordable, especially considering how good it is and the opportunities available here, but many students still can’t afford to be here. The main reason I want to establish this scholarship is that I want other people to have the ability to get here who may not be able to otherwise. A lot of people need this kind of help. I know I certainly did.

Check out the Dreamworks web page here and if you feel strongly about this too, please help spread the word or donate or both!:

Current posts in this series:

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

Time Management

            Time Management is an interesting topic for students and I felt I should share some of my personal experiences in the matter. Over my first two years as a Northern Illinois Business Student I have learned some strategies to help with time management. My freshman year like most students was an adjusting period from the likes of no finals and AP classes in high school to 250 person lecture halls and an array of general education courses.  The idea of balancing work and fun has always been a tough one for me personally. Over my first semester I felt that I had to focus solely on school which is still very true but I felt I was missing out on exploring other avenues on campus. This became evident where I saw my friends get involved in student organizations, athletics, and social fraternities/sororities.

            The key for most students is to find the balance between studies and getting involved throughout campus. There are some instances where students get way to involved in the sense where they don’t have time for their studies or even just to get a good night of sleep. In reality as a student this is an unhealthy lifestyle due to certain key aspects of your life that you’re neglecting such as studies, regularly eating and even sleep. Personally my first organization/club I joined was club tennis which is offered as a sports club through the recreation center on campus. At first, I was very timid since I wasn’t sure how much time I would be able to commit to the club each week. As the first week went on I saw two categories of people throughout the tennis club. There was the person that was very devoted to the club and was a regular at practice and notified the club if they were going to be late or unable to make it. In addition, there was the person that only studies and doesn’t join organizations or enjoy certain aspects of college such as athletics, homecoming, networking with alumni.

As I entered my sophomore year I started to find that balance when I took over the NIU Tennis Club here at Northern. It gave me the chance to make something my own and the ability to reshape the club for future success. There were many challenges along the way in terms of funding, reliability among members and lack of players but overall a great experience. It will play an important role as I develop even more skills for future job interviews and internships.  It gave me the opportunity to take a leadership role here as a sophomore and paved the way for success in such roles as I continued my education. At some points throughout the year it did become an issue when it came to time. One week I might have three tests and a few projects the next nothing at all. The key for this situation was to somehow balance all of my school work and time devoted to tennis. I then joined organizations NIU Cause and Lambda Sigma which created a nice balance of the honors program, athletics and something with in the College of Business.

Now as you can see I didn’t really start to get involved on campus until Sophomore Year. What I recommend for freshman to do once they are on campus. The most important event to attend as a freshman is the Involvement Fair during the first weekend on campus.  The fair gives every student organization on campus a voice and the opportunity to tell incoming freshman what they do and when they meet. The idea that there are over 300 student organizations on campus is unbelievable it’s something you can’t get at a community college or just any college. There are fraternities and sororities that are social and classified as business professional. There are over 30 sports club here at Northern Illinois all the way from Bass Fishing to Roller Hockey. Just in the College of Business alone there are 28 student organizations across the six majors in the college. My message to all students is to get involved it’s been one of the most rewarding things I have done here at Northern Illinois University. At first it doesn’t have to be a big commitment it can resemble my story where I picked up my tennis racket and showed up to tennis club. Our student leaders and members of these student organizations on campus are all great people and have shown great leadership skills for taking on the roles they hold. There are only four years here at NIU and believe me they go very quick. In the fall of 2011 I was in all of your shoes as I have mentioned above a freshman looking to get involved with student organizations. In my mind there is no harm checking out these student organizations. They can only benefit you as time move forwards with the network you build for future job interviews and lasting friendships that should last a lifetime.

Stay Tuned: for a Guest Post by Rachel McBride a Graduate Student here at Northern Illinois University. She will be taking a look back on her time spent in Tanzania over the summer and what she has learned about the culture and lifestyle.

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