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.

Score a FREE Lunch!! (Contest Details)

If you are an NIU Business major (freshman through senior levels) and if you like food (especially when it’s free!) AND if you want an opportunity to meet other students and the NIU Business Dean in a relaxed setting, then this is the contest for you.

Follow the instructions (below) and you may win a free lunch!  Not only that, but you’ll have fun, meet some new friends, chat with NIU Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler, and maybe even learn something new about ways to make the most of your time at NIU!

“Score a FREE Lunch” Contest Instructions

  1.  Send an email to jacobiferguson@yahoo.com and include this information:
    1. Make the email subject:  “Score a Free Lunch Contest”
    2. In the body of your email, provide:  your name, your declared NIU Business major, and your academic year (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior).
    3. Please also briefly share “Why I Chose NIU.”  (There’s no right or wrong answer to this!  We just love learning more about you!)
  2. Send your email no later than WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 10th!  In order to be eligible your email must adhere to all of the contest instructions listed here.

Winner Selection and Announcement Details

Contest entries will be grouped by academic class (NIU Business:  Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior).  Winners will be randomly selected from each academic class and notified via email on Friday, September 12th.  The email notification will include more specific information about the free lunch and will be sent to the winners by jacobiferguson@yahoo.com .

Any questions?  Lemme know in the comments section!  If not, well, then GO! and fill out the contest instructions!

 

And the Journey Begins…

601379 10151231923430960 1946632987 n 225x300 And the Journey Begins...

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!

 

 

GOOGLED!

 

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

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

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

 

 GOOGLED!  by Lexi Wozny

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

 GOOGLED!

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

 GOOGLED!

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

 GOOGLED!

Googler Demian Caponi on Google's Values & Culture

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

 GOOGLED!

Making a Cool Difference that Matters!

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

 GOOGLED!

Googler Demian Caponi (center) with AMA student officers

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

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

 GOOGLED!

NIU Business student Lexi and Googler Demian

 

Cheers!

Lexi Wozny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Lexy Wozny

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

 

 

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!

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

 

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.”

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