Why Come To Work Sick?

Editors Note: Just a quick post here, more of a thought than anything, on what went through my mind the other week when I caught the flu. I hope you enjoy! – Louie 

Did you get the bug that was going around? That seems like the phrase people use at least twice a year. Usually when the seasons change, right? So what happens when you do get sick? Maybe you go to school anyway and get your peers sick. Or, maybe you still go to school and are less productive than usual, as a result. Maybe you’re like me, and when you get sick you don’t want to do anything, so you don’t, but then you mentally beat yourself up because you feel unproductive. So, naturally, you try to get work done, but you’re not productive so you continue to be sick and get zero work done. If nothing else, this is a journal entry for myself. I faced this recently, and it took me about a day to realize that I should have just stayed home and rested instead of being unproductive for a whole week. Let’s explore this one a little further.

 

If you read nothing else

According to a Harvard Business Review article in 2004, the United States loses an estimate of $150 billion each year from employees taking off work for illnesses like heartburn, headaches, and fevers. This also seems to take into account the people who are unproductive because of their illness. It’s ironic, right? You come to work to not do work. But that’s the society we live in. We feel bad for taking time off to better our health. Instead of being unproductive for five days, wouldn’t it be better to take off a full day and get some rest? Apparently, some recent research is agreeing with that statement, as local public health doctors, according to The Guardian, are reporting that you should stay home with a fever for at least 24 hours. If you can afford to stay home for two days, you reduce your chances of spreading your sickness by 40%. Oh, and one more thing, wash your hands! More reports are saying that warm, soapy water rinses for at least 20 seconds are what will minimize your chances of getting sick in the first place. So, in short, you should try and stay home when you are sick, seriously, think about it. You get sick, you come to work and get three other people sick. Now four people are unproductive instead of one. I think most bosses in America would agree that you should take time off, especially if it means only one person is out instead of more. 

 

Why is this even a question?

Working on a weekend, holiday, when ill, are all norms for us at this point. We literally are working ourselves to death! The BBC has pulled some studies of their own and reported that people tend to go into work when they are sick as sort of a “Show and Tell”. We’re essentially showing people that we truly are sick, justifying to ourselves the need to take off the following day. “Look how sick I am people, you should now have no reason to think my day off tomorrow is unjustified” is what we say to ourselves. Whether it’s having a strict payroll team breathing down your back, or the constant build-up of group projects, homework, and group activities, sometimes it seems like staying home from work and school is more work than it’s worth. I mean, who likes to come back to school with more to do than when you got sick? No one.

 

How can you combat this?

In all honesty, this is going to be up to your own judgment. It’s often tricky because you are the only one who truly knows how you feel. You have to be the one to decide what you should do. Sometimes, you are just too sick to go to class and pay attention for long periods of time, but you can still work from home. Working from the comfort of your own home can do you wonders and still keep you productive, but if you choose to stay home, make sure you get work done. We all know the day, we choose to stay home, and we eat, sleep, and lounge around. All of a sudden our roommate comes home from class and we look at the clock to realize it’s 6:00 pm and we’ve done nothing! Working from home can keep your colleagues healthy, and also get work done in your pajamas, but let’s all vow to actually work if we feel up to it. Deal? Deal. 

 

Lastly, if you just feel awful, get some rest and eat some soup! You would much rather prefer to rest one day and then be productive the next, instead of being unproductive for a whole week. We all know that point where we’ve had enough, but we also know that point where we can work and just feel a bit crummy, but you have to make that decision! In the end, don’t feel bad if you have to take time off, after all, we’re all human, just make sure you keep killing it when you’re healthy! 

Student of NIU Business – Student Intern Louie Zmich

 

As some of you may know, it has been my job for the past two years to find, interview, and write articles on the various students of NIU Business. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to find students who really embody the meaning of scholarly education, and have them voice their stories, with the goal to inspire others to keep making themselves, and the world, a better place. So far, I personally think our efforts have been quite successful.

Naturally, given the scope of the project, I was avoiding doing an article on myself. However, I have decided that the first Student of NIU post of the semester would be of myself given the demand for such piece, and the fleeting time I have left in this position. Below is a summary of my advice for those who are currently or will soon enroll at the College of Business for class. This is simply my opinion, but advice non-the-less. I look forward to producing my last semester of content to those who will read, and I wish the best of luck to all of you in the New Year.

 

Louis Zmich
Marking major
Social Entrepreneurship minor
CoB Marketing and Social Media Student Intern

“I think that everyone should pave their own personal path through life, confronting the difficult times in order to make way for new, innovative, and personalized experiences. That’s what’s great about living in today’s world; we have incredible resources at our disposal that so many of us get to take advantage of every day. Some people have taken these opportunities and vastly succeeded, but some of us simply don’t have access to said resources. With that in mind, I find it imperative to soak up every last bit of knowledge we can, because it truly is a gift.

You know, I’ve heard a lot of quotes that have really stuck with me over the past five years of college, one of which was said by Warren Buffett, “We only truly learn from mistakes, but those mistakes do not have to be our own.”

How profound is that, right? Collaborating and pooling your networks with other like-minded people, is the perfect way to continuously learn without facing the sometimes-harsh misfortunes life can bring. One of my biggest recommendations is, find a mentor and surround yourself with good people. But be honest with yourself. Do a personal inventory and really evaluate whom you associate with. Sometimes we make excuses for those around us who bring us down, but your life is too valuable for that. Make the most out of it by reading the words of those who you admire, and surround yourself with people who will help you grow and support you when you fall.

The next bit I could offer is to take every day as a new opportunity for growth. Make yourself a better person when you go to bed, than you were when you woke up. Set the building blocks today, so you have confidence in yourself when adversity comes your way. I think a lot of us lean on others to find happiness, which is great, but I believe that true happiness comes from within. If we can all be happy within ourselves, then finding others who provide positivity is the right path to pure joy. Continuously try to be the best version of yourself, each day. If you can achieve that, you no longer will be comparing yourself to others, you will start to only see you for who you are, and love yourself in the process. Too much time can be wasted worrying about what others are doing. As a result, we never stop to see who we really are.

In The Book of Joy, The Dali Lama explains how human beings only know how to be humans, by other humans. We simply cannot survive in this world without each other. He goes further into the explanation with an example. Without the help of outside elements, a flower could never be a beautiful piece for all to see. Without proper, constructive human interaction, we could never thrive either. So make sure the interactions you have are the proper ones.

And lastly, I leave you with this. Do yourself a favor, and stop worrying about things you cannot control. Now, worry and anxiety are simply emotions triggered by the fact that you care about what is currently or has happened in the past. If you didn’t feel a sense of worry, you probably didn’t care much about what was going on. So, look at those feelings as a token of your appreciation for what is happening. We worry about failing that exam because we care about our potential grade in the class, but what sense is worrying when the exam is over? Are our worries going to fix the situation? Unfortunately, no, as I’ve found out often enough, unnecessary stress is certainly not an ingredient to success. If we worry less, we will think clearly and get angry less often. Only worry about what is truly worth your time, control your emotions and make the right decisions in order to keep moving towards a prosperous future.”

Of course, this is easier said than done, but I think we all have things to learn from each other. Which is why I am excited to continue to meet other fascinating people throughout this semester. I hope this can relate to some of you out there, and until next time, have a wonderful start to your 2017!

– Louie

Part 2: Students of NIU Business

Editor’s Note (Michelle here):  While Louie’s on spring break, here’s Part 2 of his new and ongoing initiative modeled after Humans of New York.  Our riff is called “Students of NIU Business.”  Remember to follow the NIU Business Instagram page to keep up with the full Students of NIU Business so far, along with other pics Louie shares there!  And if you want to join in with this and be featured in “Students of NIU Business,” send an email to Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!!

 

Part 2:  Students of NIU Business

 

Loreal Taylor marketing major

Loreal Taylor, marketing major

“I am in my last year of college. I am receiving my undergraduate degree in Marketing. Currently I am an intern for Northern Illinois Athletics communication departments and I also have an internship this summer for Kohl’s. My career path is to be a retail marketing director. I love to help people achieve their goals with internship tips and interview advice.”

Please feel free to follow her on Instagram: @Iamloreal. Loreal is also on Twitter: @Lorealtokyo. If anyone wants to know more about Ms. Taylor or what she does, she has requested anyone to feel free to contact her through social media!

 

Jinay Shah jr accy with finance minor

Jinay Shah, accountancy major with finance minor

“I was born and raised in India and moved here around 5 and a half years ago in search of better education and career opportunities. Moving to the United States has been quite a rewarding experience as it has taught me to go beyond my comfort zone to meet new people, and learn the new culture. My goal is to start my own consulting/business intelligence firm to help manage risk in businesses, and with individuals in India and other developing nations. I look forward to the fun semester and a great senior year ahead!”

 

Donna Nguyen, 2015 accy grad and current LMAS student

Donna Nguyen, accountancy alumnus and current Leadership Master of Accounting Science (LMAS) major

“I graduated with my undergraduate degree in Accountancy from NIU. Immediately after I chose to attend the LMAS (Leadership Master of Accountancy Science) Program. The graduate program here does an outstanding job of preparing the students for the CPA exam as well as for the work world! I have already made so many more connections beyond the ones I had made during my undergraduate career. When I was still in undergrad, I landed various internships, attended multiple leadership conferences, and even signed a full time job with Deloitte in Chicago two years in advance. I would definitely say the time I’ve had so far at NIU has been worth it and forever memorable.”

 

John Nazorek, sr mktg major

John Nazorek, marketing major

“Feels like yesterday I was sitting in class just a few days into Freshman year, and graduation seemed like it couldn’t come soon enough. Here I am today, 3 months before actually graduating and wishing time would slow down. I’ve gone on a lot of adventures and met so many amazing people over the past 4 years that I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. Guess it’s true, time will fly by when you’re having fun!

Advice to incoming freshman and lower level undergrads:  1) Enjoy every moment. Go out, make new friends, and get involved. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.  2) College isn’t always going to be a piece of cake. Expect the unexpected, go with the flow, and don’t stress yourself out.”

 

Shawn McGinnis, jr accy major

Shawn McGinnis, accountancy major

“I chose accounting because of my sister, she has been and still is a big influence in my life. She is a very successful accountant, so I feel like I need to do the same, and be as good as she is. When choosing a school, I wanted a university with a good business school. I was choosing between U of I and NIU. Northern stood out more in the Business and the Accounting program here. My final decision was made at an Accounting visit day. I talked to advisors and master students while getting a tour of Barsema. I was sold from then on out. Amazing Accounting program, and the career fair is bar none. Not to mention, the prep courses all have been an amazing help. With the help of ACCY 370, and all of the career fair preparation, I landed my internship with Plante Moran. I will be interning with their tax department in the Spring of 2017. A big thanks to the Accounting program and the Business school is needed. I’m doing what I want in life because of them. Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) is a great organization and I have learned a lot from the upper class Accounting majors. They really guided me in the right direction.”

 

Megan Howard, senior marketing major

Megan Howard, marketing major

“I changed majors a lot. I was in Architecture competitions in high school, where I designed a resort. I didn’t win but it was really cool. I didn’t want to be behind a computer 90% of the time, I knew that for sure. I questioned multiple things when I was getting my Marketing degree through a community college, because I couldn’t do any actual Marketing courses there. So I changed paths and got my Cosmetology license. When I found out how much I didn’t like doing that as a career, it took the fun out of it for me. So I went and became a full time banker and continued my education in Marketing here at NIU. I’m actually hoping to work for Red Bull in their Sports Marketing department, as they work with all of the extreme athletes. I fell in love with that department because I’m passionate about the extreme sports as well. I’m kind of a jack of all trades I guess. I balance everything by going to school only two days a week, then I work every other day. I do stress relief days by cooking, and now I’m getting my own place, so cooking will be easier to do. I know what I want, and I’m moving towards where I want to be. It’s that drive that really keeps me going. The best advice I could say, is to never take no for an answer, ever.”

 

Anita Iyer, jr accy major with minor in econ

 

Anita Iyer, accoutancy major and economics minor

“I chose NIU because the people I used to hang out with came here and told me all of their success stories. As for my major, I pursued it because of the influence my high school teachers gave me. The best way to succeed within NIU, personally for me, is to balance your social and academic lives. You really should join an organization that gives back to the community in some way. Service is an unbelievable way to feel accomplished and get involved at the same time.”

 

Jason Kaye freshamn marketing and OMIS double major

Jason Kaye, marketing and om&is double-major, NIU Presidential Scholar, NIU Honors Program

“I’m from Round Lake IL. I have three younger siblings, but I’m the first one in college. A big reason why I chose NIU was for the College of Business honestly. I actually took Sports Marketing in high school, and that’s kinda how I got into this career space. With that being said, I am a huge Cubs fan! The best decision I have made so far was joining Delta Sigma Pi and CAUSE. My interests are: Intramural sports, reading when I can, watching Netflix and playing video games. I try to get the most out of every day. I tend to reflect on what I accomplished each day and be proud of making myself better.”

 

Cloe Pooler accy major

Chloe Pooler, accountancy major with community leadership & civic engagement and social entrepreneurship minors

“If there’s anything I hope every student learns during their time at NIU, it’s that nothing is impossible. You can rise to any challenge you face. Have a dream that seems too difficult to make a reality in your short time in the college? Enable and empower yourself by getting involved and connected and you can make anything happen; follow your passions and you can open doors to make progress on other goals. For example, I care deeply about giving back and through CAUSE and Social Entrepreneurship classes I have accomplished my other dream of studying internationally. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers and faculty; we’re a Huskie family! Join groups inside the college and out, take on leadership roles, and, if you’re financing most of your education like me, apply for scholarships! Whatever you do, be fully engaged.”

 

Check out “Students of NIU Business” in posts labelled Part 1,  Part 2, Part 3,” and so on!

And if you’re an NIU Business student who wants to be featured, let us know! Send an email to Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!

Part 1: Students of NIU Business

Editor’s Note (Michelle here):  Like all NIU Business students, Louie is currently enjoying spring break.  So I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of Louie’s excellent work, this a new and ongoing initiative he created and modeled after Humans of New York.  Our riff is called “Students of NIU Business.”  Check them out here in three separate posts so far.  Or go to the NIU Business Instagram page to keep up with the full Students of NIU Business so far, along with other pics Louie shares there!  And if you want to join in with this and be featured in “Students of NIU Business,” send an email to Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!!

 

Students of NIU Business

Amanda Zierden marketing major

 

Amanda Zierden, marketing major

Amanda is a junior Interactive Marketing major and has this to say about how she lives her life: “Hard work pays off, if you really want something you’re going to work towards it. It may be rough, but you have to follow through because it will be worth it in the end.”

 

 

Stephanie Sanchez OMIS major

Stephanie Sanchez, om&is major

“My father never went to high school, born and raised in Mexico. Mom was born here, some college but never attended a university. I’m not the first in my family to go to college, but it’s coming from that background of my parents not having a high level of education that created a lot of pride but also put a lot of pressure on my shoulders. No one was there to hold my hand and walk me through these pressures and occurrences that happen here at NIU. You jump in feet first and you figure out the world on your own. The pride however, came from being able to show my parents how their framework that they laid for me, really has paid off. My parents showed me I can do whatever I want in life. Growing up and seeing how my dad got so far without even speaking English, is incredible really. It’s honestly amazing being able to speak two languages and set myself apart from my peers.”hez, om&is major.

 

Devin Stompanato OMIS major and computer science minorDevin Stompanato, om&is major and computer science minor

“At first when I came in here I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career. I knew I wanted to do om&is. Getting involved with Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) really helped me with what I wanted to do. Being around all of these motivated people in DSP, pushed me to do more, learn more and be better. It taught me not to settle for anything, that’s how I live my life now. You’re here and it’s so unique, some people don’t have this rare opportunity of going to college, think about that. If you can get anything just go for it, two majors, a double certificate, literally anything just go for it. I’ve used that motto to go and get involved and make me my best, no one else is going to push you forward anymore. This is all on you now, it’s real in college, it hits you right away.”

 

Jacquelyn Schueler OMIS major

Jacquelyn Schueler, om&is major

“Well, I am a junior OMIS major. When I first came to NIU I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I eventually found the College of Business and became an undeclared business major for a while. Then I chose Finance. It only took a few weeks of UBUS 310 for me to realize that number crunching was not exactly what I wanted to do. And that is when I made the switch to the OMIS program and I am so glad that I did. There is a bit of friendly competition within my family to do well because my sister is a student and my Dad, Uncle, and Aunt all graduated from NIU. And that definitely pushes me to do the best that I can. They help keep me driven and grounded when life gets chaotic. I know that if I ever have problems, I have a good support system to help me out. Which is really, all you need in life.”

 

Michael Palacios NIU Business major

Michael Palacios, NIU business major and active in the Foreign Language Residency Program

“I spent some time in Japan in high school, as part of a Study Abroad program with a company called AFS. The family I stayed with while I was there ran their own small business. Seeing the way that Japanese people conducted their business, and comparing it with the way Americans do business, I realized that there was a notable difference in the way businesses are run around the world. It really intrigued me. I think it’s important to understand that the United States isn’t the only country in the world, and that one can pursue a life anywhere. NIU and the College of Business do a really great job of promoting global awareness. I chose NIU, not only because of the reputation the College of Business has, but also because of the Foreign Language Residency Program. A global perspective is a very powerful thing, and I think that American students, especially, need to work harder to achieve one. Our school is doing a very good job of helping us to do that.”

 

Kevin Mui marketing major

Kevin Mui, marketing major

“This is my 3rd year here at NIU and it has been an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I would highly recommend transfers or freshmen to take advantage of getting involved on campus. For me, Joining Kappa Pi Beta was one of the best things I’ve done to help me transition into college. The organization definitely helped break me out of my shell. They provided me with a plethora of opportunities to develop myself into a well-rounded leader while still keeping an emphasis in maintaining academic excellence and time-management. It also helped me branch off to other organizations and take leadership roles in them. To keep me motivated, I always ask myself “Will I regret not taking advantage of these opportunities when I’m older?” My other motivating factors would be my parents. They moved here from China not knowing any english at all. They’re one of the main reasons why I grind so hard in school. They took care of me and sacrificed so much for a chance for me and my siblings to succeed and have a better future. I want them to know that I don’t take it for granted and I’ll be taking care of them one day. That will be the day I could finally be happy and relieved knowing that their sacrifices has paid off.”

 

Bhrianna Barker marketing major

 

Bhrianna Barker, marketing major

“I will be graduating this May 2016 and starting my career as an ETL with Target. Other than school and work, I enjoy reading, binge watching Netflix TV shows, and shopping for shoes. I am also a proud dog-mom of a maltese named Coco. My first language was Spanish and I will be the first person in my family to graduate college. Currently, I am the Target NIU Campus Liaison and helping find new interns and future managers for Target stores and Distribution Center. I am also President of the organization NABA, and we are still looking for spring members to join.”

 

Jeffrey Kamholz marketing major

 

Jeffrey Kamholz, marketing major

“The final frame, the ninth inning, overtime, you get the picture. I guess I want to tell a story. So, as a senior I was looking for a school that could have some scholarship opportunities and provide success for my future. The moment I stepped foot on campus I knew I had found a home. You know, I got as involved as I could my freshman year. I started to pledge Delta Sigma Pi, and joined a few organizations then right in the middle of it, I blew out my ACL. What I learned form that, 8 weeks in, I had surrounded myself with people that barley knew me but they still wanted to help out. The brothers of DSP didn’t owe me anything but they were great and helped me out. That was the theme of my time at NIU. Great students, great faculty, to great alumni. I have been able to accomplish so much because of everyone surrounding me. I guess looking back, you reminisce about everything. It’s been an incredible four years here and I hope to stay as involved as I can after graduation and as life goes on. I guess all I can say next is, Go Huskies.”

 

Sam Kusswurm finance and accy major

 

Sam Kusswurm, finance and accountancy double-major

“It’s hard to imagine, but in a few months I will be graduating from NIU and beginning my career at PwC. During every big transition it’s pretty common to think about the different choices that were made and experiences that were had. I’m really happy to say that I view my time at NIU as a great success and want to share some advice on how other students can make the most out of their time here as well. I think one of the biggest contributors to my experience at NIU was the decision to get involved, and specifically to get involved early. I wasn’t very involved in high school and wanted to change that in college. I found some amazing organizations to be apart of early on that helped me to develope as a friend, professional, and leader. Serving as President for both Delta Sigma Pi and NIU Investment Association has been incredibly rewarding. Both have given me some of my best friends as well as in the case of Delta Sigma Pi a family here on campus. I wouldn’t have received so much from them though if I hadn’t joined early, which is why I encourage everyone to try and get involved as soon as they get on campus.”

 

Check out more “Students of NIU Business” in posts labelled “Part 2,” “Part 3,” and so on!

And if you’re an NIU Business student who wants to be featured, let us know! Send an email to Louie at lzmich1@niu.edu!

Hunger on College Campuses

Image

Editor’s Note (Michelle here!):  NIU Business freshman Jenee Carlson is also an NIU Research Rookie whose project examines campus hunger, a situation occurring on many campuses around the country.  The first part of this post invites all NIU students, faculty, and staff across the university to participate in an anonymous food-needs survey that Jenee has created. The remainder of this post contains a story I wrote after meeting with Jenee.  The story provides more detail about Jenee’s incredibly important research project and her goal to identify meaningful solutions based on your input.  Thank you for your help!!

 

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Fight Campus Hunger

Campus hunger is a harsh and far too often hidden reality afflicting many university students around the country.  (See full story below.)  At NIU, the Huskies Student Food Pantry estimates that 1,500 NIU students battle hunger.  In order to learn the full extent of hunger on campus, your input is needed.

Take NIU’s first ever university wide food-needs survey at this link:  go.niu.edu/hunger

All responses are anonymous.  Please share this post or the survey url with your fellow NIU students.  Thank you for your help!!

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full story

The Elephant in the Dining Room:  

Do NIU Students Experience Hunger?

 

For some, the recent holiday season invokes memories of food overflowing on dining room tables.  But for many on college campuses across the country, an abundance of food is far from the reality.

Several national media outlets – The Atlantic, The New York Times , Rolling Stone, among others – recently carried stories about hidden hunger and even homelessness on college campuses.   A Washington Post article entitled “More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise” conveys the heart of the matter in the title alone and for readers here begs the question:  how many NIU students go hungry?  How often?  Once a month?  Every week?  Every day?

Getting a handle on campus hunger – a conversation gathering steam at a number of universities nationwide – is the central focus of NIU Research Rookie Jenee Carlson’s project.  Carlson’s study shines a light on an issue that often remains hidden . . . an issue for which secondary research reveals unmistakable need:

  • 48.1 million Americans (holding constant at the highest level ever) are food insecure (Feeding America)
  • 600,000 persons in northern Illinois are food insecure (Northern Illinois Food Bank)
  • 14,560 persons in DeKalb County are food insecure (Northern Illinois Food Bank)
  • 1,500 NIU campus students are thought to be food insecure (Huskies Student Food Pantry)
food-pantry

Huskies Student Food Pantry

“Initially, I wasn’t sure what ‘food insecure’ meant either,” the business freshman says in response to a question about the phrase that accompanies those rather staggering statistics.  “I’ve since learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines ‘food insecure’ as a lack of nutritional food for an active, healthy life at all times.”

It bears repeating:  “1,500 food insecure” represents the number of NIU students thought to be battling hunger.  Right here.  Right now.  Compounding the problem, as noted in the Washington Post story, is that food insecurity is often shrouded in shame and students are often reluctant to talk openly about it.

To address this, Carlson launched NIU’s first ever food-needs survey.  Her overriding goal is to learn the extent of hunger on NIU’s campus and to formulate meaningful solutions for students based on what she learns directly from them.

“NIU students themselves are the key to understanding what’s really happening in their lives,” Carlson says.  “Together, we can figure this out.  Even though the survey-takers are anonymous, no student is alone in this fight.”

NIU Research Rookie Jenee Carlson and her NIU Business faculty mentor Dennis Barsema

NIU Research Rookie Jenee Carlson and her NIU Business faculty mentor Dennis Barsema discuss Carlson’s campus hunger project.

 

Not even Carlson.

For this project, she works with a number of like-minded individuals, many of them well-versed in making an impact.  They range from a highly accomplished faculty mentor to experts seasoned in the battle against hunger.

“After Jenee introduced herself to me to discuss research ideas, the first thing she said was:  ‘I want the work to make a genuine impact’,” Dennis Barsema recalls.

Barsema happens to be a strong advocate for making a difference, and Research Rookies provides a perfect venue to make meaningful things occur.  NIU’s Research Rookies program links together undergraduate first-year, sophomore, and first-semester transfer students with faculty mentors in their major or area of interest to conduct a small-scale research project.

Beyond serving as Carlson’s Research Rookie faculty mentor, Barsema’s long list of accomplishments also includes founding the social entrepreneurship program in NIU’s College of Business.

The field of social entrepreneurship and its underpinnings of doing business differently have gained not only traction but momentum and not only in classrooms but within actual firms across the country in a variety of industries.  Socially responsible organizations measure the impact of everything they do in three key areas known as the triple bottom line:  People, Planet, and Profit.  Ultimately, then, as a management department faculty member, Barsema focuses on redefining what it means for an enterprise to be successful.  Beyond profits, success now must also include, and give prominence to, making a positive impact in people’s lives and in the life of the planet.

Faculty mentor Dennis Barsema and NIU Business freshman Jenee Carlson in the NIU College of Business

Faculty mentor Dennis Barsema and NIU Business freshman Jenee Carlson in the NIU College of Business

 

“Jenee’s intention to make a difference is compelling,” Barsema adds, his smile of appreciation nearly audible.

“She’s taking on a very big issue that requires her to work with a wide variety of people; both learning from them and contributing to the larger effort.  As with most complex problems, lasting impact has a greater chance of occurring when talented and committed individuals collaborate together.”

Shortly after Carlson contacted Barsema out of the blue in Fall 2015 (a first-semester freshman at the time), her path to creating an impact opened up even more.

“I knew about Mr. Barsema and his teaching focus.  It’s incredible that I was able to meet with him especially when he didn’t even know me,” Carlson says.  “I’m very grateful that he agreed to be my mentor.  And it’s because of Mr. Barsema that I’ve met a lot of other really great people, too.”

In fact, barely two weeks into her Research Rookie project, Carlson began working side by side with key members (including a CEO) of organizations at the forefront of fighting hunger.

“I’m learning a huge amount from Dennis and from Julie Yurko, the CEO of Northern Illinois Food Bank,” Carlson says, “and Kelly Brasseur, who is a dietitian and also with Northern Illinois Food Bank.  I’m also collaborating on campus with Kathy Zuidema, the founder of the Huskies Student Food Pantry, which is a member of the College and University Food Bank Alliance.”

“All of these individuals are amazing people who care so much and have accomplished so many things, including overcoming their own challenges at various times in their lives.  It’s really tremendous to learn from them and join forces with them.  It’s really humbling.”

And energizing.

Carlson’s typical day includes meetings and phone updates with all four individuals, often at the same time.  Together, they created a food-needs assessment questionnaire customized for NIU, the first of its kind for the university.

Typically food banks such as Northern Illinois Food Bank or Feeding America (the national organizing charity) develop and administer these surveys.  And historically, these assessments tend to cover the county or city levels only.

For Carlson’s campus hunger project, however, she and her collaborators crafted the survey specifically to address the college student population.  In fact, theirs represents one of very few food-needs assessments in the country to target higher education students on a university campus.

“We find ourselves in the position of trying to understand student hunger without a comprehensive national study that breaks the information out by campus,” Northern Illinois Food Bank CEO Julie Yurko says, then adds, “The data – and the solutions – cannot arrive soon enough.  This makes Jenee’s research project vitally important.”

Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, organizes 200 food banks across the country – including the Northern Illinois Food Bank — into a powerful national network.  Through this network, food banks then provide support and nourishment to their coverage areas, which include local food pantries on the ground where community members feel the impact most immediately.

Enter Kathy Zuidema of the Huskies Student Food Pantry.  By day, Zuidema is a full-time employer relations specialist in NIU’s Career Services division.  By night (otherwise known as her personal time), Zuidema takes it upon herself to operate the Huskies Student Food Pantry.  In fact, she founded it.  When asked why, she immediately replies, “I felt compelled.”

food-pantry-2Zuidema goes on to say that her daily interactions with NIU students continue to reveal huge, unmet needs.  Primary among them:  students go without eating – “often for a couple of days on end” – and many battle hunger on a constant or near-constant basis.

“It’s incredible that Kathy created the Huskies Student Food Pantry on her own,” Brasseur says, Northern Illinois Food Bank dietitian and also an NIU alumna.  “It’s such an important beginning.  Yet what we still don’t know is what happens when the pantry isn’t open.  What do students eat when – or if – they are able to find food?”

Think back to those times when you experienced hunger pangs that kept you awake all night and you begin to have a sense of the situation.  Yet in its worst form, chronic hunger does the consuming … consuming every moment.  Eating away at your energy, focus, health and well-being long into an indefinite stretch of days.   Devouring even your choices.  If you could eat absolutely anything at all, you would – empty calories or not.

“Campus hunger is a large, hidden problem that needs attention,” Zuidema says, conveying an insight she’s gained from being on the front line as an evening and weekend warrior when it comes to actual Huskies Student Food Pantry operations and planning. “We don’t usually associate chronic hunger with food-rich nations or universities.  But it’s quite real in the United States.  It’s very real for many campus students right here. ”

Indeed, it’s quite real for many college-level students across the country.

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy (referenced in the January 2016 Atlantic story on campus hunger), nearly 50% of American high-school students qualify for free meals or reduced-priced meals.  A reality that for this group of individuals, CLASP notes, “…doesn’t tend to change when they go to college.”

At NIU, more than 1,500 students have used the Huskies Student Food Pantry since it opened a year and a half ago.  To this stat, Zuidema also counts easily 60-75 students who continue to visit the pantry during its twice monthly operations from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at its current location in the Grace Place Campus Ministry building.  

“I was amazed to learn from Kathy how many of my peers utilize the Huskies Student Food Pantry,” Research Rookie Jenee Carlson says.  “Then I volunteered and saw for myself.”

As campuses around the country look to address the complex issue of student hunger – caused by the perfect storm of a variety of factors, including economic realities, changing demographics, hikes in the cost of living as well as tuition and university living expenses – the number of food pantries on campuses has increased dramatically.  According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, only four existed in 2008.  Fast forward just seven years to 2015 and the number jumps to 199 food pantries in operation on college campuses.

With growth like this the odds are very good that, without even realizing it, you probably know a student who has no idea when they will eat next.

“The choice for students shouldn’t come down to buying a book or buying food.  It shouldn’t be a daily choice between stressing about where the next meal will come from and being able to focus on learning,” NIU business freshman Jenee Carlson says.

 

**************************************************************************************

Help Fight Hunger  

NIU students: 

  1. Take an anonymous food-needs survey at this link: go.niu.edu/hunger
  2. Or complete the survey on a tablet on March 3rd or April 7th at the Huskies Student Food Pantry, which operates from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and is located in the Grace Place Campus Ministry building.

 NIU faculty and staff: 

  1. Tell your students about this project and share the link to the anonymous food-needs survey:  go.niu.edu/hunger
  2. Encourage your students to complete the survey.
  3. Complete the survey yourself.

Everyone:  Show your support for the Huskies Student Food Pantry.   If you have the means, be a donor to the Huskies Student Food Pantry.

Thank you!!

 

Make Dreams Happen

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  I’m thrilled to post the latest installment of “Life After Graduation.” In this post, marketing alumnus (student-athlete alumnus!) Troy White shares his thoughtful insights on his journey to date after graduating from NIU Business.  Thank you, Troy, as always for taking the time to share your very thoughtful words of wisdom with me and all of us!  Keep making a difference as you so truly do!

Career Bio

Sometimes the journey isn’t a straight line—but you grow a lot and gain a lot by persevering.  My path to the Chicago White Sox had a couple of twists and turns.

When I graduated I began to communicate with various professional sports organizations about my desire to work in the industry. I was informed by many that there weren’t any positions available at the time. After receiving this disappointing news, I began working as a Staffing Consultant at an employment services company in downtown Chicago. Approximately 10 months into this position, I was offered a business development opportunity with a business intelligence firm, which I accepted.

Then in July 2013—I’ll never forget this—I navigated through my email inbox and stumbled across a message I had sent to a professional sports team. It was like a wake-up call…I realized again how passionate I am about working in sports.

I contacted my former NIU baseball coach, Ed Mathey, and informed him of my goal and dream to work in sports. Ed was supportive and stated that he would assist in any way possible. My family has supported my passion throughout my life and helped me to tailor a new message, which I sent out again to professional sports organizations.

The revamped letter garnered a reply from Christine O’Reilly, Vice President of Community Relations with the Chicago White Sox. She indicated that the White Sox organization has yearly internships and said it’s a great way to “get your foot in the door.” I was instructed to let her know if an internship was of interest, and then she would forward my resume and message to Moira Foy, the Vice President of Human Resources. Without hesitation, I responded “YES, I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward my credentials.” It was an opportunity I could not pass up, even with the risk it posed.

Mind you, I was still employed at the business intelligence firm and performing well. To go from a secure opportunity with great benefits to a paid internship with no certainty, exhibits my passion and confidence in my work ethic.

In August, I interviewed for one of the 10 sales internship positions and earned the opportunity. Let’s fast forward to the month of February 2015, when a full-time sales employee accepted a position outside of the company and another employee assumed his position. This meant that there was now ONE full-time opportunity available within the Client Services division of the White Sox organization. All sales interns were informed of the opportunity and invited to apply. This was an exciting time, because one of us was going to earn a full-time position. After the interviews were conducted, we all patiently waited for our individual meetings to find out who earned the position.

Through all my hard work, dedication and previous experience I was chosen to join the Client Service team. So two years into my journey, I had finally achieved my goal! I wouldn’t have accomplished this without the constant support from my family, friends and Ed Mathey. It’s also important that I believed in myself and took the risk to start as an intern with the White Sox.

Did you know right away as a student what you wanted to do in business?

I only knew that I wanted to have a career in the sports industry. My exact position and responsibilities were not as certain. And even though my career didn’t begin in sports right away, the skill set and knowledge I obtained from my previous experiences proved to be instrumental to my current successes.

How do you show up in the world?

It’s important that I’m seen as reliable, hard-working, competitive and authentic. I want people in my life to know that if something needs to get done that I’m the person capable of making it happen. My participation in sports and family upbringing has instilled a desire to achieve greatness. In whatever endeavors I undertake, I’m going to work hard to achieve success otherwise I’m wasting my time and everyone else’s. No matter what level of success I achieve, it’s important to retain authenticity and to remain humble.

With your background and now a career in sports, you’ve seen good teamwork up close.  What components make a team good or even great?

As a former collegiate athlete and now working in sports, teamwork is crucial to success. Teamwork in school, business and on the field has similarities. Every good team must have accountability. If a member is deviating from the plan, it needs to be addressed and that individual needs to understand that it’s not personal but rather realize the importance of his/her contributions. Good teamwork requires picking up or covering for a teammate to ensure that the group doesn’t miss a beat (i.e. selflessness). Lastly, no individual can be “bigger” than the goal. No matter what your title or position is, everyone is contributing to the team effort and no one person is more important than the group and its goal.

In what way is NIU Business uncommon?

There are multiple aspects that make NIU Business unique. However, the support that the faculty provides its students is astounding! The NIU College of Business does a tremendous job of supporting their students’ extracurricular activities and taking a genuine interest in their lives. Many times I would have conversations with faculty members about things that were unrelated to what was mentioned in class or even NIU or the College of Business. This personal touch and genuine interest is what I will always remember.

How do you stay hungry?

Simply, I set goals. It’s amazing how impactful it is to your success when you write down your goals or create a vision board. I like setting some lofty goals, because every day I wake up, I know it’s time to go to work if there’s something to be accomplished. As odd as it may sound, I appreciate failure. I’ve failed all throughout my young life, but that helps to provide motivation. There is much to learn from an individual who has failed, including how he/she reacts to failure. Will they pity themselves or is he/she going to use that failure as a motivating factor? The latter is my mindset, which is why I set goals that I truly want, without watering them down into what I can ”more than likely” accomplish. The knowledge you gain on the journey to your goals is invaluable…even if it takes 1, 2 or even 10 years longer to get there than you originally expected.

Tell us your “WHY?”

Many factors motivate me in my life; some internal and some external. The greatest external factor is my drive to show my family and friends appreciation for all of the support and love they have shown throughout my life. I want my family to take pride in the way they raised me and the type of young man I have become and the man I will become. I can never repay them for all the time, money, love and energy they expended on my behalf, so showing them that it wasn’t in vain is my way of paying them back. In terms of internal drivers, I simply want to become successful in every aspect of my life. My competitive spirit won’t allow me to become complacent. There is always another goal to achieve.

 

NIU Business Teaming with Friends

Editor’s note:  During the busy-ness of finals week, take a breather between exams and studying and check out this guest post from senior management major Daniella Vintika. Daniella (pictured in the center, below) describes one of the most meaningful things she’s experienced in the NIU College of Business:  building true relationships and friendships. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Daniella, and congratulations to you and your friends on graduating in just a handful of days!  

by Daniella Vintika

I started at Northern Illinois College of Business two years ago.  I came from a community college, so I entered NIU as a junior.  It was the first time I took courses at a university.  I decided to commute to NIU because I live about thirty minutes away, and it just made the most sense with my finances. NIU was an intimidating place for me at first.  I was a little scared and nervous because I didn’t know a single person at the College of Business, but luckily that was going to change for me.

The first semester was challenging, taking courses like UBUS 310 and 311 together.  This is something you’ll hear from almost every business student who has taken the courses.  I learned fairly quickly that I was going to have to do a lot of teamwork. Basically every class I took had at least one team project if not more during the semester and some team assignments lasted all semester long. I knew that if I wanted to be successful during these next two years and get good grades I would need to make friends with the teammates in class. I was nervous at first relying on a group of people I had never met before and I knew nothing about their work ethic to do well in class (and I’m sure the same was true for them!) but being able to work with people you don’t know is a must for success. I will say I was pleasantly surprised with the results the majority of the time.

Throughout the semesters, I made genuine friends with individuals on these teams. They became more than teammates.  They became people I could talk to about things other than school and get advice from about any subject in life and count on them for help when I needed it. Not everyone in every team I was in was a great worker or a great friend, but I could count at least one person if not more from each group who I would want to work with again in the future or continue a friendship. The relationships that didn’t end up working in some teams taught me how to handle different situations and that’s also very important. It was exciting to feel like I wasn’t alone at school and that I had true friends there with me along the way.

As friends we would look out for each other and really cared about each other’s progress. We would always check up on one another to make sure everyone remembered when due dates were coming up and give each other tips on how we could do assignments better. We worked together a lot through the semesters, creating study guides as a group to make the work load easier. We were all going through the same thing, day to day, and knew that helping each other out really helped us all out in the end. Although, it was hard work most of the time through the semesters here we also had alot of fun as well. We would hangout outside of school, go out together and let loose after long weeks of school work. We would work hard and play hard, even though it seemed like we were working more than playing. The friendships I created here have made my college experience at NIU truly a really great one.

These friendships opened me up to new things and always caused me to think about things differently, from a different perspective.  Having these teams in college prepared me for the future, because I am much better now at opening up and creating relationships. I now know how to deal with different group situations whether they are good or bad. I recognize being able to handle this is very important in any career.  I’ve learned from professors and guest speakers that you will have to work as a team many times in your life and I feel prepared and much more confident to do so thanks to the real life experiences I have had here at NIU’s College of Business. These semesters would have been much more difficult if I wasn’t able to have these friendships and I feel so thankful for that.

I graduate this December and now I have a great network of individuals who I call friends. Some of my friends are looking for jobs and some have jobs already and have offered to help me get at job at the company they work for. I think that alone tells you that they are a good friend because they want to see you succeed along with them. I cannot stress enough how important it is to build relationships wherever you go in life.  I didn’t realize the significance of this when I first entered NIU but I know how this is really true.  It will teach you a lot no matter what the experience itself is like. This learning experience has been the best part of being a student here at NIU and although I am sad to leave and everyone is going their separate ways I hope that I can keep contact with my friends and continue to build these friendships even more and long after graduation.

 

 

Be Unreasonable … go after your dreams

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  In this Thanksgiving season, it brings me great joy to share this Life After Graduation profile from 2015 OM&IS alumnus Jacob Ferguson, another wonderful and recently graduated alumn.  Not too very long ago Jacob managed all things social media for the College of Business accounts, including the Student Voices weblog.  As you read this post, you’ll soon discover that Jacob continues to be true to who he is and what he believes. Thank you, Jacob, for sharing your wisdom and journey so far!  Keep living into your passions and making an incredible difference!  Happy season of gratitude!

 

Quick Career Bio

 (Start date: 3 months after graduation.) I currently have the honor and privilege to serve as a Corps Member at City Year in Chicago along with over 200 other individuals in an effort to help students and schools succeed. We work to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support that students need, and what their schools are designed and resourced to provide.  With City Year, I work full-time on a team with other Corps Members and our Team Leader. Together, we provide students with academic support and after school programming focusing on the areas of attendance, behavior, and course performance.

You chose a different path after graduation…

I decided to choose a job that allowed me to make a difference and give back to my community right after college because it is something that has always been important to me and close to my heart. At a young age I learned the importance of volunteerism.  That value has remained important to me through the years. Another reason is that I personally know there will never be another time in my life when I have as few commitments as I do now. Also, I’m of the belief that if I serve now, I am increasing the odds that these types of issues will not be around when I am older.

Who is your hero and why?

This answer changes daily. There are probably a million people that I can say come to mind when asked this question, but the one that sticks out the most in mind my is my mother Cheryl.  My father passed away when I was in high school, and she really took it upon herself to ensure that we got everything we needed to succeed. She has always
challenged me to do my best and has been an intricate part in helping me to become the man I am today. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her and all that she has done for me.

Describe your most meaningful/favorite experience at NIU.

I would have to say being involved.  There were so many opportunities and experiences that I was able to take advantage of simply as a result of being involved. NIU already has a student organization for nearly everything, and if they don’t, they highly encourage you to create your own. In many ways, being involved is also where I learned and grew the most during my time at NIU. It provides a great opportunity to apply the skills that I learned in the classroom. It’s something that I believe every student should take advantage of.

What did you learn about yourself at NIU?

I learned a lot about who I am and the person that I aspire to be. I had the opportunity to experience a lot of different things: from traveling to other countries to taking a stand against social issues. Each experience has made me better in some way. I think a lot about what my life would have been like had I not attended NIU, and I can honestly say that going to NIU was one of the best decisions that I ever made.

Name three things you want to do in life:

1.  Hike the Appalachian Trail.  An alumnus and friend from NIU actually did this after graduation.  Ever since I talked to him about doing it, it has moved to the top of my bucket list. The thrill of being engulfed by nature, having time away from the world to reflect and grow as a person and building relationships with people you would otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet really resonates with me. I am actually considering doing this after my year of service with City Year is up.

2.  Paddle board in Bora Bora.  This is a recent addition to my bucket list, but I mean come on…how awesome does this sound? Plus, sleeping in an over-water bungalow sounds like an extraordinary experience.

3.  Sky dive. This is probably the most realistic item on my bucket list of the three. I think it is fair to say that I will have this one crossed off by next summer.

Tell us your “WHY?”

I’m just a young individual from Chicago trying to build my legacy and be remembered for the impact that I have on others and on the world. I view my life as a series of adventures. Some are longer and far more thrilling than others, but they all ultimately help to depict the journey. And they all are guided by a mantra that we followed as students in an NIU student group—NIU CAUSE—that I participated in with so many friends and kindred spirits. That mantra is “be unreasonable.”  Be unreasonable enough to believe that you can make a positive impact in the world. Be unreasonable enough to go after your dreams.

On Top of the World

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  Sometimes you just have to forgo the editor’s note and jump right into a wonderful story.  Congratulations NIU Finance major Franz Varga on your incredible achievement!!  (Thank you for the great conversations we’ve had for this story!)

Imagine tying for #1 best in the world on a business aptitude test offered to students from more than 3,500 participating universities.  Then ask NIU Finance major Franz Varga exactly how he did just that. 

Varga arrived at the top spot by way of the Bloomberg Aptitude Test in business and finance (BAT)

His journey included an outstanding performance on the September 2015 exam, paving the way for this senior finance major to tie with one other person for best in the world.  Along the way, Varga also landed another two-way 1st place tie in yet another BAT exam category, the Americas category. 

And all of this after what had been, just 12 months earlier, his impressive 2014 BAT performance, when as a junior, Varga ranked among the Top 5 in the Americas category.  

“Franz’s performance on the BAT continues to be stellar.  His performance this year – his personal best of #1 in the world – is something to be celebrated,” says Denise Schoenbachler, Dean of the NIU College of Business.  “At the same time, Franz’s achievement provides another powerful example of the incredible students and incredible academic programs here.”

Varga’s claim to the top spot in the world also positions Northern Illinois University above the scores produced by students at schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the National University of Singapore, among many other academic institutions in the states and around the globe.

It’s safe to say Varga – much like NIU’s College of Business – stays hungry, stellar results notwithstanding.

“This is actually my fourth time taking the BAT,” he shares.  “It’s free to NIU students, so I’ve never really seen any negatives to taking it.  Each test I’ve taken is a bit different in terms of questions, but the structure – the various categories of questions – for the two-hour test is the same.”

The BAT covers eight different topics that range from math, analytical reasoning to economics.

It’s a highly competitive global challenge with participants from more than 3,500 universities.  The Bloomberg Institute created the exam in collaboration with financial professionals, recruiters, and academics to assess students’ aptitude for business and finance.  As important, the BAT also provides an effective means for financial industry recruiters to discover highly knowledgeable potential new hires from a global pool of universities.

The exam received attention last month in a Harvard Business Review story that described the BAT as an effective performance-based exercise that measures knowledge and skills specific for investment banking.

Also noted in the HBR story, the BAT helps students and recent graduates connect with financial employers by way of the BAT Talent Search, a tool that contains test-takers’ test scores and is reviewed by financial professionals around the world.

High achievers like Varga gain even more opportunities by entering the Bloomberg Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame is an invitation-only exclusive designation that provides top performers like Varga with direct access to more than 25,000 recruiters at elite global investment and financial institutions seeking to identify candidates for entry-level roles in areas across the financial spectrum: from hedge funds to traditional asset management and everything in between.

“The opportunity to be featured in the BAT Hall of Fame as an international finalist is exciting because it helps broadcast my name to employers,” Varga explains then adds with genuine modesty, “ I hope my score in the BAT will make me more competitive in the industry.  I’m most interested in careers in corporate finance or investments.”

Did we mention Varga tied for best in the world?

Unsurprisingly, Varga’s hope was realized within a handful of days, when he received and accepted an offer for a position with Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin.  Securing a position in a fantastic company in the field of your dreams and a full seven months before graduation, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.  Clearly, results like this require full commitment:  seizing opportunity, being tenacious and talented, and giving it your all.

“I’m really proud of my accomplishment. It reaffirms that I’m improving through my courses at NIU,” the senior says.  Then, with his tenacity front and center, Varga continues, “I wouldn’t want to have peaked in my junior year!”

So what would Franz Varga suggest to anyone considering taking the BAT?  The No. 1 piece of advice from the No. 1 best in the world is:  “Get a good night’s sleep!  The BAT test is designed so you don’t need to prepare for it beyond being in your best mental shape when you take it.”

Which is also very sound advice for addressing an all-important question not necessarily found on the BAT … but one each of us encounters at some point in life:  What’s your ‘why?’  What motivates you?  What do you believe?

For Varga, his answer is near immediate.  Clearly, he’s long since put his best mental thought processes to this question, too.  And he’s very clear about what’s important to him.

“I find myself most motivated by the people that I care about. I pull a lot of my drive to succeed from the support of my fiancé, my family, my friends, and the faculty members at NIU.  Those people are the most important part of every day. I wake up knowing I can look forward to having breakfast with my brother in NIU’s New Hall, going to the Katz Dog Park near the university with my fiancé and our dog, spending time catching up with friends, meeting with peers in student organizations, learning from faculty members deeply immersed in their respective fields.  Every day is a new, exciting adventure. I’m very happy with my life, and wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Realize your Potential

Editor’s note (Michelle here):  I’m delighted to share another Life After Graduation profile from yet another wonderful and recently graduated alumnus.  In this post, you’ll catch up with 2015 business administration alumnus Robert EnRicco Ramos. Thank you, Ricco, for sharing your insights and journey so far!  I know how busy life is, so truly my gratitude to you for taking the time to share with me how life is going on the other side of your NIU Business experience! 

Quick Career Bio

I am currently a business development representative at Groupon.  My main goal is to cold call organizations to see if there is a fit for their business to be featured on the Groupon platform. Groupon is a great customer acquisition tool.  My main objective is to go through a process with merchants to gauge their costs, capacity, current customer traffic, and business goals. Once I’ve gone through this process with merchants we determine if there is a fit.  If there is a fit, I structure a campaign that will be beneficial to both the merchant and Groupon.

Describe your future-self, 10-20 years forward.

Many people look at money as a measure of success.  While money is a factor, I think my definition of success goes a little deeper.  In 20 years, I need to be able to look back on those years and know that I did everything I could to reach my full potential.  If I can look back and know that I didn’t leave anything on the table, then that to me is success.  My dream situation is to operate independently in 10 years.  I’d like to make a living through my own business and have a team under me.  Entrepreneurship runs in my family, so I have that entrepreneurial spirit.  In 10 years, I most likely will be a full time entrepreneur.

What words of wisdom would your future-self share? 

I can share some now.  Never outshine the master.  Robert Greene says this in his book “48 Laws of Power.”  In the past, I haven’t been the best at listening. This is one of the most important things to learn – the skill of listening. I listen to my mentors, family, managers, etc.  And I hope that I can build enough credibility in business so that I will be able to share words of wisdom in the future with young business minds.

What makes NIU Business uncommon? 

I saw the value in attending NIU’s College of Business when I was there.  However, I feel like I see the value even more now that I am in the business world.  What makes NIU’s College of Business great are its intense programs, like the undergraduate cross-discipline business classes UBUS 310 and UBUS 311.  These classes create a mental discipline.  UBUS 310’s valuable content and UBUS 311’s real world application both make NIU Business unique.  UBUS 310 simulates the business world because a lot of things come at you at once and at times you don’t have a lot of time to register it.  The business world is demanding and there are no “due dates.”  Due dates are “right now.”  UBUS 311 helped me build my confidence when I speak in front of people.  It also simulates real world meetings, which are constant in business.  The mentors at the college are probably the biggest thing that makes NIU’s business college uncommon.  People like Dennis Barsema – his level of achievement and success and the fact that he teaches at the college, that students can actually talk with him on a regular basis and learn from him, well that’s not something that happens at other schools.  All of the mentors and great staff at the college have taught me to be humble.  NIU’s business college builds great business minds.  It also builds strong character.

What did you learn about yourself at NIU?

Going into NIU, I actually had some doubts about whether I could pass.  I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, so at first, the idea of a university was very intimidating.  I didn’t know what to expect other than I expected the material to be challenging.  And I wasn’t sure if I was “smart enough.”  However, I learned more and more that I could do anything I put my mind to. NIU’s business school is extremely demanding and challenging, and I realized that if I can get through it, that I could put myself in the same position mentally to get through anything I want to in life. I learned going through the business program that I am indeed made for business.

Tell us your “Why?”

I’ve always been a go-getter.  Multiple things motivate me, but the main thing that motivates me is potential. I feel like I have the potential to reach a high level in business.  If I don’t give it my all, I feel like there will be a lot of potential wasted.  I also am motivated to be an entrepreneur.  I find this to be one of the aspirations that set me apart from other students at NIU.  Because I don’t have aspirations to “climb the ladder”. . . I have aspirations to actually build the ladder.