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The Articles started December 2007.
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Dennis Barsema inspiring new paths
By Barry Schrader.................................October
Dennis Barsema, the multimillionaire benefactor of the Northern
Illinois University College of Business, has some ideas for college
students looking at career choices these days.
has initiated a course of study at NIU in entrepreneurship that
emphasizes social entrepreneurship, something in greater need
these days when nonprofits are having difficulties surviving
the tough economic times.
Asked how his proposal
to create a Center for Social Entrepreneurship is faring at NIU,
he said the College of Business now offers a minor in Entrepreneurship
and as a part of that program, a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship
is one option.
Dennis Barsema, of the Northern Illinois University College
My dream is still having the Center one day and the certificate
is the first step, he said. He then explained how the business
school is partnering with the College of Liberal Arts and Science
and its newly-formed Non-Governmental Organizations Leadership
Development Center, or NGOLD. Its director, Judith Hermanson,
and others in the the liberal arts college have had talks with
Barsema about mutual programs to enhance their similar courses
Barsema sees a cross-pollination
where students in both colleges can take courses in the College
of Business and NGOLD at the same time, gaining a broader perspective
of the various opportunities for careers that are more public
spirited and beneficial to underserved groups.
focus is on the social sector, making the world a better place
helping the students of tomorrow to become better people,
exposing them to markets they didnt know about relative
to the social sector, he said. His worldwide effort in
micro-financing, which provides small business loans to fledgling
entrepreneurs in Third World countries, is one example of his
dedication to helping the less fortunate work their way out of
He tells his students they should strive
to join companies that are innovators, even if they themselves
are not strong in that area. R&D (research and development)
are very important
I would never go to work for a company
that is cutting its R&D budget, because that means they are
cutting down on their ability to innovate, he said, adding
that as long as we as a country and as individuals continue
to innovate we will have a good future ahead of us. When we stop
doing that the rest of the world will catch up and surpass us.
Asked about the current dismal employment environment
where companies are reducing or eliminating benefits and pension
plans, he said that he and his wife, Stacey, began teaching
our children at an early age that they will have to do it on
their own saving and building a nest egg so that when
retirement comes they can live off their savings.
is also continuing some innovative projects in the Rockford area
by forming a second venture there, Community Collaborative, Inc.,
which develops databases for social service agencies to use in
collaboration with other similar groups, allowing them to share
their computer files containing client information. At first
they made it a nonprofit, but found donors were not as interested
in software development as they are in helping people directly.
So now they have incorporated as a regular business, using students
from the NIU Information Technology Department as part of the
work force. They also hire trainers to go into the field and
help the end users learn how to utilize the programs. Barsema
hopes more people will find this a desirable enterprise in which
to invest their money.
Meanwhile, he can be found
on campus at NIU every week this semester where he continues
teaching two courses, accepting no salary, but providing a unique
educational experience for young people who can find out what
a philanthropist is really about firsthand.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
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PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115