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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Dennis Barsema inspiring new paths

By Barry Schrader.................................October 12, 2010

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.
He 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 of Business


“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 of study.
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.
“My 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 didn’t 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 poverty.
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.”
Barsema 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.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115