Barsema Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Department of Management
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, and now live in Geneva, Illinois.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended Emory University and received a B.A. in political science. I received my MBA in entrepreneurship/marketing from Indiana University and my Ph.D. from Indiana with a concentration in strategic management.
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Management, College of Business
What do you like about working at NIU?
I really enjoy a lot about NIU but, hands down, the best part are the people, both my colleagues and the students. They are smart, kind, thoughtful and fun. There is a just a great energy in our department, created by all who are a part of it. And across campus, I have had the privilege of engaging with some wonderful individuals who really care about NIU and put the interests of our students, staff and faculty forefront. I feel lucky to be a part of this group.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Engage, engage, engage. There are so many opportunities to get involved at NIU. Find the ones that you are passionate about, or the ones that scare you a bit, and try them. (Note: I am an introvert, so I realize how scary this might sound, but I assure you, it will pay off!) I think one of the most important things a student can do is participate in co-curricular activities. You can get to know individuals with similar interests, meet some wonderful people outside of your area of study and connect with alumni.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My current research is in the area of social entrepreneurship. I recently co-led a project that developed a research model to guide multidisciplinary work in the fields of social enterprise, design thinking and service research. It was particularly exciting because not only did I work with individuals from across other fields, I also worked with scholars from multiple universities.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
I teach social entrepreneurship and microfinance. In both classes, I try to provide students the opportunity to see problems and solutions through multiple lenses. So, in focusing on addressing the world's most challenging, or "wicked," problems, I hope they leave the class with at least one new way of seeing the problems and maybe a new, innovative way to address it.
What is your favorite campus event?
That is easy: the Social Impact Summit. It is an amazing event, conceived of and delivered by CAUSE, the social impact student organization. I love it because it is driven by the students, and I get to witness their passion and dedication to making our world a better place. It inspires me and brings me hope, because these are our future leaders. And I have the privilege of getting to work with them on it.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memories are with my students, particularly when I get to travel with them. In two of my classes, I accompany students to site visits, sometimes in the developing world and sometimes to innovation hubs. In all cases, I get to know the students on a different level and witness how traveling, meeting new people and applying their skills changes them. I see them learn and grow, both personally and professionally. It is exciting and it is why I teach.
Who has influenced your professional path?
My parents influenced me the most, as they were both educators. My dad was a professor in the same field. While we never really talked about it, I think teaching was just in my blood (both my siblings also went into education). My focus in social entrepreneurship was influenced by conversations (actually, really just one conversation) with Dennis Barsema. He can be quite convincing! But the passion for social good also comes from my upbringing, where there was a focus on serving others.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
That's a difficult question as I wanted to be a lot of different things. When I went off to college, I wanted to be a writer - of novels. When I discovered teaching while in college, I wanted to do that. Then, when I went to get my MBA, I was focused on becoming an entrepreneur. Now, as a professor of social entrepreneurship, I feel like I've incorporated all of those passions into a career.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society. These organizations provide opportunities for me to engage with other scholars, learning about exciting new research and innovative teaching methodologies.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I am a partner in Social Venture Partners, a nonprofit that supports other NFPs with their time, talent and treasure. I have also recently joined the board of Juvenile Protection Association (JPA), an NFP that provides mental health services to marginalized youth in Chicago. Being a part of these organizations informs both my teaching and research, as it allows me to both learn what social impact looks like in the "real world" and also apply my knowledge in order to help, in a small way, the impact they have.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I try to maintain an exercise routine, which includes yoga, walking and tennis. I also like to cook, read, travel and watch the birds in my backyard. Occasionally (read way too often), I binge watch British TV crime shows.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I love this community and can't imagine being anywhere else. Go Huskies!