The University Honors Program on Thursday hosted former IBM executive Christopher Caine, now president of the Center for Global Enterprise and president and founder of Mercator XXI, for a lecture and series of roundtable discussions titled “America as a Commercial Republic.”
Throughout the day, Caine focused his comments on the future of American consumerism and economic development, reminding students to pay particular attention to the roles and ethics required of both the individual and corporations.
The day’s events were the second installment of the University Honors Maibach Lecture Series, an annual program endowed by NIU alumnus Michael Maibach, the former vice president of government affairs at Intel Corporation. Maibach also attended the event in an ongoing show of support for University Honors and NIU.
Caine’s luncheon lecture discussed the changing global economic climate and what role America will fill in the future. It detailed the ways in which technology and new developments are shaping the world and how business and government help that shaping.
University Honors students, NIU faculty and staff were encouraged to participate in the lecture and accompanying roundtable discussions. Joe Palmer, a political science major and University Honors student, said he felt the subject matter was relevant to both students and professionals.
“No matter what happens in the future, business and government will still matter,” Palmer said. “Looking ahead and preparing for the changes that are coming is an important step in protecting tomorrow’s economy.”
During the lecture, Caine spoke to the need for strong leadership and management in future government and business relations.
“An integral question to ask yourself when moving forward is: ‘Who are you?’ Having a sense of your own set of values and a true north for the direction you want to move professionally and personally can really affect the way in which you operate your business or lead your life.”
The Maibach Lecture Series is a prominent part of the University Honors Program’s initiative to sponsor and host interdisciplinary and engaged learning opportunities for its students. It also addresses one of NIU’s emerging priorities of student career success.
J.D. Bowers, associate vice provost for University Honors, said he saw Caine’s visit as a vital part of the program’s efforts to help students develop their skills and knowledge. Bowers also was excited to see so many students from different colleges and majors have the chance to interact with someone as prominent as Caine.
“Having Mr. Caine come speak to the students was an incredible opportunity for us,” Bowers said.
“It means a lot to our students and staff that Mr. Maibach has sponsored this series and that Mr. Caine was willing to give up time to talk with NIU students,” Bower added. “Caine’s comments spoke to business ethics, individual responsibility, the relationships between government and business and how, regardless of one’s role, we must be engaged with the interactions and intersections of these entities and their issues.”
The lecture series is designed to allow students to interact with high profile guest speakers and leaders from business and government. Maibach said he hopes the lecture series will encourage lifelong learning. It’s also his way giving back to the university.
“NIU is a place I’ve invested a lot into. It’s hard not become invested in a place where you have spent so much time,” Maibach said. “Lifelong learning is incredibly important.”
Maibach, a first generation college student and graduate of the University Honors Program, reflected on his time at NIU.
“There was a professor here who changed my life,” Maibach said. “I made sure I took a course with him every semester I was here for all six years of my two degrees. A great professor will give you insights you could never get anywhere else and will make you think in new ways. NIU and the University Honors Program have those professors.”
Maibach also provides funding for two annual scholarships awarded to University Honors students. Known as the Maibach Scholars, the two students work to help plan the speaker series and also other special events within University Honors that focus on business and government.
This year’s scholars are Patrick Barry in accountancy and Ashley Palin in political science.
The day was also filled with two roundtable discussions, one hosted by Dean Denise Schoenbachler from the College of Business, and the other by the Department of Political Science. Both sessions included students from many majors, and the day’s total attendance topped 100 students and faculty.
Caine left the attendees with some final thoughts: “Business invents and sustains the future and, when well done, advances the human condition.” However, he added, “You have to stay engaged. The skills required in the near future will be very different, and we will all need to be aware and change accordingly.”