NIU CAUSE, the university’s student organization in the social entrepreneurship space, has been named the Entrepreneurship Club of the Year in the state of Illinois. CAUSE student leadership accepted the award on Friday, April 20, in Chicago during the EntrepreneurshipU Awards ceremony hosted by Future Founders, a nonprofit that inspires youth to create employment opportunities for themselves. Awards were given to 10 different public and private universities – NIU, Northwestern, University of Chicago, among them – for demonstrating exceptional entrepreneurial accomplishments
“I think this is a really important award for CAUSE as it provides validation that all of the energy and hard work they put into creating a unique and impactful group is important,” says Christine Mooney, the Barsema Professor of Social Entrepreneurship in the Department of Management at NIU’s College of Business. Mooney’s research interests include innovation and entrepreneurship, social enterprise and impact investing, among other areas. She also teaches creativity and innovation, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, and is the faculty advisor to NIU CAUSE.
NIU CAUSE was singled out as the state’s best entrepreneurship club due to the group’s ability to operate with a strategic and mission-driven focus; fundraise successfully in the social space; organize – from ideation to execution – their annual Social Impact Summit; and recruit and engage student majors from across the university. Now in its sixth year, CAUSE’s Social Impact Summit sees well in excess of 200 attendees on average each year and draws participation from national experts in the field.
“Through CAUSE, our students are adding an important element to the social entrepreneurship education they receive at NIU,” says Sarah Marsh, chair of the Department of Management. “I couldn’t be happier that Future Founders has recognized just how outstanding these students are.”
NIU Business Dean Balaji Rajagopalan adds, “This award is a reaffirmation of the incredible work that CAUSE has done to advance social entrepreneurship. We can look forward to student leaders of CAUSE shaping a great future for the organizations they work for and the communities they live in. The impactful work of CAUSE is another illustration of how our students seamlessly cross the boundaries of theory and practice.”
Dennis Barsema, who taught the first course in social entrepreneurship at NIU over ten years ago, also won the Outstanding Entrepreneurial Mentor of the Year award for his support of NIU students.
The EntrepreneurshipU Awards celebrates the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation at Illinois universities. The awards ceremony took place in the Merchandise Mart at the Chicago Connectory, a technology and innovation workspace affiliated with Bosch and the 1871 incubator.
“EntrepreneurshipU gives us the opportunity to recognize some of the game changers in the Illinois ecosystem who are pushing the boundaries of innovation to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs,” says Scott Issen, President and CEO, Future Founders, an organization that has served over 33,000 students from elementary school through college and has launched everything from international companies to local nonprofits.