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NIU Online STEM Café explores how businesses are surviving and thriving

June 1, 2020

How are businesses meeting the challenges of the current economy? How are consumers interacting with businesses, and what permanent changes should we expect?

Learn about the creative ways in which businesses large and small, rural and urban, are responding to current challenges and innovating for the future at the next Online STEM Café, sponsored by NIU STEAM in the Northern Illinois University Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development.

The STEM Café will take place online on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at 6 p.m. For login details and to register for this free event, visit

Carl Campbell

Hear from: Mya Pronschinske Groza, Ph.D., NIU Associate Professor of Marketing; Carl Campbell, Ph.D., Chair of the NIU Department of Economics; Norman Walzer, Ph.D., Senior Research Scholar at the NIU Center for Governmental Studies; and Federico Sciammarella, Ph.D., President of MxD in Chicago.

Campbell will discuss possible ways that the world may be different in the future for individuals, businesses and the government because of our experience with COVID-19.

Mya Groza

Groza will focus on DeKalb County, in particular, discussing survey data from the recent DeKalb County Small Business Consumer Sentiment survey.

“The bottom line is consumer sentiment and morale are shifting rapidly,” Groza says. “What we knew a month ago about consumers is not relevant today, and the large-scale national or global studies are not necessarily relevant to our small businesses in DeKalb County, Illinois. That’s why this research study came about to provide timely, relevant data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for small businesses right here in DeKalb County.”

Norm Walzer

Walzer’s discussion will focus on rural communities, addressing not only the current pandemic, but also the effects of population decline and other long-term shifts. The audience will gain insights into innovative approaches rural communities can use to address economic declines and keep these communities attractive places to live and work in the future.

“There are many examples where residents have pooled their funds to purchase or reopen businesses on the verge of closing due to retirements of owners even when they provide local access to important goods and services,” Walzer says. “The businesses are economically viable and provide access to basic services, but they also help stimulate the economy by purchasing from local producers.”

Federico Sciammarella

Sciammarella, previously an associate professor of engineering at Northern Illinois University, now serves as President and CTO of MxD (Manufacturing x Digital) in Chicago. In partnership with the Department of Defense, MxD equips U.S. factories with the digital tools and expertise they need to increase their productivity and win more business.

“Public-private partnerships like MxD are here to help.” Sciammarella says. “The audience will learn how we as an institute are providing free and low-cost resources to make manufacturers more digitally savvy and enable them to thrive during these difficult times.”

To register for this free, 2-hour event, go to You’ll receive a link to the event in your confirmation email. Click the link to join the meeting by 5:50 p.m. The online room opens at 5:30 p.m., and the presentation begins promptly at 6 p.m. On a computer, the Chrome browser works best, and you will be asked to download the Adobe Connect app. For tablets and mobile phones, go to your app store and download the Adobe Connect mobile app before attending. You’ll be able to listen to the speakers and have a chance to type in your questions.

For more information, contact Judith Dymond, Ed.D., at 815-753-4751 or email [email protected]. Learn more about NIU STEM Cafés at