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NIU students get real-world experience in DeKalb County

Leaders at Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue of Sycamore hope Northern Illinois University business students can help them improve how they run the nonprofit organization.

“The question is, how do we make our rescue self-sustaining,” said Lisa Monge, trainer and manager at Raven’s Husky Rescue. “The founders [Kelly Lambert and Jennifer Soule] are still paying for rescues out of their own pockets. We’re looking for a model on things to improve, add or take away, a whole new program to make it self-sustaining.”

Students in Jim Johnson’s executive master’s of business administration class will break into small groups that will visit the rescue organization. They will analyze and estimate the financial shortfall the organization will suffer for the next five years and create a long-term fundraising program to plug the hole, he said.

This is about the 25th project for Johnson’s classes. This type of real-world experience dots NIU’s educational landscape from adaptive physical education students running fitness programs at area retirement communities to communications students creating 30-second ads for nonprofits that are aired on the local cable TV channel.

It’s also the type of experience NIU President Doug Baker wants students to receive.

“Employers want the degree and experience,” said Paul Palian, NIU’s director of media & public relations. “If students can leave Northern Illinois with that piece of paper and the experience, they become a stronger candidate for a job and to advance more quickly.”

For Johnson, this real-world experience is better than any hypothetical he could create for his students.

“Virtually all my students are connected with a nonprofit, whether it be school, church, Big Brothers Big Sisters. A lot of nonprofits face the same issues,” Johnson said. “The knowledge they gain gives these students the ability to go back and help the other organizations they are affiliated with.”

Meanwhile, undergraduate students in an advanced public relations class have worked with Nick Misitano, owner of DeKalb Tattoo Company, to conduct a contest for a new company logo. The contest was open to students and the general public, and prizes will be awarded to the winners.

“They came in asking if they could use my business for a semester project,” Misitano said. “I thought it was cool to help out the school, and they’ve really taken the initiative on this project.”

Gabriella Flores, a senior in the class, said they received 15 entries.

“We were hoping for more, but we’re pleased with the quality,” said Flores, who plans to pursue a career in public relations.

Misitano said he had a good experience working with the students.

“This has been a really good experience,” Misitano said. “These students are serious about the class and have handled themselves in a very professional manner.”

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