Making Progress: a message from Dean Rajagopalan

At the outset of my first year as dean of the College of Business, we established five themes that were to serve as strategic priorities to strengthen our college and the educational experience. They were:

  • A Culture of Innovation
  • Distinctive Student Experiences
  • Faculty Professional Development
  • A Mission and Market Driven Program
  • An Inclusive Community

At the conclusion of my second year, I am happy to report that they have, in fact, made a measurable difference in the quality of engagement for both the students and faculty in our college. Please allow me the privilege to elaborate.

Culture of Innovation – First and foremost, we have started to lay the groundwork for a Creativity Lab in Barsema Hall. Drawings have been developed for the design of the space as well as proposals for funding consideration. The lab will be a platform to help build an innovation mindset within our students, test new ideas and learn from experimentation. A pilot lab is planned for fall 2018 and naming opportunities are available. We also hosted several student events that further advanced our culture of innovation, including the 2nd annual Business Olympics and The Big Pitch Idea Competition. Finally, we have expanded our Experiential Learning Center (“ELC”) to include market research for NIU faculty and student discoveries. We successfully completed our first consulting project with the Northern Illinois Research Foundation, an on-campus organization that promotes scientific research conducted by NIU faculty.

Impact Lab – We have been effective in creating experiences – personalized, active, and immersive – that have been transformative to student learning and career success. First, we are laying the foundation for a new space for a professional student success center.  A framework will be formulated using existing programs: Passport, ELC and BELIEF.  With stronger and broader corporate connections, we have been supremely successful in securing internships, externships and job opportunities for students. We are also moving towards creating a data analytics center for the university.

The Sales Lab prepped me for my internship because it allowed me to watch myself after role plays and learn from my mistakes. Throughout my mistakes, I have boosted my sales performance and landed an internship with McKesson Pharmaceuticals where I hope to be brought on as a full-time employee.  If it weren’t for the amazing professors in the Marketing and Sales program and the sales lab availability, I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am today. 

Lauren Gierman, Marketing Major ‘18
MS in Digital Marketing Student

Faculty Professional Development and Research Impact – To support professional development and disseminate high quality research, we have recognized and promoted faculty research through seminars and research reports. We launched Dean’s Distinguished Professorships to support faculty excellence. Summer research grants have also been awarded.

The Dean’s Professorship allows me to focus on being more effective in the classroom and innovative in my research. The freedom to push the envelope a bit with the financial support of the College of Business enables me to author more practitioner-oriented research and to have access to data that often times is not readily available.

Professor Robert Peterson
Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Sales

Mission and Market Drive Curricular and Programmatic Transformation – To build strategies for regional centers, community college partnerships and global engagement, we have formulated a number of ideas. We have conducted research and launched course offerings at regional campuses. We are working on an engagement plan for community colleges by securing their representation on our advisory boards. We are also hosting a number of events for community college students and faculty. More broadly, we have developed and launched fully online master’s degrees in digital marketing and data analytics.

Inclusive Community – We are actively recruiting and helping retain historically under-represented groups of students, faculty and staff. We have awarded over $759,000 in scholarships and continue to make students aware of financial aid opportunities. We have successfully launched a student-to-student mentoring program and hope to increase faculty-to-student mentoring strategies. We continue to enhance classroom experiences with video resources, supplemental textbook material, tutoring sessions, and early grade alert systems to proactively reach out to students who may be falling behind.

The BELIEF Decision Making Guide is a tool that encourages you to stop and truly reflect on any decision, whether it pertains to ethics or not. I used this tool as a student at NIU and within my career. There have been many times where I have faced an ethical dilemma and the decision making guide forced me to see it from various perspectives while understanding additional ramifications that normally I would not have considered.

Jesse Laseman, Accountancy Major ‘17
Master of Accounting Science ‘18
Internal Audit Specialist, Wipfli

While our progress is well documented and through our strategic priorities we have found success, we are yet to be satisfied. There are goals yet to be reached. The future of our college remains bright and full of challenges. Our sights are set even higher as we head into my third academic year. I look forward to your support and share our mutual success as together we move forward creating an outstanding educational experience for the brightest minds in the country here at NIU College of Business.


Balaji Rajagopalan, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Business 815/753-6260

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