May 2014: AIESEC Alumni and Students Host an International Business Day at Northern Illinois University


By Heather Blahnik (Madison '96, US '98, AI '99)

Recently, AIESEC Northern Illinois University, with the help of dedicated alumni, hosted an International Business Day which attracted over 200 students.  The objective of the day was to host a major event on campus to promote AIESEC at NIU, to form a stronger relationship with the Northern Illinois University College of Business and the new International Affairs Department, and to have Jerry Allison (NIU 1962), founder and CEO of AJC International, a multi-billion dollar food wholesaler, share his AIESEC and business experience with students.

The event's organization was spearheaded by Sean Parnell (NIU 1995), who was instrumental in the re-starting of AIESEC at NIU six years ago.  NIU had no AIESEC chapter after it was disbanded in 1996, but this changed when Jerry Allison, one of the original co-founders of AIESEC NIU in 1960, came to give a speech at the NIU College of Business and talked with Dean Schoenbachler about starting an AIESEC chapter in 2007. Since Jerry is based in Atlanta, someone physically closer to Dekalb, IL was needed to keep the ball rolling.  Dave Welton and Sean Parnell stepped up and visited Dean Schoenbachler, who put them in touch with Assistant Professor Peter Magnusson who is from Sweden and had formed an international business club. Dave and Sean talked about AIESEC with him and the students of the international business club and they got excited enough to start a chapter. They then pulled together some financial support from AIESEC alumni and from NIU and AIESEC NIU was re-born.  Sean said the following about why he worked so hard to get AIESEC back at NIU:

It caused me great heartache that for 12 years AIESEC was not available for NIU's population of 25,000 students - countless traineeships were not realized and countless lives were not transformed in the way AIESEC can. When the opportunity arose to get the chapter started again, I saw my chance, got involved, and now NIU has the opportunity of AIESEC again and many students have benefited over these past six years.

After the students ran with re-establishing the local committee, Sean formed the AIESEC NIU Board of Advisors, became Chairman and, with the help of Dave and others, recruited a new board. Knowing that alumni represent the continuity and core fundraising for any local chapter, Connie Yang and Sean co-founded the AIESEC Life Chicago Hub, which has been very helpful in supporting AIESEC NIU, AIESEC Northwestern and a few other chapters nearby.  A little while later, Sean and Connie handed the leadership of the AIESEC Life Hub to Jill Olle and Sarah Ketvirtis and today it is one of the strongest hubs in the country.

Sean says the following about what he feels are the best ways to support a local committee:

* Give money for activities that will help the chapter grow.  This should be not just so a few students can go to conferences far away which can be abused and lead to problems

* Provide guidance for chapter activities and challenge the students when necessary.  Leverage our experience so the chapter can avoid making mistakes of the past

* Recruit other alumni to become involved from both a time and money standpoint

* Cultivate and introduce students to traineeship opportunities with people we know

* Be available to speak and attend AIESEC events, both for local chapter events and alumni events where students attend

* Work with the university go get support.  This should include the recruitment of a good faculty advisor that has interest, energy and time to work with the chapter

* Provide non-monetary resources, such as speakers, event space, and introductions to people in the business world which can be for traineeships or other things

If you would like to contact Sean to get more information on the event, you can email him at

If you would like to join an AIESEC Life Hub, you can learn more here.

If you are not yet a member of AIESEC Life, consider joining today and support the growth of a healthy AIESEC alumni community.

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