Braven Inc. prepares underserved students for job market

The course will be a 300-level class and open to all students regardless of their major.


Zohair Khan

President Lisa Freeman discusses potential program offered by Braven in collaboration with NIU at the Thursday Board of Trustees meeting. (Zohair Khan | Northern Star)

DeKALB ― President Freeman requested to enter into a five-year partnership with Braven Inc. at Thursday’s Board of Trustees special meeting. The request received unanimous approval. 

Braven Inc. is a model used in higher education to better prepare underserved student populations with the necessary skills to be successful in the job market.  

“There are a lot of unwritten rules when you’re entering the market for your first job,” President Freeman said. “(We want to help) our students play on a fair field.” 

The Braven model would be incorporated into NIU through the Career and Leadership Accelerator course, which gives students opportunities to network, work in teams and develop leadership skills, according to the Board of Trustees report

“This is an extremely important skill set for every student to have, beyond what they learn in the classroom,” Board of Trustees member Dennis Barsema said. 

The course is set to be offered in the Fall 2022 catalog, with a target of 700 students enrolled at that time, Freeman said. 

The course will be designed as a 300-level elective credit, and it will be open to all majors. However, there will be a particular interest in enrolling second-year students so that they get the full “Braven experience” throughout their time at NIU, Vice President Beth Ingram said. 

“From beginning to end, (the university wants to) make sure that (students) are prepared,” Rita Athas, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees said.

While NIU currently has professional development courses, Ingram said, the partnership with Braven would give students a particular edge due to the connections the corporation has to Fortune 500 companies.

“(Braven is) a different kind of credential that talks about connections, which would be hard for us to recreate,” Ingram said. 

The funding for this program will primarily come from the NIU Foundation and University Funds, according to the Board of Trustees report. The total budget for the five-year partnership is estimated to cost $2.3 million. 

However, Trustee members are confident that this course is necessary for the success of students. 

“This (partnership) supports the values and mission of NIU,” Barsema said. “From (college) to employment is a critical gap to fill.”