DeKALB — Dennis Barsema has had been active in the university for the past 19 years and continues so by taking on a new role in the Board of Trustees.
One of his most recent accomplishments is filling the position for Wheeler Coleman as Board of Trustees chairperson until June 30, when trustees will vote on a permanent chairperson. Once elected by the Board, the electee must also be approved by the governor.
Coleman stepped down as chairperson in early December, but his term didn’t end until Jan. 21. Coleman said having a leader who is so involved in the university will help the board move forward.
“[Barsema] is committed to the university; he will make decisions that are in the best interest of the university,” Coleman said. “He’s a team player. He engages others, and he’s a thoughtful leader.”
Barsema said being able to see the university with different perspectives throughout the years has helped him become the best trustee he can be.
Barsema graduated from NIU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in business management and has since had over 30 years of executive experience in telecommunications, software and optical networking, according to the NIU Board of Trustees website.
Barsema and his wife Stacey, who is also an alumnus, started as donors to the university before moving to the NIU Foundation Board.
“By being on the [foundation] board, we got to see the inner workings of the university and forge other relationships within the university,” Barsema said.
In 2007 Barsema began teaching in the College of Business and developed a curriculum in social entrepreneurship, which allowed him to see the university from another perspective as a faculty member. After 10 years of teaching, Barsema was appointed to the Board of Trustees as vice chair and said the two years have gone by quickly.
“I’m very proud of what the Board has accomplished,” Barsema said. “I will say, in terms of the people on the Board, it is one of the finest skilled set of people I’ve ever been blessed to serve with. I have a lot of respect for the Board.”
Barsema said his biggest goal while serving as chairperson is to keep NIU President Lisa Freeman’s goals moving in the right direction.
When Freeman was appointed president in September, she established five goals for the university, which include focusing on enrollment, maintaining a diverse campus, focusing on research and innovation, working on key leadership initiatives and producing a fiscally sustainable university.
Barsema said revising the university’s vision, mission and values statements are significant to him as a trustee.
“I’m a big believer in your vision, which is how you see yourself,” Barsema said. “Your mission is what you do on a day-to-day basis to achieve your vision, and values are those things that guide everything you do.”
The vision, mission and values have not been revised for nearly a decade and The Mission Review and Revision Committee has released a draft for students and faculty to give their feedback on through their university emails. Barsema said he encourages everyone to give their feedback within the next two weeks.
Barsema said the Board and himself stand behind Freeman, and they believe they’ve got an appropriate leader as the president of NIU.
“Once you determine you’ve gotten the right leader, you set the goals and priorities,” Barsema said. “Then you hold them accountable and manage the leadership team to those goals and priorities.”
Freeman said it is fitting the privilege of serving as the board chairperson is transitioning from one accomplished alumnus to another.
“[Barsema] has been an avid supporter of NIU for a long time,” Freeman said. “His familiarity with the university’s mission and his engagement with our faculty, staff and students will help the university sustain forward momentum. I look forward to working closely with Dennis in support of our enrollment strategic plan. I have great confidence in his leadership”