Firsthand lessons in leadership: ENACTUS at UIC Business

A lot of UIC Business students don’t know about the chapter of ENACTUS on campus. “Recruiting has been a challenge,” says Patricia Soto, the chapter’s current President. “People ask me, ‘what do you guys do?’ I tell them we create projects to empower community members, and they ask, ‘what does that mean?’ In the end, I just have to show them our work.”

Soto founded the UIC chapter of ENACTUS about a year ago, during her sophomore year. “Founded, or reopened; I learned from Professor Anthony Pagano that there was a UIC chapter of ENACTUS years ago, but membership had dwindled to zero.” After a year under Soto’s leadership, the organization is up to twelve members.

One of those members, Betty Krasnik, works as a project manager on Windy City Harmony. “Windy City Harmony is something we can show people to say, ‘look, this is what we do’,” says Krasnik. She helped launch Windy City Harmony with another ENACTUS member, Omero Jiménez, an accounting major at UIC Business. “When Omero was a kid, he attended Alfred Nobel Elementary School in Humboldt Park. He wanted to be part of a band,” says Krasnik, “but Nobel is a low-income school, and couldn’t afford a program.”

After joining ENACTUS as a new UIC student, Jiménez went back to Nobel to talk to the principal about offering students a band program. “He saw a need in that school, and thought ENACTUS could address it,” says Krasnik. Krasnik and Jiménez partnered with a music fraternity on campus to provide Nobel students with regular instruction and access to instruments.

“By the end of the semester, Omero will have brought the Nobel band members to UIC for three concerts,” says Krasnik. ENACTUS also organized a dinner for the band members and their families to spend time with volunteer instructors and ENACTUS members. “The stronger our relationships, the more likely that Windy City Harmony will last,” Krasnik says.

The goal for Krasnik and Jiménez is to make Windy City Harmony functional beyond ENACTUS’s involvement. “ENACTUS members get a lot of practice launching and managing projects,” says Soto. “Members not only need leadership skills, they need to be able to teach leadership, so that projects become independent of ENACTUS.” One of Soto’s favorite examples of an ENACTUS project comes from the Munich team, who developed a board game to teach beekeeping to illiterate farmers in Burkina Faso. “Beeconomy” has since become essential to the programs of Wend Puiré, an NGO that continues educating farmers about the economic benefits of beekeeping.

“We’re always looking for new members and fresh ideas,” says Soto. “We obtain grants from ENACTUS Worldwide, so the resources are there. It’s just a matter of UIC Business students identifying local opportunities.”

To learn more about the UIC chapter of ENACTUS, visit their Facebook page or email them at enactusuic@gmail.com.