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What Is the Leadership Forum?

November 25th, 2013

Jill KruegerTo introduce alumni to business networking opportunities, this article focuses on the Executive Leadership Forum and its president, Jill Krueger. The Executive Leadership Forum is one of 10 affinity groups that are part of the NIU Alumni Association. The groups are a way for alumni with similar backgrounds to network and promote their special interests.

Here is a personal account from Krueger about her background as a businesswoman and the benefits of becoming a member of the Leadership Forum.

My Career

I began my career working for a St. Louis company that provided development, marketing, and management services to retirement communities across the United States. I was introduced to this company by my former college sweetheart, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals football team. This job provided me with the opportunity to develop a highly specialized knowledge base and unique financial modeling skills. As a result, I was offered a position as a senior consultant with Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn.

After several years of living in the South, I decided to return to Chicago and work for KPMG. In 1993, I became a partner in the National Retirement Center Consulting Group. I absolutely loved working for KPMG and thoroughly enjoyed my job. However, I had a 3-year-old child and found the five-day- a-week travel too difficult.

At that time, a group of my Chicago-based clients decided to start a new company. They offered me the opportunity to assume the leadership of this new company and I began my employment as the CEO of Symbria in July 1996 – becoming the company’s first employee. Today, Symbria generates more than $105 million in revenue and has more than 1,600 employees in 15 states across the country. It has been a very rewarding career. Equally as important, I have been able to be an active parent in my two children’s lives.

With my busy schedule, why did I accept the position of president of the NIU Executive Leadership Forum?

Once I decided to become involved with NIU and the Executive Leadership Forum, I quickly realized how fulfilling it was to reconnect with so many friends from college, how fun it was to be involved with the university again, and how much potential there is for us to develop a strong network of NIU alumni who are executives and/or leaders in their fields. In serving on the Executive Leadership Board, I was amazed by the talent of the people who were serving, as well as the time and commitment they had toward the success of this forum and the university.

I am always drawn to leadership opportunities. With such a strong team of leaders in the Executive Leadership Forum, as well as the endless opportunities that I could envision, I thought it would be both exciting and fun to play a key role in this organization.

What are the NIU Executive Leadership Forum’s goals?

At this time, our priority is to grow our membership. We currently have 140 members; we would like to double in size over the next year. In order to do this, each of the Executive Leadership Forum directors is actively recruiting new members. We are big believers in metrics, so we have been measuring our progress monthly.

Our second goal is to promote “Huskies helping Huskies” by focusing on networking opportunities that allow executive leaders to meet new NIU alumni leaders, get to know each other better, and develop new business relationships.

Thirdly, we are focused on initiatives that advance the university. We are offering strong support of President Douglas Baker’s initiatives, which include student mentoring and jobs for students upon graduation.

Lastly, we want to continue to raise money for scholarships for students. We currently have a scholarship fund in the amount of $680,000 with the College of Business. We offer one $7,500 scholarship each year. We would like to start a new endowment with the NIU Alumni Association and offer additional scholarships to students in all colleges.

Why Join the Leadership Forum?

From my perspective, there are four main reasons to join the Leadership Forum.

One reason is to network and meet other NIU alumni to create new business or other opportunities. Huskies helping Huskies can be very prosperous. At Symbria, we have awarded office relocation services, audit services, printing business, and banking relationships to fellow Huskies. These fees are in excess of $500,000. We will continue to give opportunities to fellow Huskies.

Secondly, it’s a chance to give back by mentoring and teaching students and young NIU alumni. The sky is the limit in terms of ways we can get involved and contribute to the success of NIU, our alma mater. Not only is it the “right thing to do” – it is very rewarding!

Thirdly, it is something different than the sometimes mundane day-to-day routine we all seem to follow. New friends, new initiatives, new events … a change of scenery.

Last but not least, we have a lot of fun. Who does not want to add more fun to their life?

What is my fondest NIU memory?

Seeing NIU playing in the Orange Bowl was a blast. Even more spectacular was seeing the student section so full and loud, supporting our football team. The Leadership Forum teamed up with the Alumni Association to raise funds to send students to the Orange Bowl. In partnership with fellow alumni organizations, the Leadership Forum helped raise $45,000 to send the students to the Orange Bowl. It was thrilling to see the end zone packed with our students, who were cheering their hearts out for our team.

I have so many fond memories from my time at NIU – the time I spent as a Delta Zeta and all the extracurricular activities we participated in. One experience that always comes to mind is competing in tugs competition during Greek Week. This was truly a bonding experience with my Delta Zeta sisters. We worked really hard, got into great shape, and did some things we couldn’t have imagined so we could win (even though we never did win a championship). It was great to see a video on the jumbotron about the tugs at the last football game.