STEM drives innovation & economic growth: DeBiase commencement interview


Republished from CLC Publications by

The importance of encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will be among the message points included in commencement speaker Dean DeBiase’s remarks to this year’s graduates on May 18.

DeBiase, a Lake Forest-based business leader, consultant and former CLC student, will address the graduates as the recipient of this year’s Illinois Outstanding Citizen Award. DeBiase, who transferred from CLC in 1978 a few credits short of earning a degree, also will be awarded an honorary associate degree.

His remarks will include a focus on the importance of STEM to the U.S. economy and job creation through what he calls the “dynamic entrepreneurial movement.”

“Students who focus or major in STEM areas continue to get jobs faster and be paid more than their peers,” DeBiase explained in a pre-Commencement interview. “Today, there are tens of thousands of technology related jobs that are going unfilled because we cannot graduate enough qualified Americans to fill our jobs.”

To fill these jobs in the short-term, DeBiase advocates for providing international students in the U.S. an easier path to staying here to work. For the long-term, he believes the U.S. needs to do more to encourage STEM careers.

“As a country, we must experience a shift toward STEM in early childhood education, if we are to compete globally for jobs and economic growth,” he said. “There are hundreds of programs to introduce and engage boys and girls into math and science, but we have not scaled it in a meaningful way to be able to predict a bright future. One example I like to use is kids understanding the intersection of two areas that may motivate some to study in these key areas: where the next-generation of cool technology comes from (learning how to code), intersecting with the allure of the entrepreneurial movement (learning how to create things).”

For working adults, continuous education is also critical, he said, urging people to learn skills in “chunks.”  “It is an extremely competitive world out there,” he said. “Life-long learning is what matters—and it helps to go chunky. Continue to get different chunks of education, like in-demand certificates, project management curriculum and other industry specific credentials.”

DeBiase is a Silicon Valley and Chicago business leader, entrepreneur, author, TV show guest and chairman of Reboot Partners, Inc. A co-author with Seth Godin of the best-selling business book “The Big Moo,” DeBiase has been chief executive of a dozen private and public corporations and Fortune 500 subsidiaries. He is a sought-after expansion-phase CEO with a track record of scaling emerging-growth companies, rebooting large organizations and embedding entrepreneurial-grade talent into multi-national corporations. DeBiase is a Senior KIN Fellow at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, where he speaks on accelerating entrepreneurial innovation. He also is a board leadership fellow at the National Association of Corporate Directors, and speaks on emerging corporate governance issues, including social media, digital privacy and cyber-security.

From 1975-78, DeBiase attended CLC then transferred to Northern Illinois University, earning his B.S. in marketing. He went on to get an M.B.A. from Keller Graduate School and later attended the M.B.A.-Plus Executive Program at the University of Chicago.

To learn more about DeBiase, visit the website of Reboot Partners, Inc., at or on Twitter @DeanDeBiase.

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