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Program Spotlight: NDSU Nice Center
Dieumerci Christel '21 credits the NDSU Nice Center for helping him make a difference through entrepreneurship.
By Nicole Thom-Arens | September 16, 2021
North Dakota State University’s Nice Center, founded in Jan. 2019 and funded by philanthropy through the In Our Hands campaign, supports students’ ideas and helps them advance those ideas in the marketplace. For Dieumerci Christel ’21, the Nice Center opened up a world of possibilities as he completed his degree and advanced his business.
“Without NDSU, specifically the Nice Center, I wouldn’t be doing this because I got a lot of opportunities I couldn’t afford to do by myself,” Dieumerci, a business management major and entrepreneurship minor, said.
Before enrolling at NDSU, Dieumerci started his business, Enlightapp, which “helps teachers become experts on their students by allowing students to share their uniqueness through self-created student profiles.” Dieumerci was inspired to create the tool for teachers based on his own educational experiences after immigrating to the U.S. when he was 13.
“I wasn’t the best student in the world,” Dieumerci said with a grin. “I was a C student by choice because I felt like my education and my interests and passions were getting in the way of each other.”
Dieumerci recalled feeling alone in his educational journey because he didn’t feel teachers understood his living situation. As the third youngest of nine children, the home computer sometimes wouldn’t free up until 2 a.m. for Dieumerci to complete homework. When teachers said they cared about him and his success, he struggled to believe them because they neither knew him personally nor appreciated his passions — he calls it an “empathy gap” between teachers and students.
"I wanted something that would encompass everything. Entrepreneurship is the only thing that does that."
As he began telling his story, he learned it resonated with U.S.-born students, too, so he started researching. Through online conversations with teachers from across the country, Dieumerci began to better understand the struggles teachers are facing with large class sizes and demands of meeting state and national standards.
“I found out a lot of them go into teaching to make a difference — they want to change the lives of kids and they love the lightbulb moments,” Dieumerci said. “For me, I wanted to discover how I could help teachers create more lightbulb moments.”
Dieumerci used his skills in photography and graphic design to build student profiles based on questionnaires students completed. The questions ranged from student interests and aspirations to learning styles and needs.
“I took that data and started building student profiles for teachers. It’s all because I truly believe that there’re a lot of kids in school that go unseen,” Dieumerci said. “They may be passionate about something but they’re a little scared to tell their teacher because they’re afraid the teacher might not care. There are a lot of lost Einsteins, there are a lot of lost artists. My product is basically the pinnacle of how we can ignite students’ potential by asking, ‘Who are you?'”
"Philanthropic support allows us to create dynamic programs. In entrepreneurship, we need to be able to change quickly and adjust to needs — philanthropy lets us do that."
Scott Beaulier, the Ronald and Kaye Olson Dean of Business at NDSU
After a year at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Dieumerci transferred to NDSU and began to discover how his passions and his education could align and propel his business, but undergraduate opportunities for entrepreneurship were limited until the Nice Center opened.
“Philanthropy started the Nice Center and almost its entire budget is supported by philanthropy today,” Scott Beaulier, the Ronald and Kaye Olson Dean of Business at NDSU, said. “Philanthropic support allows us to create dynamic programs. In entrepreneurship, we need to be able to change quickly and adjust to needs — philanthropy lets us do that.”
The Nice Center offers courses and programs to get students started and build a bridge between campus and the community.
“I wanted something that would encompass everything. Entrepreneurship is the only thing that does that,” Dieumerci said.
Through funding from the Nice Center, Dieumerci was able to travel across the country and participate in the prestigious Techstars Austin Accelerator program, a WeFunder Fellowship, and a How I Built This fellowship.
“Dieumerci is a great example of betting on yourself — not waiting for opportunity, but making opportunity for yourself,” Scott said.
With an NDSU degree, a wealth of knowledge, and extensive experience, Dieumerci leaves NDSU ready to go wherever he’s needed to grow his business and continue making a difference.