Baker Report: All hands on deck!

NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker

As part of an effort to offer periodic public forums to discuss issues on the minds of our campus community, I had the opportunity Wednesday to engage with several hundred people during a town hall meeting. I appreciated the good dialogue we had – so many great questions – and a recap will be posted online shortly.

At the town hall, I spoke about the friendly, welcoming atmosphere of NIU. While we offer an array of educational options that rival any other research university, we also have the mentality and culture of a smaller college. This is a good thing, and something we should continue to grow and preserve through hard work. It truly sets us apart and makes us more competitive as we look to build back our enrollment.

NIU is a place where students come for the kind of student-centered approach to education that helps them forge a life on campus that is uniquely tailored to their needs and interests. And, because of the close learning relationships students form with faculty and staff, it’s an approach that ultimately results in career success when they leave our campus. Welcome Days is when it all starts – or, in the case of our returning students, starts back again.

Move-in Day is Friday, and that begins NIU’s Welcome Days activities. Here are some of the things that students will notice this weekend and shortly afterward.

  • New banners that welcome them to campus and reinforce our cornerstone objective of student career success.
  • Digital signage all across campus that will provide a steady stream of information about events in real time that will be of interest to them.
  • New directional signage in the core of the campus that will make a huge difference in way-finding, and is part of a campus-wide strategy to make campus navigation as user-friendly as possible.
  • Mobile communications featuring an updated version of the NIU Mobile app that will have a Welcome Days module to help reinforce the information students will find on campus.
  • Student ambassadors who, as always, will be available to take questions or deal with issues.
  • Events that are aimed at engaging parents as well as students to make them feel welcome and reinforce the wisdom of their decision to put their kids in our care.

Welcome Days 2014 logoNext month, we will have something else available that we really need. It’s something that will further help with navigation as well as reinforce a new look for our way-finding tools: an interactive map of the campus that will be made available on our website as well as the mobile app.

Featuring our own people all over campus in a big and bold way really puts the punctuation mark on our critical role in making Huskie Country the most hospitable place around.

In sum, our objective with our new initiatives is to make the campus look better, have people feel welcomed as they join us and make navigating a much easier task. This is directly responsive to what we’ve heard time and again in the Bold Futures workshops as well as in our strategic planning retreat last month with more than 120 university leaders.

Early indicators are that our collective hard work is beginning to pay off, and retention will likely be up from last year. Our uptick in retention is a tribute to the entire campus community, and it indicates that we are making progress. We have a long way to go, but our initial results are encouraging.

That’s why this week we need to really help our students get off on the right foot in a supportive Huskie culture. In the coming days, I will participate in more town hall-style meetings with each of our academic colleges. I look forward to further engaging our stakeholders and answering their questions as we continue to build upon the work we have already done.

Go Huskies!

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