Since the conclusion of our Bold Futures workshops a year ago, an analysis team submitted recommendations organized around three themes – process and administration, the campus environment and transportation. We then embarked on strategic planning exercises across campus to put the suggestions of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members into action.
A number of those recommendations already have been executed upon or are in the process of being completed, and evidence of the changes taking place on our campus can be found in many places, including but not limited to the following:
- Retention initiatives piloted and expanded, including the First-Year Composition initiative and high-impact practices such as those showcased during the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day and Community Engagement Showcase events this week;
- College level activities such as the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s E-PRIDE program and the College of Education’s EducateUS that provide transformative experiences for our students;
- Re-envisioning the campus core, with introduction of the Commons Café and other planned Holmes Student Center enhancements being examined by architectural firms and changes in the HSC’s operational structure to enhance recruiting, retention and learning;
- Improved campus signage and way-finding through the launch of a 3D campus interactive map, directional and identification banners and building signage;
- Customer service initiatives that include development of new training for front-line representatives and recognition of faculty and staff going the extra mile through the “Ask Me” campaign that included banners and a website;
- Enhanced communication through social media (i.e., recent Twitter takeovers by Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Eric Weldy), a streamlined university website, integrated dynamic signage throughout campus and tools such as Huskie Link and What2Do@NIU to facilitate news and event information to students;
- Student transportation needs that have been addressed in a collaborative way, resulting in the development of the Huskie Safe Line late-night transportation system, deployment of the “Huskie Pups” to bring students to the campus core from west campus, configuring and reconfiguring Huskie Bus Line routes and stops based on student input and feedback, expansion of the ZipCar program and the Lucinda Avenue extension project;
- Campus beautification and creating spaces of inspiration where learning and the exchange of thoughts and ideas can thrive;
- NIU financial aid programs adjusted in order to maximize student impact; and
- A simplified tuition and fee structure that emphasizes value and completion by capping tuition and fees at 12 hours for new students, allowing them to enroll in more classes for the same price and thus enabling them the graduate on time and reduce costs.
This work being done to transform NIU into a model 21st century university is being carried out in one of the most challenging environments in the history of higher education. With serious concerns over the affordability of higher education and fiscal challenges faced by the state legislature, there is still much work to be done.
Transforming NIU into an institution that best reflects the needs of the students, communities and employers is a continuous process – a challenge that we are taking on in a strategic manner. I would like to express my gratitude to the many stakeholders – faculty, staff, alumni, students and community members – who have contributed their time and talents to this process thus far. I am excited about the bold futures we are building together.