Baker Report: Program Prioritization Progress

As the excitement and eventful days of a new academic year energize us, we continue our important work of Program Prioritization to align our mission with our resources to ensure a vibrant future for NIU.

While many conversations are ongoing, and critical decisions are still forthcoming, I’m pleased with the progress as we move forward.

Some positive changes already are under way.

For example, the Student Financial Aid Office and the Scholarship Office have combined to more efficiently and effectively help students manage the cost of education. This move gained momentum from the recommendations of the Administrative Task Force.

Meanwhile, four employees from Outreach Creative Services in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development have brought their talents to the web and graphic design teams in the Division of Marketing and Communications, also recommended by the Administrative Task Force.

Program Prioritization also is influencing the end of NIU’s longtime “chargeback” system that moved money between campus units to pay for various services rendered.

The Division of Marketing and Communications already has terminated its chargebacks, a move recommended by the Administrative Task Force to encourage broader use of Creative Services and ensure more consistency in the presentation and use of NIU brand and design standards. Meanwhile, the Division of Information Technology recently began a multiyear phase-out of chargebacks for most central IT services.

Upcoming weeks will bring more “complex conversations” of this nature among discussion groups to envision clearer strategies and better ways to maximize our time, talents and finances.

Within the Division of Academic Affairs, each college is being asked to prioritize its faculty hiring requests so that searches can be conducted in FY17 and new faculty hires — aligned with Academic Task Force recommendations and the associated action plans — can join NIU in Fall 2017. We will begin in FY18 to link our multiyear budgets to the outcomes of Program Prioritization. Accordingly, we will authorize limited faculty searches this year amid the challenging and uncertain fiscal climate in Illinois.

Our current FY17 state appropriation is $48.3 million and was passed as a half-year budget. This follows a state appropriation of $28 million in FY16, while we received $91.1 million in FY15. Given the uncertainty of the availability of funds to hire, we must budget wisely and prioritize our hiring.

A strong foundation of tenure-track faculty is necessary to create and sustain outstanding academic programs that attract and retain motivated students from diverse backgrounds and allow us to effectively fulfill our research and artistry missions. We value the opportunity to search for tenure-track faculty in FY17, and look forward to searching for staff members in priority areas as we continue to align the outcomes of Program Prioritization with multiyear university budgets.

Going forward toward the release of our substantive report later this fall, NIU Today will post regular updates regarding Program Prioritization progress.

I also will host a Town Hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center to discuss this and other topics further. Please join us — or watch online — to learn more and to ask questions about this vital initiative.

Needless to say, I deeply appreciate your hard work to reshape and improve the university in our challenging environment. NIU will emerge stronger from what we are undertaking.

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