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Provost’s office makes two key appointments

May 9, 2011
Ray Alden

Ray Alden

Provost Ray Alden will complement his top staff with two longtime NIU leaders who bring considerable administrative and university-level governance experience to the table.

Anne Birberick, former chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, is the new vice provost. Birberick succeeds Earl “Gip” Seaver, who will become deputy provost July 1.

NIU alumna Susan Mini, the former chair of the Department of Physics and associate dean of research and graduate affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is the new vice provost for resource planning. Mini has served a year in an acting role for that position.

Search committees, interviews with key constituency groups and open forums on campus elevated the pair to their new roles, both of which are crucial to NIU’s academic enterprise.

“Much of what is done by the vice provost and the vice provost for resource planning isn’t fully realized by everyone on campus simply because they work in so many different areas, and much of that is behind the scenes,” Alden said. “We had very good candidates, and Anne and Sue had the edge because of some of their experiences.”

Anne Birberick

Anne Birberick

Birberick, who earned her Ph.D. in French from the University of Virginia, came to NIU in 1992 as an assistant professor. Later promoted to associate professor, Birberick became acting chair of her department in 2004 and chair a year later.

Her time in the front office began suddenly as the department reeled from the unexpected death of its former chair. The job required her to push colleagues “to focus on what we all held in common rather than our differences,” she said. “At the time I stepped down in June 2010, a spirit of collegiality, cooperation and purpose had firmly taken root throughout the department.”

She supervised the day-to-day operations of a department of 65 employees, including 25 tenured and tenure-track professors and 21 instructors. She also oversaw scheduling and staffing for the more than 200 courses offered in foreign languages and literatures.

As vice provost, she has administrative responsibility for coordination of activities pertaining to the undergraduate curriculum as well as to undergraduate academic standards and admissions policies. She also will oversee undergraduate academic support units and the preparation and editing of the undergraduate catalog.

The vice provost also coordinates state and institutional initiatives related to undergraduate education, currently including the Annual Report on Undergraduate Education to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Articulation Initiative, the selection committee for Presidential Teaching Professors and the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Awards.

Birberick also will work closely with the Baccalaureate Review Task Force, a group she served as a member.

“Anne also served on a transitions committee, working with representatives from high schools and community colleges to look at what students need in making the transition to NIU,” Alden said. “She’s also had teacher certification experience in her role as a chair.”

Susan Mini

Susan Mini

Mini, who received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from NIU and later earned a master’s in physics and a Ph.D. in molecular science from Southern Illinois University, returned to DeKalb in 1994 as an assistant professor of physics.

She rose to chair of her department nine years later, gaining much of the experience her new job demands in regard to budgeting and allocation of space.

Five years later, when she moved to the dean’s office to handle supervision of the college’s research and graduate endeavors, it was her chore to find new large classrooms and reassign lecture hall classes when Cole Hall became unavailable.

Mini’s first task managing university money also brought challenges.

“I became chair in 2003, just as the university was undergoing a budget cut,” she said. “Thus, my experiences were first formed by rescissions rather than by enhancements.”

As vice provost for resource planning, she has primary responsibility in the design, establishment and implementation of systematic budget planning for the academic and student affairs division. She also must analyze the budgetary process and provide analytical studies, analyzing the utilization of space and reviewing all requests for the allocation of new space and the funding of alterations to existing space.

She also will interact regularly with the staff of the Division of Finance and Facilities and consult the Academic Planning Council.

“Sue already has had a year in this position, performing a number of the duties of the permanent position. She clearly understands the full scope of these duties,” Alden said. “Issues dealing with budget, space and personnel are critical to the operations of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. Her role is key.”