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First couple engages campus community

September 5, 2013

by Constance Ervins


Northern Illinois University students, faculty and staff had the opportunity Wednesday afternoon in the MLK Commons to stop by for a meet and greet with NIU President Doug Baker and First Lady Dana Stover.

People were greeted with a free root beer float and relaxing tunes played by members of the NIU Steel Band.

Students were excited about the chance to talk face-to-face with the president.  Freshman computer science major Arunkumar Soorneedi said, “I’m very grateful. I didn’t think there’d be an opportunity to meet him in person.”

The ice cream social was suggested by the first lady with the idea of providing a chance to connect with faculty, staff and students.

“Events such as these are a great way to get to know the faculty, staff and students in a casual social setting,” Stover said.

1157401_619056434801541_1525573238_n[1]NIU’s first couple has been busy on and off campus recently. They participated in Welcome Days activities, including hosting the President’s First Annual Welcome Back Picnic, and this past weekend attended the football game and Alumni Association activities in Iowa before returning to DeKalb for Corn Fest.

“It is important to engage our students, faculty and staff about ideas to promote student career success,” added Baker. “Events such as these are a way for me to get to know the university community and also for faculty, staff and students to get to know me.”

Anne Hardy, who is the director of the NIU Scholarship Office, brought her UNIV 101 class to the meet and greet, and each student had the opportunity to meet both the president and first lady.

“Both the president and the first lady spoke to each student in my class,” Hardy said. “They are very approachable and genuine in their interest in the students.”

“I got to ask him for advice on how to get a campus job,” said Soorneedi. “He asked me how I feel about the university, and I told him that I am really liking it and that it feels homey.”

1170739_620363964670788_246532789_n[1]Freshman journalism major Sarah Ciosek said, “It’s a really cool opportunity; it makes him really approachable.”

Expressing similar sentiment, freshman history major Danielle Dyra said, “It’s nice that he takes the time out of his day to connect with students. It makes campus feel small and connected.”

According to a recent Education Week article, experts are recognizing that building relationships with students is important in improving success through graduation and beyond.

Though the opportunity for President Baker to meet with students, faculty and staff over ice cream does not come every day, he actively works to stay connected via social media.  Keep up with him on Twitter (@DougBakerNIU) and through Facebook (DougBakerNIU), where the president has posted photos from the ice cream social.