In front of a packed crowd that included NIU alumna and congresswoman Robin Kelly and DeKalb Mayor John Rey, Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker delivered his vision for NIU as the model 21st century university to those gathered at the City Club of Chicago luncheon at Maggiano’s Banquets Feb. 20.
With Illinois facing significant challenges, Baker suggested the role of higher education in the “new normal” requires operating with a student lens–to be THE most student-centered public research university and to “let the main thing be the main thing.”
He said his administration is building a sustainable budget model that will support the programs most in demand by students, and that ethically inspired leadership is required to make the changes required within the institution. Thriving communities within the university allow for a frank discussion of difficult issues in a respectful and productive environment.
The university is building upon external relationships as well, partnering with local governement, area research facilities at Argonne and FermiLab, and community colleges, noting a recently-announced reverse articulation agreement with Kishwaukee College and the desire to have similar relationships with others.
Citing the success of Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Baker explained his version of the “triangle offense,” which on one side connects students and faculty, connects students and alumni or internship/employers on another side, and then connects faculty with alumni/internship/employers on the third side.
The afternoon ended after President Baker introduced two student success stories, Randiss Hopkins and Sarah Stuebing. The middle child in a family of five children, Hopkins was born “without a silver spoon in his mouth” and grew up in the North Lawndale area on the west side of Chicago. Steubing, a biology major from DeKalb, is the Lincoln Laureate–the top senior at NIU.
“Making the decision to go to Northern Illinois University is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life,” said Hopkins, a music education/jazz performance major who is active with the Campus Activities Board and has worked to tirelessly create change in creating the Save Chicago campaign. “Not only has the school given me a quality education and a group of lifelong friends, it has also given me the opportunity to learn more about myself.”
“I was incredibly fortunate to have so much support at NIU,” said Stuebing, who has conducted research and studied across the globe and was recently accepted to continue her studies at several of the top veterinary graduate programs in the country. “Clearly the sky’s the limit here at NIU.”
RELATED VIDEO: Dr. Douglas D. Baker, President, Northern Illinois University from City Club Chicago on Vimeo.