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BAKER REPORT: Research and innovation vital for regional prosperity

July 18, 2014

Doug BakerThis week, 130 leaders from across campus joined together for a two-day strategic planning workshop focusing on building a common understanding of our situation, making connections, building strategies to address our challenges and opportunities—with an emphasis on student retention and learning—and ultimately developing action steps for NIU leadership. I was impressed with and proud of the participants and their creative work as well as the positive way they engaged in the process.

retreat[1]We successfully found that common understanding, and the leaders will be sharing that vision with the NIU faculty and staff in their areas. One of our key competitive advantages is being a public research university on the edge of Chicago. Innovation and research are critical elements to our nation’s success in the highly competitive global marketplace, and Vice President Lesley Rigg offers the following updates and thoughts on the role of research at NIU:


The Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships encourages research, scholarship, artistry and innovation across campus by promoting the professional development of faculty and graduate students, facilitating the submission of grants and contracts, and seeking connections to accelerate the creation, integration and application of new knowledge.

The division, formerly known as the Division of Research, has undergone a transformation that extends beyond its name. An enhanced focus on safety and compliance while serving our partners both within and outside the university has resulted in Laboratory Safety moving into the Office of Research Compliance and Integrity incorporating chemical, radiation, and laser safety.

Federal relations activity was brought into the division’s scope to facilitate increased engagement with federal legislation and developments affecting research funding and higher education issues. This week, we announced the addition of Federal Relations Director Anna Quider, who joins NIU after serving in the State Department’s Office of Science and Technology Cooperation. She will represent the university in policy discussions that bear on key university activities as part of a comprehensive effort to strengthen NIU’s identity and reputation broadly across various government organizations and agencies.

I am also pleased that Dr. Swapan Chattopadhyay—one of the world’s leading accelerator physicists—will join NIU as professor and director of accelerator research as part of a joint appointment with Fermilab. High energy and accelerator physics are targeted areas of excellence at NIU, and we intend to continue to focus on these areas while strengthening our ties to Fermilab.

This relationship and that with Argonne National Laboratory—in addition to involvement in cutting-edge international research such as that in CERN and innovation initiatives such as the Chicago digital manufacturing hub in the state of Illinois—provide NIU students and faculty members the opportunity to perform world-leading research and to promote regional and international research collaboration. These ideals are central to NIU’s mission and vision and support the student career success agenda by connecting students and faculty together with the world.


The synergy of research, graduate study and undergraduate study are critical to a growing economy and for our region’s economic prosperity, and NIU will continue to make research and innovation a strategic priority. We will work on implementation and a more detailed strategic plan in the coming weeks.

Forward together,