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BAKER REPORT: A welcoming campus, community

July 24, 2014
Doug Baker

Doug Baker

Earlier this week at DeKalb’s State of the City event, I spoke about the tremendous opportunity for collaboration between Northern Illinois University and our community to promote our common interests. High on this list is the goal of creating a welcoming environment full of spaces and activities for students that create memories and the desire for alumni to return and stay involved.

One needs to look no further than the downtown DeKalb window display initiative, unveiled this week, for an example of how to create this environment by partnering with the city and community members. Another example of this community engagement is Camp Power—which involves volunteers from Kishwaukee Health Systems, the City of DeKalb and NIU students and staff among others—to better the lives of DeKalb youth.

Moms and dads want their kids to get a great education that prepares them for life, and ultimately career success. Engaging students in purposeful educational opportunities such as service, volunteerism, athletics, the arts and cultural activities is key to achieving this goal; what’s more, these activities create an attachment to the university.

If we can partner with the community to help us build those activities, it will enhance the vibrant, welcoming college atmosphere we’re trying to achieve on campus. This helps the university on our vital, twin goals of recruitment and retention.

Photo of an autumn campus tour at NIUFriday’s Summer Open House offers another chance for each of us to contribute to this welcoming atmosphere by personally welcoming prospective students to our campus and community. Studies show that the experience students have at an on-campus open house weighs very heavily on their final college decision.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Eric Weldy offered up several ways the university community can help welcome students; some are a part of what the NIU experience should be year-round:

  • “Park it Forward” by giving your usual parking spot to a potential student and their family by avoiding the parking deck on Friday, giving them easy access to Holmes Student Center.
  • If you see someone who looks lost, please offer help, asking, “Can I help you find something?”
  • Offer a friendly smile to families as you encounter them, and welcome them to campus.

Move-in marks the start of NIU Welcome Days and is less than a month away, on Friday, Aug. 22. Classes begin the following Monday. Between now and then, a number of changes will be implemented on campus to make it more student and visitor friendly. These improvements include the widening of sidewalks, campus-wide bench replacements, lighting upgrades, enhanced way-finding signage to help navigate campus and new banners across campus that highlight our commitment to being  a premier  student-centered  public research university—a place for which students, faculty and staff, alumni and community members can be proud.

I look forward to sharing more about these initiatives in the days leading up to the start of the academic year.

Forward Together,