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Baker Report: Teamwork key to rising retention rate

September 12, 2014
President Doug Baker and Dana Stover attend the NIU football game at Northwestern.

President Doug Baker and Dana Stover attend
the NIU football game at Northwestern.

This past weekend, we watched the Huskie football team achieve a historic victory against Northwestern in a road game that seemed much more like a home game in terms of fan support. The Huskies demonstrated talent, teamwork and – at the end – composure in meeting the challenge of beating a tough foe, 23-15.

What’s true of our football team is certainly true of our staff and faculty in terms of putting talent and teamwork together to face a challenge, and it was reflected this week in the student retention numbers we announced. While we’re down in the number of students overall, our retention rate went up, from 66 percent to 71 percent, which is a very hopeful sign. It tells me that our focus on putting the student at the center of what we do and building a welcoming, accessible environment tailored for student success is absolutely on target.

I am gratified to see the work of faculty and staff across the organization in the area of retention yield positive results. On the academic side, we are enhancing our UNIV 101 courses, revamping First-Year Composition and working to implement revisions to what an NIU bachelor’s degree looks like through NIU PLUS. As we move to a sustainable budget model, we are examining priority areas for investment that most positively affect students. On the student side, we are emphasizing retention resources and communication in the training of our community advisers in the residence halls, and we have adjusted the university’s financial aid resources to maximize impact for our students. Expect more, substantive efforts in this area in the coming year.

Our staff is at the center of our “triangle offense” that facilitates the ability of our faculty to make meaningful connections between our students and the outside world. We have been recognizing our employee contributions through our “Ask Me, I Can Help” campaign, which I spoke about at our town hall meeting recently. Let me cite a few examples of our people who are going the extra mile to deliver a Huskie-style campus experience to our students:

  • Jocelyn Santana works in Career Services and has been at NIU since 2007;
  • Bonnie Webb, an NIU employee since 1999, is a cashier in the Office of the Bursar;
  • Cherry Adams, who has worked at Campus Parking Services since 2010; and
  • Literacy Education Professor Laurie Elish-Piper, who began her NIU career in 1995.

We thank these and the many employees who every day pull together, much like our football team, to maintain NIU’s status in the big leagues of higher education. Students may nominate an employee, and employees can request an “Ask Me” button at There you’ll find detailed profiles of these and other employees making a difference at NIU. More to come on our people and their contributions to our university in future communications.