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Baker Report: Construction + Accreditation + Innovation = Success

September 25, 2014
NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker

Construction, accreditation and innovation headlined a very crowded and productive agenda for Northern Illinois University this week.

First, NIU hosted Gov. Pat Quinn for a ceremonial groundbreaking to celebrate the expansion and renovation of the Stevens Building, which houses the School of Theatre and Dance and Department of Anthropology; then, the university announced we received reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission for the maximum period possible, 10 years; and Wednesday evening, we officially opened the Rev3 innovation center at NIU-Naperville with an open house hosted by Choose DuPage.

Twenty years in the making, the Stevens Building project is an important one because it will create state-of-the-art teaching and performance spaces for NIU students and faculty that will help foster student learning and prepare them for successful lives and careers. The building originally was built as a multipurpose facility and was not intended for professional training. The new building design will create a unique identity for each program, and additions will include a 330-seat lecture hall, a black box theater and scene shop expansion.

We anticipate the revitalized facility will have a similar impact on students and faculty as did the re-opening of Cole Hall as a lecture hall, collaboratory classroom and home to the Anthropology Museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of “Curated by DeKalb” Tuesday evening.

HLC accreditation is important for several reasons related to NIU’s performance in living its mission as a public research university:

  • Academic accreditation is a critical mark of quality and institutional integrity, helping students choose a reputable college or university.
  • Accreditation is required for access to federal funds for research, student financial aid and other programs that benefit the institution and our students.
  • The large-scale review process provided an opportune time for the university to look at our current state of affairs, assess our progress toward goals, and make adjustments where appropriate. In doing so, it also highlights some of our best practices upon which we can further build successes.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (left) and NIU Board of Trustees Chair John Butler led the Sept. 22 groundbreaking ceremony for the Stevens Building project.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (left) and NIU Board of Trustees Chair John Butler led the Sept. 22 groundbreaking ceremony for the Stevens Building project.

Accreditation provides a transparent and external validation of our high quality academic offerings and provided us an opportunity to reflect and evaluate our progress toward our vision of becoming the most student-centered public research university. Universities such as NIU, which have successfully achieved full accreditation as a result of rigorous, multi-year processes, are more likely to offer the degrees that employers and recruiters seek and recognize.

NIU’s current achievements and past history of good standing with the commission’s requirements have given NIU the chance to move into the Open Pathway to reaccreditation, which is focused on quality assurance and institutional improvement. It also provides us the greatest independence to pursue improvement projects that are tailored toward our needs and aspirations.

The opening of Rev 3, attended by elected officials, marks the creation of the first business incubator in DuPage County. Like similar incubators in Chicago, NIU is a partner-participant. However, this relationship is unique in that this key addition to the innovation ecosystem is located at NIU-Naperville. NIU embraces research and innovation as core to our mission and critical to our region’s economic prosperity, and this partnership provides NIU students another opportunity to engage with creative, entrepreneurial people, build networks and participate in real-world learning opportunities.

This combination of world-class academic programs, strong faculty and state-of-the-art facilities to teach and learn make NIU special. Student research opportunities, internships with alumni and employers, study abroad and other engaged learning environments provide life-changing opportunities our students with the Huskie advantage in their pursuits of personal, career and life success.

Thank you to all faculty, staff, students and alumni who have worked so hard in building a better NIU. We look forward to your continued engagement and involvement as we continue to move the university in a positive direction.

Forward together,