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Baker Report: Redeployment of Operations and Community Relations roles

October 30, 2014
NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker

This week, we say a very fond farewell to Bill Nicklas, who has served with great distinction in a variety of capacities at NIU over the past several years.

As vice president of Operations and Community Relations, Bill has lent his unique set of talents and his broad background to a wide variety of management functions, including facilities management, human resources, public safety and outreach in the DeKalb and Sycamore communities. Bill’s experience and extensive community relationships formed the basis for the many roles he was able to play at the university during a series of leadership transitions.

Going forward, these responsibilities will be divided among members of our senior management team, as detailed below. This realignment will allow us to rethink a number of functional relationships that were established in a very different technological, regulatory and financial climate and should provide opportunities to deliver some of these services in more efficient ways.

Facilities Management — Over the long term, and as indicated by the posted position description, the vice president for Administration and Finance will oversee this area. That search is well under way and we hope to have candidates on campus in December. However, while we are actively searching for the vice president who will replace Nancy Suttenfield, John Cheney, senior associate athletic director for Facilities and Game Operations for our Athletics Department, will assume the position of interim associate vice president for Facilities Management and Campus Services, reporting to me. John came to NIU from Oregon State University with more than a decade of experience in facilities planning and event operations, and I am grateful to Sean Frazier for making him available to take on additional responsibilities on a temporary basis. We will begin to search for an associate vice president for Facilities Management and Campus Services immediately with the expectation that the new vice president for Administration and Finance will participate in the final candidate review and hiring processes.

Human Resources — Given our increasing need for talent identification, management and development, we are currently searching for a senior associate vice president of Human Resources who will lead and integrate all of our HR efforts, currently residing in several areas of the university. The HR function will report to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, which is already responsible for academic personnel. This move will allow us to pursue opportunities for synergies that will enhance our personnel processes and serve employee needs more effectively during this period of extraordinary change in our organization. While we are seeking a senior associate vice president for Human Resources, associate vice presidents Karen Baker (Human Resources Administration) and Celeste Latham (Human Resource Operations) and assistant vice president Deborah Haliczer (Employee Relations) will report directly to Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman.

Public Safety — There is no more important concern to me as president than the health, safety and welfare of our students. This is why NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips has had a dotted reporting line to me, while reporting directly to Vice President Nicklas. Over the long term, we intend to move Public Safety under the vice president for Administration and Finance. Until that time, given the mission- critical nature of his job, Chief Phillips will report directly to me.

Bill Nicklas

Bill Nicklas

Community Relations — Effective immediately, Jennifer Groce, who has been managing a number of specific communiversity initiatives, will take on an additional community relations role in a new Office of Community Affairs. Jennifer will report to Anne Kaplan in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development and will focus on community/university issues, continue to support high-priority communiversity initiatives that contribute to a vital campus community and thriving neighborhoods, and work with local stakeholders to foster the development of the DeKalb community. This is a logical move that integrates the division’s existing responsibilities for outreach and engagement at our other campuses and throughout our region with outreach in our home communities of DeKalb and Sycamore. Sharing best practices in community relations across all of our areas of community activity should enhance our impact and promote useful collaboration. I look forward to building on the good work Jennifer has done over the last year in this area.

Board Liaison Effective immediately, Mike Mann will serve as liaison to the Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University. Mike has been active in state relations and has interfaced with the board relative to budgetary matters in his role at NIU.

There are other changes that will happen concurrently with the described reorganization and VP Nicklas’ departure. Two of these will facilitate our emphases going forward on strategic planning and data-informed program prioritization.

First, the position of budget director will be modified, moving from under the vice president for Administration and Finance to a dual reporting relationship with me and Provost Freeman. This will separate the functions of budget planning from expenditure controls and improve the alignment between budget planning and program prioritization.

In addition, the Institutional Research functions currently housed in the Division of Finance will join the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost to encourage greater collaboration and synergy among the personnel responsible for addressing the data reporting and analytical needs of the entire university. These moves are consistent with initiatives being undertaken at other institutions of higher education to realize efficiencies and excellence across operations, policies, processes, procedures, practices and services.

Goodbye to the TieAgain, it is always difficult to lose someone of Bill Nicklas’ caliber.

We wish him well in retirement and look forward to seeing him off in person at the reception being held in his honor from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. We hope that many members of the NIU community will be able to join us to honor Bill’s contributions to the university and to wish him a fond farewell.

Meanwhile, we believe the changes we have made will ensure that the areas Bill has led will continue to be managed well and will move us in the appropriate direction in the years ahead.

Forward Together,