This past weekend, it was my honor to welcome approximately 1,800 students to the ranks of our alumni as they move on to their careers, continue graduate studies or find other personal successes in life.
Commencement is not only a time for our student-graduates to reflect on those moments at NIU that have transformed them as individuals; it is a time to move forward (i.e., commence) in chasing their dreams. The same can be said for each of us at the university, and the end of the semester and calendar year offers us that opportunity to reflect and move forward.
Often, we get so caught up in the challenges we face in living our mission that we don’t consider all we have accomplished together.
Last Thursday, approximately 130 people from across campus met at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center to share examples of ways our colleges and divisions are reshaping our university, focusing on our mission in a challenging external environment and developing action steps to utilize our triangle model to positively impact operations, recruitment and retention.
I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of the presentations, which included the following, to name just a few:
- The College of Business’ executive in residence programs, which engage alumni, students and faculty on several levels, including full-day activities and evening colloquia events;
- Educate US, a program launched by the College of Education that provides student teaching opportunities across the United States and gives our future teachers opportunities for self-discovery in addition to broadening their thinking about future employment;
- Health and Human Science’s Aging Services program that connects students and faculty to the community, benefiting students as well as those the program serves; and
The College of Engineering & Engineering Technology’s enhanced outreach to high schools and middle schools that includes workshops as well as an innovative “Adopt-a-School District” program that strengthens the pipeline of potential students.
We have unleashed our university to explore the many possibilities our future holds, and we are making no small plans. Retention initiatives have resulted in a five percent year-over-year increase.
The athletics facilities master plan is another example of aspirational “bold futures” intended to transform and sustain first class campus life. The recently-begun deconstruction of Douglas Hall will create a campus main street, connecting east and west campus with the Lucinda Ave. extension to the Convocation Center.
So with the end of the semester, I want to thank each and every person for their contribution to our successes throughout the year. I hope you pause to enjoy all the joys of the holiday season, including NIU’s bowl game vs. Marshall in Boca Raton!
I look forward to working with you to make 2015 our best year yet!