Baker Report: Building thriving communities

Students, faculty, staff and community members walked Jan. 20 in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March from Stevenson North to the MLK Memorial Commons.
Students, faculty, staff and community members walked Jan. 20
in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March from Stevenson North
to the MLK Memorial Commons.

Northern Illinois University celebrated a successful Black Heritage Month with many excellent programs enriching campus, recognizing our outstanding students, faculty and staff members, and building community. We are working to build on those successes.

Earlier this week, NIU announced an agreement with the Association for Black Culture Centers to relocate its national headquarters to our DeKalb main campus. The ABCC serves African American, Latino, Native American and Asian American campus culture centers across the country.

NIU has a long history with the association, and in expanding our relationship and serving as the headquarters location, we provide a great opportunity to enrich the educational experience of all of our students. We look forward to three ABCC leaders joining our NIU faculty and staff. Hosting the ABCC initiatives related to mentoring, enhancing student leadership and supporting curricular and co-curricular cultural resonance goes beyond promoting student career success; it also is part of a broader strategy to prepare NIU graduates for leadership roles in a diverse, global marketplace, and enhances regional economic competitiveness.

During Thursday’s Board of Trustee committee meetings, Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman presented a comprehensive overview of curricular diversity past, present and future. Professor Kristen Myers highlighted the contributions of the Committee on Multicultural Transformation, a group that has been active on campus for more than 20 years.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Anne Birberick and Acting Associate Vice Provost Ed Klonoski provided an overview of emerging curricular initiatives including NIU Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies (PLUS), focusing on the ways that the integration of general education studies, major area studies and co-curricular experiences will enable diversity studies to be infused throughout the baccalaureate curriculum.

NIU Plus logoNIU has an extensive history in curricular diversity. An enhanced general education program with the PLUS innovations will further infuse multicultural learning into our baccalaureate experience and general education program will provide more and better opportunities to prepare all of our students for life and career success in a diverse society and global economy. We thank our students, who in recent weeks worked with us to enrich the conversations about diversity in our curriculum.

Emblematic of our commitment to multicultural activities is the Diversity Fun Fair, which happens this weekend. This event will provide students the opportunity explore opportunities to get involved on campus and in the community. Organizations from different faiths, ethnicities, gender and disability groups will be represented.

The Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities at NIU is hosting a regional conference March 21 at NIU-Naperville, titled “Diversity: Strengthening the Pillars of Community.” This conference supports our goal of improving retention through diversity education and underscores the importance of diversity in higher education and in communities. The event provides networking opportunities for students, faculty, alumni and community members from NIU and its service region.

Tuskegee Airmen alum Ken Rapier spoke Feb. 19 at NIU, sharing his stories and hoping to inspire students to consider a future in aviation.
Tuskegee Airmen alum Ken Rapier spoke Feb. 19 at NIU, sharing his stories and hoping to inspire students
to consider a future in aviation.

All students, faculty, staff and alumni are invited March 25 to participate in the Spring Affirmative Action & Diversity Resources Conference.

The conference will feature nine discovery sessions and several art exhibits, performances, workshops and round-table discussions. I will be participating in a panel discussing campus diversity issues and problems. Provost Freeman also is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion, as is College of Law Dean Jennifer Rosato Perea. Students will present on topics such as non-governmental organizations, cultural identity, human trafficking and more.

This fall, I will welcome a new senior associate vice president for academic diversity and chief diversity officer to campus. Over the next month, the position description and leadership profile will be finalized, and we will begin the search process. This leader will be actively involved in issues that pertain to diversity and inclusion at NIU.

Our historical leadership in diversity issues and multicultural education further enhances our position and reputation in the region. It is a strength upon which we continue to build, and I look forward to engaging all of our stakeholders in these efforts.

Together Forward,

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Various NIU student groups offered Martin Luther King-themed performances and concerts Jan. 22 in the Duke Ellington Ballroom.
Various NIU student groups offered Martin Luther King-themed performances
and concerts Jan. 22 in the Duke Ellington Ballroom.
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