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Baker Report: Fostering connectivity in education and industry

March 13, 2015
ECC President David Sam shakes the hand of NIU President Doug Baker following the ceremonial signing.

ECC President David Sam shakes the hand of NIU President Doug Baker following a March 10 ceremonial signing of a reverse articulation agreement.

Northern Illinois University signed an agreement Tuesday with Elgin Community College that allows credits from NIU to be used toward associate degrees from ECC for those who have transferred from ECC to NIU.

This reverse transfer agreement allows students to get started on their four-year bachelor’s degrees earlier and take coursework in areas that might not be offered by community colleges. It provides students opportunities to complete their bachelor’s degrees sooner by allowing them to take coursework that applies to their major field of study sooner, which could translate to them saving a semester or two of tuition and fees, room and board.

Consider the adult learner working over many years to get a degree. The reverse articulation allows students such as these to earn associate’s degrees along the way that can improve their prospects of finding better employment.

A recent NIU Center for Governmental Studies report found community college degree holders can expect a lifetime earnings gain of more than $570,000 – a 44 percent increase compared to those who do not complete a community college program. For those earning bachelor’s degrees, the Federal Reserve Bank reports lifetime gains of about $830,000 more than those with just a high school diploma.

Postsecondary education is a powerful force for career advancement, and a skilled workforce helps the region maintain its competitive advantage. This partnership provides affordable access to high-quality educational opportunities that prepare students for their lives and careers by eliminating barriers and fostering innovative educational paths between levels of higher education. Further, it illustrates the type of student-centered relationships universities should have with other education entities.

NIU has similar agreements with seven other community colleges: Kishwaukee College, City Colleges of Chicago, College of Lake County, McHenry County College, Oakton Community College, Rock Valley College and Waubonsee Community College, which was the reverse transfer partner school. We are working with a dozen more to develop similar agreements.

The Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development facilitates outreach and institutional “in reach” to foster partnerships that help the region’s students and communities gain the skills, knowledge and economic development data needed to maintain the region’s competitiveness and prosperity. Approximately 35 percent of NIU graduates have attended a community college, and our region is served by 26 community colleges in 20 districts.

The aforementioned Center for Governmental Studies provides the government and educational entities regional economic development and impact analyses as well as assistance in environmental scanning, strategic planning and program evaluation.

NIU jazzNIU’s collaborations in the region build human, governmental, economic, cultural and environmental assets across the region and can be found across our university.

Consider these examples:

  • The College of Business Experiential Learning Center (ELC) connects teams of the very best students with accomplished executives at top companies such as Caterpillar, Knaack and Do It Best Corporation. Over the course of a 16-week collaboration, NIU students apply their energies and talents to help solve cross-functional business issues.
  • NIU’s College of Education has a history of outreach to regional school districts as well as profit and nonprofit organizations through its School-University Partnerships program. The program links NIU educational programming and students to public schools in Batavia,Belvidere, DeKalb, Sycamore, Aurora-Naperville, Rockford, Rochelle and St. Charles among others.
  • The College of Health and Human Sciences serves the community while providing students with practical experiences through its Couple and Family Therapy Clinic, Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, Physical Therapy Clinic and Child Development Lab. Partnerships with regional health care institutions provide students with clinical experiences that provide real-world training in careers that help fill the skills gap in the health field.
  • The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has partnered with a number of companies such as John Deere, OMRON and UTC Aerospace to provide practical experience for students and supply a pipeline of technically qualified and experienced workers.
  • The College of Law has partnered with Aurora’s Hesed House to provide legal services through its Health Advocacy Clinic. It has operated the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic in Rockford to help create strong, holistically trained lawyers prepared for any practice setting. Pro bono opportunities such as these provide students with connectivity while providing needed services to the community.
  • The College of Visual and Performing Arts’ external programs connect superb teaching faculty, students and facilities with the people who live nearby communities through the Community School of the Arts, high school clinics and festivals as well as camps.
  • Research is one of the most effective forms of experiential learning, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has relationships with Fermilab and Argonne that provide students the opportunity to participate in important research activity. The college also provides a robust schedule of external programming that connects award-winning faculty with students, teachers, professionals, lifelong learners and world travelers in the region.

EIGERlab logoBasic scientific research in labs and universities drives innovation, and NIU continues to build upon relationships that foster innovation in the region. At Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the board approved investment to expand NIU’s innovation and entrepreneurship portfolio with the acquisition of EIGERlab, the Rockford-based business incubator/accelerator. This adds to our relationship with DuPage County’s REV3 innovation hub at NIU-Naperville and other similar entities.

Relationships with alumni, corporate, education and non-profit organizations provide transformational experiences through volunteerism, internships, mentorships and service learning. By taking a holistic approach to education that connects students as young as preschool age to elementary school, middle school, high school, community college, university and graduate studies and then to industry, we can positively affect the region’s economy through research, workforce training and consultative services.

This is and should be the role of the 21st century student-centered university and is among the roles NIU plays in our region and the state of Illinois.

Together Forward,