Baker Report: Reinforcing the triangle

Open House: July 31, 2015
Open House: July 31, 2015

As many as 150 leaders from across campus will join me Friday for a Strategic Plan Implementation Retreat.

My directive for them – our shared mission – could not be clearer: We must control our own destiny. We must mobilize to amplify our recruitment efforts and thereby boost our enrollment. It’s up to us.

Our challenges are significant but not insurmountable.

We are faced with the ongoing budget impasses in Springfield, flat to declining enrollments in high schools and community colleges, and stiff competition with more than 1,000 higher education institutions recruiting in Chicagoland.

Let’s look at positive news: Retention was up 5 percent last fall thanks to our focus on bringing students back, and we’re hoping to build on that this year.

Meanwhile, nearly 750 prospective students attended the July 31 open house; the turnout rose by more than 50 compared to last summer’s open house. We also held an application workshop Friday that produced 399 applications in a 24-hour period. Fifty-one of those were for this fall.

These success stories deserve applause, and confirm what I knew all along: We can do this. We can command that which is within our reach. We are building our enrollment structures and programs to compete in this challenging environment. These efforts will bear fruit in the semesters to come as we showcase the transformational learning opportunities at NIU.

Friday’s leadership retreat agenda includes an overview of our current situation, both in student headcount and dollars and cents. We will define and explore the implications of those numbers. We will learn about ongoing marketing efforts meant to turn more eyes NIU’s way – no easy task, considering the moving target of technology that elicits the attention of Millennials.

President Baker's triangleWe also will concentrate on something I’ve promoted since my arrival: the strategic triangle model.

The triangle connects students, faculty, alumni and stakeholders who provide internships and full-time positions. The triangle fosters engaged learning. It builds fruitful relationships. It enhances our research and creative activities. It enriches communities near and far where our students and alums put their NIU education to work.

Last October, we celebrated many creative ideas for triangle activation during the “Be Bold Now” event. We’ve started to watch their impact.

But the triangle was not just a launching pad. It’s the engine that will propel us forward, driving us toward our ultimate goal of Student Career Success. We will continue to work on ways to operationalize and implement the model.

I’m happy to say that many of our faculty and staff understand the triangle and are showing us creative examples, some of which we will highlight during Friday’s retreat.

So let’s work on attracting and retaining students so that we can fulfill our mission and prepare students for their lives and careers. All ideas welcome.

Together Forward,

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