Baker Report: Getting Back to Business

Huskie Family Welcome 2014
Huskie Family Welcome 2014

One year ago, as I sat on the Convocation Center stage during the Huskie Family Welcome, our insightful master of ceremonies said something that struck me.

Alex Gelman, the director of the School of Theatre and Dance, told our new students and their families that they would all return to this building in three years and nine months for a different kind of celebration, one with “funny gowns and ill-fitting hats.”

Three years and nine months.

People of my age realize just how brief that is, how swiftly that time will pass.

But for these mostly young scholars who are arriving Friday to begin their NIU journeys, it probably seems like a lifetime – and, in some ways, it is.

Consider how much they will grow here, how hard we will work to enable them to transform our shared world and how much has already changed for the class of new students who preceded them a year ago: In three years and nine months from now, these new students – whether joining us right out of high school, transferring from other colleges or coming from various stages of adulthood – will emerge from this place as different people.

During the 12 months since our last Welcome Days, we’ve actively and strategically improved the way we do business here, not only to advance and strengthen our keystone goal of Student Career Success but to bolster the work of recruitment and retention that fuels our mission.

Look at the NIU Student-Alumni Mentoring Program, which kicked off six months ago by pairing more than 400 current and future Huskies. Imagine the words of wisdom passed down from our alums, their stories of navigating college, workplaces and adulthood. Imagine the career connections they provide.

NIU President Doug Baker speaks Wednesday to residence hall community advisers.
NIU President Doug Baker speaks Wednesday
to this fall’s residence hall community advisers.

Mentoring is such a crucial component of success that last October we launched a website – http://www.niu.edu/mentor/ – to enumerate the myriad opportunities we provide.

NIU students also now can earn academic internship credit for some on-campus jobs – another creative, homegrown initiative piloted in the spring and now poised for expansion.

Efforts to keep an NIU education affordable took a giant leap last December when our Board of Trustees approved a new tuition-and-fee structure that lowers the published total cost of attendance for next Monday’s new students.

We capped tuition at the 12 credit hour level; students pay no more for 15 or 18 hours, which encourages them to graduate on time, saving them a great deal of money as they prepare for the world of work earlier. We also dropped room-and-board by $800.

It’s endeavors like these that will make the next three years and nine months worth every step, no matter how these students measure the passage of time.

So let’s get them off on the right foot. Come out Friday to volunteer for Move-in Day, or join us from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday for my annual President’s Picnic. Both events offer the chance to meet our newest Huskies and to share your personal words of wisdom.

Go Huskies!

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