Baker Report: A model of the thriving university community

DeKalb Mayor John Rey, NIU President Doug Baker<br /> and DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura spoke June 7 at the 2016 annual conference<br /> of the International Town & Gown Association, held at the Loyola Lake Shore Campus.
DeKalb Mayor John Rey, NIU President Doug Baker
and DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura

When DeKalb Mayor John Rey and I first shook hands April 2, 2013, it became clear that he and I shared a common and urgent goal: to knock down the silos between NIU and the City of DeKalb.

We want a great place to live and work. We want our teaching and research to boost the prosperity of our city and region. We want students and faculty to enjoy engagement opportunities off campus that enhance their work and transform their learning.

We want a strong and successful business community that serves faculty, staff and students and fosters a positive local culture. We also want a safe environment – and we are working together to provide and maintain that.

Just three short years later, our flourishing spirit of collaboration is being held up as a model of transformative policy that creates a town-gown culture of mutual benefit.

Mayor Rey and I, along with DeKalb City Manager Anne Marie Gaura, were honored to present June 7 at the 2016 annual conference of the International Town & Gown Association, held at the Loyola Lake Shore Campus.

Our talk was well-received, especially by one member of the audience who is not only a university professor in Michigan but also the mayor of her city.

She was amazed and impressed to hear a mayor – without prompting – speak of issues of student recruitment and retention, faculty research and university engagement. Or a city manager explain how she talks with her staff on the need to integrate town and gown. Or a university president reference issues of poverty, Section 8 housing and local quality of life.

BOLD FUTURESIndeed, NIU has actively reserved seats at our table for our friends from City Hall – and they for us.

We have established regular meetings. We have created visions together. We have gathered to map out strategic roads to accomplish those goals. We have shared our capital, both intellectual and financial.

Here are just a few examples:

Successful outcomes of our collaboration include Proudly DeKalb – that group elevated our city to the semifinals of the America’s Best Communities competition – and Camp Power.

Needless to say, I’m proud of the work NIU and our community partners do together – and of the peer recognition from the International Town & Gown Association that validates our efforts. We are on the right track.

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