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‘What NIU is all about’

September 23, 2016

 

Provost Lisa Freeman explains NIU PLUS during town hall

16-townhall-0922-rb-07No matter how well a university is marketed to prospective students, NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman said, it must back up its claims with “a quality product.”

“NIU PLUS is a quality product,” Freeman proudly told the in-person and online audiences Thursday morning at the fall town hall meeting.

“We are giving our students a very unique opportunity to put together a program that suits their individual needs, that has academic rigor and that ties together what goes on in class, outside of class and on the job.”

PLUS – Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies – allows students to customize their general education, explore interests in and out of the classroom and enjoy engaging learning experiences that pave the road to bright futures.

Undergraduates can customize coursework around their passions and aspirations, add value to outside-the classroom activities and build bridges between college jobs and post-graduation careers.

Designed by students, faculty and staff “who care very deeply and are very committed to both the value of a liberal education and to Student Career Success,” the innovative program is also expected to lift retention and graduation rates.

Rewards of participation include official transcript notations, stronger resumes and, through its Jobs PLUS component, opportunities to attend NIU-hosted professional development during paid work hours.

Academics PLUS, currently open to new freshmen, offers seven thematic pathways: Creativity, Innovation and Change; Global Connections; Health and Wellness; Learning; Origins and Influences; Social Justice and Diversity; and Sustainability.

Taking classes that align with these pathways can lead to transcript notations that impress prospective employers and graduate schools.

Engage PLUS, open to all, makes sure NIU students receive recognition for quality hands-on learning activities that drive home what’s learned in the classroom.

Students who participate in artistry, career-related work, experiential learning, leadership, service learning and undergraduate research can bolster resumes, connect with the job market, gain a deeper perspective on their interests, learn professional skills and test their classroom knowledge.

“When students engage in these activities – when they have internships, when they do undergraduate research or service learning – they’re more likely to be retained at the institution. They’re more likely to continue on to graduate,” Freeman said.

“These are high-impact practices, and our own data show us that when students do these things they’re more successful on campus and after they graduate.”

 In the end, she added, an NIU PLUS student can tell employers and graduate schools more than a list of courses they took: “I did legal research as a peacebuilding volunteer at the Environmental Law Institute. I attended professional development sessions to learn about effective decision-making and ethical judgment.”

“This is what NIU is all about,” Freeman said. “We are here at NIU because we really care that students do amazing things outside the classroom as well as inside the classroom. This is a way of making sure the world knows about that.”