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NIU PLUS: Make your learning experiences stand out

November 8, 2016

This semester, NIU launched a unique program open to all students called NIU Pniu-plus-top-centerpieceLUS, short for Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies. It is designed to help students explore their interests, focus their studies, highlight their accomplishments and maybe even “earn and learn.” Best of all, it could help students get hired after graduation.

Through NIU PLUS, students can customize their learning experiences and make them stand out to future employers. With registration for spring semester classes opening this month, students should be considering the benefits of NIU PLUS and asking academic advisors about the program.

“We’re hoping students will take advantage of these unique NIU PLUS opportunities,” Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman said. “The program allows our students to make the most out of their individual college journeys by tying together learning experiences that happen inside and outside of the classroom.

“Students can turn every experience—from Gen Eds, to research projects, to college jobs—into an opportunity to hit the ground running on the path to career success,” she added.

NIU PLUS offers three components related to general education requirements, hands-on learning experiences and on- or off-campus jobs.

Academics PLUS allows each student to customize general-education courses according to personal interests, career aspirations or a major or minor area of study. Students can choose from one of seven “pathways” to explore topics or strengthen a major or minor.

What’s more, students have the opportunity to receive a “pathways focus” notation on their academic record. That way, prospective employers and graduate schools will see even more of the student’s accomplishments.

Engage PLUS helps ensure students are recognized for high-quality experiential learning activities outside of the classroom such as conducting research, directing a theatrical performance or applying what they’ve learned internships, service-learning or leadership experiences, to name a few. 

“We encourage NIU students to step beyond the textbook and learn by doing,” Freeman said. “These meaningful hands-on activities drive home what is learned in class and equip students with new skills. Prospective employers will want to know about these activities.”

Working with faculty or staff mentors, or career supervisors, students can create structured experiences unique to their goals and interests. And they can earn academic transcript notations for these experiences, so prospective employers or grad schools are aware of these achievements.

Jobs PLUS is designed to help students build bridges between their college jobs and post-graduation careers. Jobs PLUS regularly hosts professional development events open to all NIU students. Through partnerships with employers, students could even be eligible to attend these events on paid work time. Frequently led by alumni, the events teach teamwork, communication, time management and other skills important in any work setting.

“We believe there’s something to learn in every job,” Freeman said.