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Baker Report: Making Progress in Challenging Times

March 8, 2017

This week I am working with our vice presidents to update the President’s Program Prioritization Progress Report released in November 2016. We are creating a chart to show the progress made to date, as well as pending work for administrative programs; this status update will go live online Wednesday, March 22.

We have accomplished a great deal in challenging times because of the hard work of our dedicated faculty and staff. Together, we are advancing our strategic goal of aligning the university’s mission and budget. I continue to be impressed with the way people from across the university have come together to move NIU forward.

Here, I want to inform you about a few administrative changes that have occurred or are in process to help us address our immediate and long-run needs.

Student Affairs: Program Prioritization inspired a re-examination of the structure of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Accordingly, a number of changes have taken place in an effort to improve student support services and increase efficiency. For example, our cultural resource centers (i.e., Latino Resource Center, Asian American Resource Center, Center for Black Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Resource Center) were moved under NIU’s chief diversity officer in Academic Affairs. Further, to create greater impact and alignment in our recruitment efforts, we integrated our Enrollment Management team with Marketing and Communications. With each of these moves, the goal was to be more strategic, impactful and effective, and the early signs are very positive. I plan to highlight each area in future Baker Reports.

In December, upon the departure of Eric Weldy, who served as vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, I asked Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Freeman to oversee the Division of Student Affairs while we assessed the most effective way to organize the units that directly support NIU students. What became evident to the leadership of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs was the opportunity for greater synergy and a more positive impact on the undergraduate experience.

With full support from Kelly Wesener-Michael, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, and Mike Stang, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, I have asked Provost Freeman to permanently oversee these remaining functions in the Student Affairs division, thereby allowing for the elimination of the vice president of Student Affairs position and salary. I want to stress that this in no way diminishes our commitment to Student Affairs, and in fact, this is an increasingly common organizational structure in higher education. Next week’s Program Prioritization updates on the Campus Child Care Center, Student Involvement and Leadership Development and the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning will begin to highlight some of the benefits of this enhanced collaboration.

Legislative Affairs: Mike Mann, associate vice president for state government relations and liaison to the NIU Board of Trustees, has announced he is retiring this May after more than 30 years in Illinois higher education and state government. Mike has been a crucial and highly effective member of our leadership team, and will be missed by our university community. While we are saddened by Mike’s impending retirement, this also provides us with an opportunity to consider how to more effectively structure the position for future needs. Going forward, the person in this position will continue to serve as a liaison among university members and the board, but also will place a stronger emphasis on managing projects to enhance university operations, and act as a chief of staff.

Finance and Administration: With the recent retirement of Vice President for Administration and Finance Al Phillips, both Larry Pinkleton, associate vice president of Finance and Budget, and John Heckman, associate vice president of Facilities Management and Campus Services, now temporarily report to me while we search for a permanent replacement. In February, the Board of Trustees approved Larry to serve as acting chief financial officer. Al built a strong management team, and I am confident that Larry and John will continue to perform at a high level during this transition period.

These many changes will allow us to better serve the university by reducing our administrative expenses, and building on past reductions. My thanks to all of our faculty and staff as they continue to work in challenging times to fulfill our mission.