Meet the Class of Fall 2019: Embracing diversity

Dean of Students Huskie Profile highlights importance of inclusion

At NIU, diversity is our strength.

As noted in the recently released Dean of Students Meet the Class Huskie Profile Fall 2019, nearly half of undergraduates identify as students of color, with 3.7% identifying as multiracial. Living and commuting experiences also have become diverse as more students commute from DeKalb, Sycamore and beyond.

Recognizing those characteristics can help faculty and staff better understand the Huskies of 2019, Dean of Students Kelly Wesener Michael said.

As students’ experiences and backgrounds have become increasingly diverse, it’s even more important to move from a deficit view to an equity mindset, she said.

“This encourages faculty and staff to identify the specific needs of each student in an effort to provide the individualized support that will, over time, increase the overall retention and graduation at the university,” she said.

Numerous resources and services at NIU aim to meet the needs of all students.

The university’s cultural resource centers provide a home away from home, while Undocumented Student Resources aims to address the emerging, complex issues surrounding undocumented students. 

Commuters benefit from resources, such as specified parking, meal plans, a lounge and other Military and Post-Traditional Student Services. From locating housing options to computer access and even free coffee, Military and Post-Traditional Student Services welcomes students who live off campus, commute from home or have children, as well as military students and students older than age 24.

Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion works with faculty, staff and students throughout campus to build an inclusive community and engage our campus in dialogue and conversations that matter,” Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden said.

Among numerous programs offered through Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, CODE Workshops  encourage faculty, staff and students to explore complex aspects of the topics as they work toward an inclusive campus.

“We are working to change how we approach student success by operationalizing the mindset of not what students are lacking, but what we can do to help them succeed,” said Tamara Boston, an assistant with Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The initiative is reflected in NIU’s Strategic Enrollment Plan, which identifies prioritizing equity and inclusion as central to retention. The plan outlines the university’s commitment to reducing equity gaps and building an inclusive community focused on equity-mindedness through programs, workshops, policies and practices.

“The diversity of our student body is one of NIU’s greatest strengths, and represents an indispensable dimension of academic and cultural excellence,” the plan states. “We are invested in ensuring an environment where students feel welcome and included, and see themselves thriving and growing academically, personally and professionally.”

Future Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs and initiatives include a Diversity Dialogue Series and the upcoming presentation and book signing with author and activist Charlene Carruthers. “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements” will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in Cavan Auditorium in Gabel Hall.

It’s all part of an effort to create a welcoming and inclusive environment at NIU.

“When you look at life through a single lens, you have a narrow view of world, but when you open your mind to new ideas and experiences it enriches life,” Boston said. “Don’t walk through life with blinders. See the beauty in the world. There is beauty in difference. That makes it worth the journey, definitely.”

NIU’s Freedom of Expression policy and procedures work to support the sharing of diverse viewpoints while engaging in civil discourse. Exposure to multiple viewpoints is embedded in living and thriving in a diverse society and global community.

For questions, concerns or ideas regarding the Meet the Class report, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 815-753-6100 or



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