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Online map charts NIU’s 125 year history

April 8, 2020

NIU’s DeKalb campus consists of more than 750 acres and 118 buildings, providing students, faculty and staff with a welcoming place to live, learn and work.

It’s hard to imagine what it must have looked like back in 1895 when NIU founders initially broke ground in DeKalb and construction began on Altgeld Hall, the university’s first building.

But not anymore.

In celebration of the university’s 125th anniversary, a group of six NIU students from the Geovisual Mapping Laboratory created an online map showing how the DeKalb campus has evolved into the vibrant community we see today.

NIU student Cassie Smith works to help create an online map showing the evolution of NIU’s campus throughout it’s 125 year history.

Philip Young, director of the Geovisual Mapping Laboratory, supervised a team of students that included Elaf Alyasiri, Zachery Zoet, An Ran Zheng, Rachel Schmitt, Peter Challand and Cassie Smith.

“This project is another great example of student engagement,” Young said. “It gave our students the opportunity to work on a live project that had a general scope of work, timeline, budget and many interesting challenges.”

Young said the challenges included going from a traditional static map to one with animation, using new technology that was available.

“Our students had the opportunity to gain valuable experience, keeping them in the forefront of emerging technologies that they can apply after they graduate and go on to their careers,” Young said.

Cassie Smith and Elaf Alyasiri working in the Geovisual Mapping Laboratory.

Elaf Alyasiri, who plans to graduate with a doctorate degree in geography next May, shared the sentiment.

“It was a great opportunity and challenge,” Alyasiri said. “It’s something I can add to the knowledge base that I have obtained so far; I learned a lot about new types of mapping technology in developing the NIU 125th project.”

The map offers a historical timeline of NIU’s growth and provides detailed information about each building.

“I hope people gain an appreciation for how the campus started out and evolved at different levels of growth,” Young said. “The patterns of expanse or growth spurts of this campus are quite interesting when you see certain clusters of buildings popping up over different decades.”

Alyasiri agreed.

“I hope many will have the chance to see it and be able to appreciate how NIU has grown and developed,” Alyasiri said. “I am grateful to be able to be part of this historical milestone and celebration.”

Go to the online map to learn more.