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NIU faculty becoming a fixture on local news shows

April 19, 2021

In a year filled with breaking news, television stations, radio stations and newspapers across the region have been turning to faculty from Northern Illinois University to help them stay on top of complex stories.

Over the past year, tracking by the Office of Institutional Communications found that nearly 60 NIU experts participated in almost 400 media interviews.

That willingness to share expertise in a timely manner helped make NIU faculty favorite guests on shows like Good Day Chicago (on Fox 32), the WGN Evening News and on WBBM and WGN radio shows. They were also frequent guests on all four of the Rockford television stations and regularly worked with reporters from The Northern Star, WNIJ and other local media.

Faculty from across the university have been sharing their expertise via the media. Among those interviewed were:

  • Beth Squires, who leads the Public Health Program in the College of Health and Human Sciences, frequently spoke about how to protect yourself from the virus and analyzed the public health response.
  • Suzanne Degges-White, chair of Counseling and Counselor Education in the College of Education was regularly asked about how to have conversations on difficult topics ranging from protective masks to politics.
  • Chair of Economics Carl Campbell helped reporters understand the economic impact of the pandemic.
  • Beatrix Hoffman discussed how this outbreak compared to the Spanish Flu of 1918.
  • Recently, Gary Chen, from engineering, helped explain the supply chain challenges involved in distributing vaccines.
  • Joe Flynn, who teaches in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and serves as associate director of the Center for Black Studies, spoke on topics ranging from Juneteenth to Black Lives Matters protests to the “retirement” of Aunt Jemima.
  • Stanley Arnold from the Department of History and Simón Weffer from Sociology, were able to provide reporters with some historical context for the protests of last summer.
  • Michelle Lilly, from Psychology, who specializes in working with police and other first responders spoke with reporters about the emotional toll that the summer’s protests and changing attitudes toward police had upon that group.
  • Shondra Clay, from Interdisciplinary Health Professions, discussed inequities in the American health care system, while LaVerne Gyant from Black Studies spoke about why African Americans may be more hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • David Gunkel was a popular choice to help reporters explain how social media and cell phones could help track the spread of COVID, how they were leveraged in protests and the uproar surrounding the banning of President Trump from social media.
  • Artemus Ward, from Political Science, was in great demand to speak about the Amy Coney Barret appointment to the Supreme Court and all matters regarding the presidential election.
  • Assistant Director of NIU Forensics Matt Dupuis was a go-to source during the presidential debates.
  • Scot Schraufnagle, from political science, was also much in demand to discuss issues of voter fraud and ease of voting around the country.
  • Sherrie Taylor of the Center for Governmental Studies was a valuable resource to reporters around the state on topics related to the census. Her colleagues from the center, Norm Walzer and Brian Harger, spoke with media about how the pandemic was affecting rural Illinois and the economic impact of layoffs at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere, respectively.

“This type of exposure is a tremendous boost to the NIU brand,” said NIU Vice President for Enrollment Marketing and Communications Sol Jensen. “It augments all of our promotional efforts by allowing potential students and their parents to see for themselves the quality of our outstanding faculty and provides insight into how we are preparing students to deal with the challenges we face as a society. “Provost Beth Ingram said she was pleased to see faculty getting their due.

“It is very exciting to see the breadth and depth of expertise available at NIU being showcased in the media,” said Provost Beth Ingram. “It helps to reinforce to the public people that NIU is a world-class institution with a mission to use its research, artistry and scholarship to engage with important issues that affect our community.”

The surge of attention to NIU experts has also changed how reporters perceive the university.

“My boss urged me to call one of the universities in the city,” one veteran Chicago newsman said recently. “I said, ‘Okay, but the expert we get won’t be as good as what we could get from NIU and it will take a lot longer.”

Any faculty interested in sharing their expertise in the media can contact Joe King in the NIU Office of Institutional communications via email at [email protected] or by phone at 815-762-7425.