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A new NIU series of Innovation Conversations will bring in experts from across Illinois and around the world to discuss sustainable food systems.

The Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability (NICCS) and the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships (RIPS) Office of Innovation are sponsoring the events.

“This virtual series of conversations features some high-level experts and aims to spark ideas and demonstrate NIU’s potential in food innovation,” said Bryan Flower, RIPS assistant director of food systems innovation. “We hope to draw the interest of students, faculty, community members, local businesses, farmers and anyone else involved in or concerned about these topics.”

The inaugural event will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday, March 4. Registration is required. The discussion will feature Tyler Strom, managing director of Illinois Agri-Food Alliance, who will discuss opportunities for food systems innovations in our backyards and beyond.

Strom leads strategy, management and operations for Illinois Agri-Food Alliance. The statewide consortium of agri-food leaders is strengthening the competitive and sustainable power of the agri-food system while innovating solutions to 21st century challenges.

Prior to his current role, Strom was a fellow of global agriculture and food at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the leading foreign affairs institution in the Midwest committed to educating the public, and influencing public discourse, on global issues of the day.

A fourth-generation farmer, Strom also produces row-crops and mixed specialty crops. As a McCloy Fellow, he traveled to Germany to research the roles that the country’s academic, policy, corporate and civic institutions play in understanding the linkages between climate change and food security and developing sound and sustainable food and agricultural policies.

While the semester lineup is still being completed, Innovation Conversations will generally be held at 3 p.m. on Thursdays, Flower said. The events are free and open to the public; check the NIU Calendar for details and registration information. Other speakers this semester will include:

  • The Joe Mitchel of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb, who will speak about food insecurity and equity (March 11).
  • Daniel Baertschi of Basel, Switzerland, who will discuss regenerative farming and potential technology (March 25).
  • Max DuBuisson of Boston-based Indigo Ag Inc., who will speak on carbon sequestration.
  • Sapna Sanders, of France-based InnovaFeed, who will talk about alternate sustainable protein feed sources.
  • And Diane Renner of the Aurora based Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, who will speak about challenges facing food pantries in a global pandemic.


Date posted: February 26, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Virtual discussions to focus on innovation in food systems

Categories: Communiversity Faculty & Staff Homepage Research Students Uncategorized

Top row, left to right: Student Neha Benny Mathews, NIU Professor Purush Damodaran, Josh Male-Munoz of EEH, NIU Professor Shanthi Muthuswamy, Raj Iyer of EEH. Bottom row, left to right: Students Shubham Shirude, Patrick Wasilewski, Seshaiya Srinivasan

Standing in long lines to receive the COVID vaccine is one of the major concerns facing those who are eligible for the vaccine. As many of those eligible at this time are seniors, standing in long lines may put the patients at risk of exposure to the disease while waiting in line to get the vaccine. That’s precisely why Edward-Elmhurst Health (EEH) in Warrenville enlisted the help of NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology faculty and students to keep wait time to a minimum.

Funded with a grant from the health system, a team of professors and graduate students has developed a simulation model to determine exactly how many staff are required and logistical set-up required for the system to accommodate the maximum number of patients for vaccination, while keeping the line and the process as short as possible.

With a ramp-up goal of 1,760 vaccinations per day, the NIU team, consisting of two professors and four graduate students, determined that patients would indeed encounter long waiting times with the initial staffing plan. After conducting a what-if analysis using a simulation model, the team recommended alternate staffing plans at various stages of the entire vaccination process (e.g. check-in, registration, vaccinators, observers, etc.)

Professor Shanthi Muthuswamy, Ph.D. of the Department of Engineering Technology said, “We are honored to be working with EEH on this momentous project which has a direct positive impact on our community.”

Utilizing simulation and Lean Six Sigma principles among other process improvement techniques, Muthuswamy, along with Professor Purush Damodaran, Ph.D. of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and graduate students (Neha Benny Mathews, Shubham Shirude, Seshaiya Srinivasan, and Patrick Wasilewski), have created a model taking into consideration the layout of the vaccination center and complying with fire codes and the CDC’s COVID safety guidelines.

“The simulation model gave us an opportunity to understand the conceptual plan and analyze its impact on the patients and staff members involved at the vaccination clinic,” said Damodaran. “This greatly helped to optimize the resources so the patients don’t have to wait long and the staff doesn’t feel overwhelmed in achieving their daily goals.”

The researchers studied the floor plan, determined the number of staff needed, patient ingress and egress, placement of hand sanitizing and temperature check stations, and the number of chairs needed in the waiting area where patients spend a few minutes after vaccination. The model that resulted is interactive and can be adjusted as needed based on changes in staffing, supplies, and other variables.

Raj Iyer, EEH’s Chief Analytics and Data Officer commended NIU’s efforts. He said the NIU partnership has reinvigorated the process improvement mentality at all levels in the organization. “The NIU team offers EEH a comprehensive approach to arriving at solutions and create a feedback loop for continuous improvements,” he said.

He explained that the simulation models, the walkthroughs, Lean Six Sigma principles, and other process improvement tools/techniques used by the team leave no stone unturned. The outcome of this work has made a significant impact on the execution of the vaccination clinics.

“Process improvement at EEH is not an afterthought, but a significant partner at the table. We appreciate the collaboration and hope to continue this relationship for years to come,” said Iyer.

Blake Lindley, EEH’s System Director for Process Improvement noted that the partnership with NIU has been extremely beneficial, especially the simulation related to COVID response, which allowed for EEH to quickly understand what resources would be needed to meet the targets established by leadership. “We are thrilled with what this partnership has brought to all parties involved,” said Lindley.

Josh Male-Munoz, EEH’s Process Improvement Manager concurred with his team and added that the NIU faculty and students’ involvement in designing and simulating the vaccination clinic’s process was integral to the operational success on opening day. “Their keen understanding of process and insights from observations allowed for the clinic to reach peak first dose capacity a week ahead of schedule,” he said.

“Partnerships like this one between our faculty and grad students with institutions like EEH is such a win-win situation for both organizations,” said Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D. of NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. “It’s exciting for us to be able to use our resources and skills in a way that benefits the community, and our students gain valuable knowledge that they will take into the world with them after graduation.”

Date posted: February 25, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Engineering team helps keep COVID vaccine lines to a minimum

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Joseph Flynn
Joseph Flynn hoods a College of Education doctoral graduate during the 2019 commencement ceremony.

Joseph Flynn is, through and through, an educator.

And as the associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction viewed and absorbed the 39 pieces contained in the “Hateful Things” traveling exhibition from Ferris State University, he saw the great potential to shift its impact into classrooms.

“It’s a museum exhibit, and we think there is a lot to learn from the exhibit. If it doesn’t hit you in your soul, I think it definitely hits you in your conscience,” says Flynn, who helped to bring “Hateful Things” to NIU in his role as associate director of the Center for Black Studies. “I wanted to make sure there were opportunities for some kind of structured and accessible lesson plans, at the very least for middle-level students.”

Beyond that, Flynn realized that Middle Level Teaching and Learning majors at NIU could enhance their preparation and future effectiveness if they were the ones assigned to design those lesson plans.

Meanwhile, it would multiply his initial hope for “a couple lesson plans” to “15 or 20 or however many we can get.”

“I think it’s going to be a challenge, and I think that’s good,” Flynn says, “because it will require the teacher-prep students to really grapple with a lot of issues, and maybe reflect on some of their own understandings and some of their own values around issues of race and racism.”

Donna Werderich, coordinator of the Middle Level Teaching and Learning program, jumped on board when Flynn reached out to suggest the collaboration.

Donna Werderich
Donna Werderich

The bachelor’s degree includes a focus on the integration of curriculum and other related initiatives, says Werderich, who has turned Flynn’s idea into reality.

“It just really fits nicely in how we are trying to prepare future educators who are responsive teachers who can recognize the need to provide instruction that focuses on social justice, equity and inclusion,” she says. “It’s the heart and central foundation of our program, and it aligns to the overall mission of the Association for Middle Level Education.”

Open through April 9 at the NIU Pick Museum of Anthropology, “Hateful Things” forces visitors to confront more than a century of negative iconography that shaped the way that people perceived and interacted with Black people from the end of the Civil War into modern times.

Pieces from popular and commercial culture join images of violence against African Americans as well as the Civil Rights struggle for racial equality.

Considering these objects now lifts them from their original purposes to serve as reminders of America’s racist past. It also challenges present-day images of racial stereotyping with the aim of stimulating the scholarly examination of historical and contemporary expressions of racism, as well as promoting racial understanding and healing.

Middle Level students have been assigned to develop ready-to-use, culturally responsive classroom lessons and resources that offer breadth and depth, spanning essential social justice topics and reinforcing critical social emotional learning skills.

Their finished projects, due in March, also should identify relevant instructional resources and texts, include digital presentations on their topics and book talks on their suggested readings and demonstrate ways to scaffold the content to young learners.

Possible topics they can explore include social justice; racial segregation and inequity; discrimination; Black history; Jim Crow laws; human rights; teaching tolerance; bullying bias; stereotypes; and identity development.

Hateful Things crates
Hateful Things is open at NIU through April 9.

Questions to ponder: How are identities shaped by society? Why is it important for me to stand up for others and myself? What is the relationship between diversity and inequality? What does it mean to be unfair? In class? In school? At home? In my community? In the world?

“I’m really excited to see how this is going to turn out,” Werderich says. “Working collaboratively as a team is a signature component of middle level education, and we’re hoping this is going to provide a wealth of resources for educators in the field. Together, we can continue to make a difference and strive to develop justice-oriented, change-agents in our communities.”

Betsy Kahn, an associate professor for teacher-licensure in the NIU Department of English, teaches ENGL 479: Theory and Research in Literature for English Language Arts, the course required for English Language Arts majors in the Middle Level Teaching and Learning program.

“Hateful Things” has provided her students “the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the course to create engaging lessons to share with practicing middle school and high school English language arts teachers to use in their classrooms, she says.

“English 479 students are working collaboratively to design instructional activities that actively involve middle and high school students in analyzing the historical roots and harms of racial stereotyping and in identifying stereotypes in the images, advertisements, videos, television shows and literature that they encounter in the world around them,” Kahn says.

“Through this unique opportunity, our teacher candidates are able to experience the processes involved in creating instruction for teaching complex and difficult issues in “real” classrooms in diverse middle schools and high schools,” she adds, “and will be able to use what they learn in student teaching and in their own future classrooms.”

Paper masks, c. 1950s (C7-24). Image courtesy of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Paraphernalia.
“Paper masks,” c. 1950s (C7-24).
Image courtesy of the Jim Crow Museum
of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State.

Flynn and Werderich also brought “Hateful Things” to students in MLTL 303: Clinical Experience in Middle Level Curriculum and Instruction, who attended a virtual seminar delivered by Flynn.

His presentation “was very powerful and emotional,” Werderich says, “and we could sense that in our candidates. It’s of course timely, which is saddening. It’s saddening that we are still dealing with so many of the issues.”

Yet “it’s empowering as well,” she adds. “It’s reaffirming that our role as educators is to make a difference, and it reaffirms our calling. I’ve always said that the heart of middle-level education, and all of the development that adolescents go through, is that we do have the power to create changemakers.”

She also sees “the ripple effect” in motion.

“One of the reasons why I am in the teacher-educator role is that I hope that the instruction and programming that we provide has a ripple effect on our teachers, and when they go into their classrooms, there is a ripple effect on their students, and then it continues,” Werderich says. “It begins with building candidates’ knowledge.”

Vickie McGrane, university supervisor for MLTL 303: Clinical Experience in Middle Level Curriculum and Instruction students, agrees.

“Sometimes in our lives, we are given a task that helps us to become more introspective about ‘issues’ we may not have considered because they didn’t personally affect us,” McGrane says.

“My hope in having the teacher candidates create these social justice lesson plans affiliated with the ‘Hateful Things’ exhibition was to help students ‘walk in another’s shoes,’ monitor their own reactions to people who are different from themselves, chart their own prejudices and stereotypes and share this eye-opening experience with others – specifically middle schoolers.”

As Illinois adopts Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards to ensure that educators from all backgrounds can teach the state’s increasingly diverse students, and as the teacher workforce remains primarily white females, Flynn calls the timing perfect.

Joseph Flynn
Joseph Flynn

“I see it as an opportunity,” Flynn says. “With these practices and these ideas and these commitments to both cultural competence as well as culturally responsive teaching, we have to be able to model to candidates what this kind of work looks like.”

Watching his seminar, and conducting their own research to create lesson plans, will provide more than the “requisite subject matter knowledge” to earn good grades on the homework.

“It has the impact of causing, first and foremost, the candidates to be reflective about this history and phenomenon,” he says.

“Perhaps through having to sit and grapple with not only the images but also the history of these images can people understand what racism really looked like,” he adds.

“The majority of the images are what we would consider old – not of this generation – but, like all aspects of history, the past is prologue. I think recognizing the pervasiveness of Jim Crow memorabilia, and the ways in which African Americans were represented for over a century – pervasively – helps them to get a deeper understanding of what it was that people were actually dealing with on a daily basis.”

History lessons on racism in the United States tend to focus on laws and policies, Flynn says, mentioning the Dred Scott or Plessy v. Ferguson cases or the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But that ignores, and fails to teach on, the “day-to-day living and the kinds of indignities that people had to face day in and day out.”

Flynn made sure that the future teachers looked at racist pieces in the “Hateful Things” collection that fall in the category of “household” items: Calendars. Salt shakers. Laundry bags. Bottle openers. Trash cans.

“It was anything that you could consume in your life. Children’s games. Books. Movies. Vaudeville. Shooting targets in the shape of a Black man with an Afro and exaggerated big lips. You had all of these different products, and they span the gamut of daily life,” Flynn says.

“What would have that been like to walk out of your house and walk by a toy store in which a grotesque image of a Black person is meant to be hit by a child?” he asks. “And what does that do to one’s psyche, and how do these inanimate objects have a contribution in shaping the ways in which entire groups are seen?”

He acknowledges that other communities were not spared such indignation, including Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent.

“Everyone has been lampooned and dehumanized through these images and icons,” Flynn says, “but at the same time – and, I think, arguably – the sheer mass of these collections of images, and these negative stereotypes and representations, is overwhelmingly targeted toward African American communities.”

Flynn has high hopes for what this lesson will teach the Middle Level majors and the larger impact it will make in coming years.

K-12 students “need advocates – accomplices – who are understanding enough of the history and culture to recognize the sensitivities and sensibilities of exploring this material,” he says.

Social Justice Summer Camp 3.0 in 2019

“Since most of the teachers that we’re graduating are white, I think it’s important that we have teachers who can talk, and feel comfortable with talking, about these issues – because white folks need to be a part of this conversation,” Flynn says. “To have these conversations, you need to have them modeled, and I think it’s becoming more and more important that white folks model to each other how to have these kinds of conversations in critical, reflective and sensitive ways.”

Because the material “can be seen as so dehumanizing,” he adds, it prompts people of color living today to wonder: “Why did they do this to us? Why did they represent us like this?

Teachers can help to answer those questions.

“If you understand the history, and recognize where it came from, as well as recognize how those images have begun to change in the last 20 years, you can help students have that conversation and help white students have those conversations, so that white students can get a deeper sensibility or understanding about what we are actually talking about when we talk about racism,” Flynn says.

“This is what has happened – for whatever reason – so we need to deal with this phenomenon,” he adds. “And if we can’t have constructive conversations about it, let alone understand the history that’s behind it, then what exactly are we doing?”

Date posted: February 24, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Middle Level Teaching and Learning majors grapple with ‘Hateful Things’

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Adejumoke Olopade

When Adejumoke Olopade was searching for a graduate assistantship, she noticed a job ad for the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement – a center that brings together educational partners from NIU and across the region to increase educational access and success from pre-kindergarten through adult learners. While the center may not seem an obvious choice for a student pursuing her Master of Public Health degree, Olopade sees public health as tightly intertwined with education and public engagement, so she jumped at the chance to apply.

“What caught my attention with the P-20 work in the first place was the fact that I have worked with children, and I’ve done a lot of inclusive education work,” Olopade says. “But even more importantly, if I want to work in community engagement in the future, I need to be able to understand and know something about a lot of different people, cultures and age groups. That’s what makes you a good community worker – you need to understand different points of view. I love that with P-20 I’m able work with people from different groups, like with STEM Read I work with children, and with the Lifelong Learning Institute I work mainly with seniors and retired people.”

One of the programs Olopade has been involved with is the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video series. Early in the pandemic, the Center for P-20 Engagement’s statewide Illinois P-20 Network  launched the series as a way to bring work-based learning experiences to high school students who are learning at home during the pandemic. The series features interviews with professionals in a wide range of career fields – from chemists to engineers, attorneys to social workers, and even a Broadway star. In the videos, the Center for P-20 Engagement staff, including Olopade, interview the professionals about their career paths and the daily routines, skills, tasks and challenges that define their professional lives.

Olopade says she has really enjoyed working on the videos. “You get to meet different people, and it’s an important initiative for young people to learn about internships and careers. People talk about their strengths, what they’ve been through, how they started their career path and their advice for someone just starting out in the field. I’ve learned a lot of new things from talking to the guests and interacting with them.”

While she works to help young people make informed decisions about their career pathways, Olopade is also moving forward on her own journey toward becoming a community engagement specialist with a focus on health promotion.

An international student from Nigeria, Olopade discovered her passion for public health when she volunteered for three months in a program funded by the U.K.’s Department for International Development after completing her undergraduate degree in child development and family studies. In the program, 13 Nigerian volunteers and 13 U.K. volunteers worked together on an inclusive education project in four rural communities in Nigeria.

Olopade is from Lagos, Nigeria – a large, global city with a population of more than 14 million residents – so working in small rural communities was an eye-opening experience for her. “While we were in those communities, we talked a lot with the citizens about topics like sexual and reproductive health, clean water and sanitation,” Olopade says. “A lot of the schools in these rural areas did not have the running water and clean bathrooms we take for granted in cities, so many girls were not able to go to school during their menstrual periods. And that was a problem, not just for the students, but for us as volunteers.”

For Olopade, recognizing this disparity between urban and rural communities was an important step on her public health career journey. “In Nigeria, the United States and throughout the world we see these disparities between urban and rural communities,” she says. “No matter where I end up working as a public health professional, this is something I’ll need to address.”

Olopade walked away from that experience knowing that she wanted to work with different communities to plan health programs and interventions, as well as to influence national health policies to benefit the public. She realized that public health was a good fit, so she applied to the Master of Public Health program at NIU with a specialization in health promotion.

Olopade feels grateful that her graduate program and her graduate assistantship in the Center for P-20 Engagement complement one another to prepare her for her career after graduation. “My big goal is to be able to work in communities and engage with different sets of people. I can work with kids comfortably, and now I’m working with seniors, and that has been a new learning experience for me. I’m also meeting and interacting with people from many different professions,” Olopade says. “In community engagement, I will have to work with the community leaders, religious organizations, healthcare providers, policy makers – a lot of different groups that I need to learn to interact with and help them to see things from the public health perspective. So that’s one way this graduate assistant position is preparing me for life outside of school.”

Olopade’s advice for other graduate students – especially international students – is to seek out a graduate assistantship where they’ll be doing hands-on work that takes them into the field and goes beyond assisting with office tasks. “I think for graduate students an assistantship is a great learning experience. You get a tuition waiver, you get paid, you learn on the job, you build your network and you get to interact with people. It goes a long way toward helping you prepare for the job force outside of graduation, and I think it’s something every graduate student should try for.”

“I’ve been so grateful to work with Jason Klein, director of P-20 Initiatives at NIU, and the other Center for P-20 Engagement staff,” says Olopade. “They’ve given me so many opportunities to learn on the job and grow.”

The NIU Center for P-20 Engagement is part of the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, which facilitates meaningful collaborations to address state and regional challenges, promote growth, manage change and build stronger communities.

Date posted: February 24, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on NIU graduate student helps young people explore career pathways while paving a career path of her own

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Furthering a commitment to recruit a diverse and qualified pool of job candidates, NIU has expanded services to help university departments advertise open positions.

NIU has secured “job packs” with 16 prominent media vendors to advertise to a broader and more inclusive audience. The use of job packs is a cost effective and efficient way for NIU to advertise all open positions on a company’s job board for one flat rate.

In addition, media vendors scrape the university’s job board for positions and automatically advertise those positions on their respective sites. 

Not only will the new job packs reduce the time and effort it takes to get a position advertised externally, but they are also budget friendly. The advertising they provide will be offered free of charge to departments.  

Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, and Education (AAEOE), under the umbrella of Academic, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI), was intentional in selecting job pack vendors who reach broad and diverse audiences,” said Roselyn Snell, ADEI executive director, Affirmative Action officer and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator.

“The use of job packs will help our departments cast a wide net to attract a qualified and diverse applicant pool. As an Institution, we are committed to equal opportunity and this is another demonstration of NIU’s commitment to recruiting a diverse and inclusive workforce.” 

The effort represents the ongoing efforts of leaders throughout campus to work together on proactive, affirmative steps to reach underrepresented and minority groups who may be interested in working at NIU.

It aligns with the university’s Affirmative Action Plan to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce and minimize underrepresentation of minority groups and underrepresented groups at NIU.

It also reflects the university’s mission to value and practice equity and inclusion, as well as President Lisa Freeman’s goals regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. One of those goals calls for continued efforts in the recruitment and hiring of qualified, diversity faculty and staff, and the job packs further support NIU’s commitment to removing barriers and allowing more access.

The wide range of vendors, together, represent a diverse and inclusive advertising plan that may minimize implicit bias in how NIU selects vendors and advertises open positions at NIU, Snell said.

Not only do the venues themselves reach wide audiences, but several also include a large database of several hundred other diverse avenues and venues for advertising positions, said Alan Clay, associate director for Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

Most of the vendors in the job packs will automatically scrape NIU’s job board on an unlimited, daily basis, Clay said, and NIU will have the ability to continually assess how many candidates are accessing the sites to make revisions if necessary.

“Another benefit is it kind of takes a lot of the burden away from departments of having to look at all the different types of advertising venues,” he said. “In the past, they’d have to do the research themselves, which can delay the process. Having these job packs at their disposal can take that burden away.”

Below are the media vendors that NIU has procured job packs with:

·         Chronicle of Higher Education

·         HigherEdJobs

·         Academic Keys

·         Diverse Issues in Higher Education

·         Asians in Higher Education

·         Blacks in Higher Education

·         Hispanics in Higher Education

·         Disabled in Higher Ed

·         LGBT in Higher Education

·         Native Americans in Higher Education

·         Veterans in Higher Education

·         Circa (formerly Local Job Network)

·         Women and Higher Education

·         Inside Higher Ed

·         Monster

·         Chronicle of Philanthropy

Date posted: February 24, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on AAEOE expands services to recruit diverse, qualified workforce

Categories: Centerpiece Faculty & Staff Uncategorized

As a review of NIU’s learning management system quickly progresses, now is the time for campus feedback.

The university currently uses Blackboard as its learning management system, or LMS, to deliver web-based courses and facilitate teaching and learning. In the final year of a three-year contract with Blackboard, NIU is conducting a formal evaluation of available LMS systems.

As part of the LMS review process, vendors have been invited to provide virtual demonstrations via Zoom to the campus community.

The schedule of demonstrations has been set for the end of February and beginning of March, with the first demonstration taking place at 1 p.m. Feb. 23. Dates and details for how to participate are available on both the LMS Review website and in the NIU Calendar.

“The entire NIU community is welcome and encouraged to participate,” said Jason Rhode, executive director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. “We want faculty, instructors, staff and students to see these different products and give feedback.”

Among its many uses, Blackboard serves as a tool for departmental communication to students on events and program deadlines, storage of course materials and student portfolios, delivery and tracking of employee training and more.

Huskies are encouraged to provide input on their current satisfaction with Blackboard, as well as any features desired in a learning management system moving forward.

While use and overall satisfaction with Blackboard remains high, NIU hasn’t conducted a formal evaluation of other LMS systems in many years. If it is determined NIU should remain with Blackboard, a move to the newer version of the platform, Learn Ultra, eventually would have to be made, Rhode said.

“This is an opportunity for those who haven’t yet tried out the new Blackboard Ultra course experience to get a taste of what it’s like and a great opportunity to see the next generation of what’s out there in terms of future technology for online teaching,” Rhode said.

Along with Blackboard (Learn Ultra), the upcoming vendor demonstrations include D2L (Brightspace) and Instructure (Canvas).

“Thanks to NIU’s membership with Internet2, the university is able to leverage Internet2’s Net+ program to evaluate the top three LMS providers in the market,” said Matt Parks, chief information officer in the Division of Information Technology. “A big benefit of this partnership is securing heavily discounted, best-in-class, pricing from each of the LMS providers.”

An advisory committee of faculty, instructors, staff and students formed by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Division of Information Technology has created review criteria, as well as a website to provide the most up-to-date information about the review. The website includes an overview and history of Blackboard at NIU, usage dataproject overviewtimeline and task force information, among other details.


Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Huskies invited to check out top vendors as part of LMS review

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

NIU’s Pick Museum of Anthropology received the 2020 Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) for the exhibition, Swept Under the Rug during the organization’s recent awards ceremony.

The judges noted that this was an amazing example of the power of community collaboration. “Safe Passage approached the Pick Museum about doing an exhibit, and from there it became a true collaboration with Safe Passage members providing content and insight, while Pick staff guided the transformation of ideas into exhibits, while keeping the power of Safe Passage voices.”

The IAM Awards Committee stated they “were also impressed that the exhibit presented options for all visitors to engage with difficult subject matter in their own way—from quiet spaces to process information to banners allowing allies to show support, all experiences were considered valid and important.”

Christy DeLair, museum director, emphasized the exhibits fit with the museum’s mission “to inspire activism for social justice,” adding, “We are delighted to receive this recognition from IAM, particularly as it acknowledges the value of community-centered curation. I hope this project will inspire other museums and community groups to think creatively about how they can work together.”

“This was a fantastic opportunity for a community collaboration that was driven by Safe Passage to address issues that are of concern nationally and locally,” said curator Rachelle Wilson. “This exhibit was especially impactful on our communities because it highlighted needs right here and helped visitors rethink how they talk about sexual misconduct and assault.”

Though sexual assault affects every community, the topic historically has been considered too taboo to engage with outside of dedicated spaces. The stigmas related to sexual assault often result in victim blaming, lack of support, and lack of resources that lead to the re-traumatization of survivors of sexual assault.

Swept Under the Rug, which was open from Sept. 29 –Dec.  9, was curated by staff members at Safe Passage with artistic content developed and created by sexual assault survivors of all ages. Swept Under the Rug aimed to shed light on the widespread impact of sexual violence on survivors in our local community and created space for conversations.

The exhibit was divided into three main installations – “What Were You Wearing” featured clothing representative of outfits survivors were wearing when they were assaulted; “Touched” addressed the aftermath of these attacks through illustration on mannequins of embodied memories of non-consensual contact; and “When a Child Speaks” shared the experiences of young survivors through painted works on canvas.

“We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to provide a platform to survivors while educating the community through Swept Under the Rug,” said Kendal Harvell of Safe Passage. “The exhibit was incredibly impactful for two main reasons – survivors felt safe to share their experiences with family and friends, many for the first time, and visitors gained a new perspective on the impact of sexual violence and the needs right here in our own community.”

Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Pick Museum of Anthropology receives top honors from the Illinois Association of Museums

Categories: Community Faculty & Staff Homepage

Jack Tierney, ’75, M.S.Ed. ’78, serves as the treasurer on the NIU Foundation Board of Directors. Recently, Tierney volunteered to do a series of videos that explain how the NIU Endowment Fund is managed.

From an early age,  Jack Tierney, ’75, M.S.Ed. ’78, was keen on making good investments.

As a high school senior, he had to be practical about the cost of his education. The oldest of his family’s five children in Oak Park, Illinois, Tierney was used to paying his own way. He had worked to afford his tuition at Fenwick High School, a private all-boys school, and he knew it would be no different with college.

For Tierney, it came down to getting the best bang for his buck.

“I decided to stay close to home and go to Northern,” he said. “I didn’t want to take out any loans, and I knew that Northern was always thought of being a pretty good value. Even as a teen, I knew NIU was a high-quality school, so that helped cement the deal for me.”

Ever the numbers guy, Tierney decided to go into the College of Business as a marketing major by the end of his sophomore year. While taking classes, he was always busy with part-time jobs, working at a shoe store and a gas station while getting solid grades.

However, Tierney had an artistic side, too. In addition to being active in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in the early 1970s, with well-known alumni and dear friends Dennis Barsema and Tom Pomatto, Tierney was on the music scene as one half of the singer/songwriter duo Sklare & Tierney.

“I started playing guitar with a friend of mine—a doctoral psychology student named John Sklare,” he said. “We began playing acoustic guitars and were both singing. In the summer of 1974, we tried to make a go of it. For four or five nights a week, we would play gigs in the DeKalb and Rockford areas, as well as the Chicago suburbs. We wrote songs and also performed covers. We were making pretty good money doing that, and it helped pay for my classes.”

Keeping the music dream alive a little longer, Tierney remained on campus to earn his master’s in business education before becoming a business teacher at McHenry High School in McHenry, Illinois, followed by Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois, where he was also the assistant varsity basketball coach.

Deciding he felt drawn to the finance world, Tierney then made a move into a sales position with 3M before pursuing a career as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch in downtown Chicago. In this role, he worked with individual investors and small businesses on their financial goals, earning his securities licenses on the job. He then moved to Van Kampen Merritt Investments, which later became Invesco Ltd., where he worked for 36 years. Tierney was executive director of the Unit Trust Division before his retirement last year.

Since 2000, Jack has been an active advocate and generous supporter of NIU, stepping up to different leadership positions where his specific skills could make the biggest positive impact.

He became involved with the NIU Alumni Association’s Board of Directors in 2000 when, after donating some funds to the University and filling out an update about his career for the association, he was approached about being a part of the board.

“I got a call, and they wanted to know if I was interested in being on the board. I told them that I didn’t know if I was or not,” he said with a smile. “At that time, I worked full-time, I often travelled for work, and I had kids in high school, but the board and I decided to do some interviews to decide jointly if I was a good fit. Once I saw the potential of the association, I wanted to be a part of it.”

Tierney became president of the board in 2007 and remained working with the board through 2012. During this time, the association grew tremendously in terms of offerings and communications to alumni.

“That experience was a really good one,” he said, “and it was what originally got me involved with volunteering at Northern. My wife and I went to a lot of functions at the University, and we were a part of an international trip to France, making several great friends along the way.”

Tierney then moved on to join the NIU Foundation Board in 2013—a volunteer role that has allowed him to play to his strengths.

Tierney, who is currently the chair of the NIU Foundation Investment Committee, is also the board’s treasurer. He and his wife Cheri are generous NIU supporters, having founded the John F. and Cheryl L. Tierney Endowment in the College of Business. Now, Tierney’s work on the Foundation Board expands further on their commitment.

“When you see how the endowment fund is managed through the NIU Foundation, and the long-term success we’re trying to accomplish, it’s remarkable,” Tierney said. “The money for the endowment fund goes for scholarships, endowed professorships, building funds, and other things that can make NIU a better institution. With the work we are doing, we are helping students now, and 50 years from now, to pay the costs of college, which just continues to go up. It’s a difficult proposition for students to get through without scholarships or some other form of assistance, so it’s an important endeavor for the NIU Foundation to be there to provide for students.”

There are plenty of reasons why Tierney believes in the work the foundation is doing. Besides the obvious financial assistance it provides to students, it also provides real-world learning experiences for finance students.

“The Student Managed Portfolio allows seniors and graduate students to work under the Finance Department Chair Gina Nicolosi to manage a small portion of the endowment fund. This is real money, and the students can buy and sell stocks and funds. It’s a terrific internship for anyone who would want to go into investment management or other fields, and the students do a great job! It’s a successful program from every aspect you can imagine. The students walk away with tons of experience, and the returns they come up with on the investment portfolio are fantastic.”

Tierney also touts the values of the foundation and the board’s desire to be good corporate citizens in the community.

“Over the last few years, we have included environmental, social and governance guidelines into the management of the endowment fund,” he said. “We are not only trying to make a good competitive rate of return, but we want to step up to be leaders in the philanthropic world, investing in what matters most to all of us.”

Tierney continues to work with the Foundation’s gift officers to help educate alumni and friends of the University about how their gifts go on to change students’ lives. Most recently, Tierney volunteered for a series of videos that explain how the NIU Endowment Fund is managed. These short messages help donors and those who are considering giving to the University understand how their gifts are invested to ensure long-term impact.

Jean Godlewski, director of finance and strategic initiatives for the NIU Foundation, has had the pleasure of working closely with Tierney in his board roles. She has seen Tierney’s transparency and outgoing nature opens the door with potential donors.

“Jack is an exceptionally talented and accomplished investment professional with a grasp of a very broad knowledge in endowment,” Godlewski said. “He is also really good at facilitating conversation and, because of his unique background in investments and teaching, he’s great at getting ideas across and explaining how institutional fund management works. He’s able to do this in a way that instills trust and faith in the process. We are so happy to have him working with us in this capacity.”

Even as Tierney goes above and beyond to give back to the University, he sees it as a natural extension of the investment he made years ago, when he was working side jobs on campus to pay his tuition.

“When I look back on my life, I was involved with Northern as an undergraduate student, a grad student, an alumnus, and as a volunteer. My son Kevin went to NIU and met his wife Shelby there,” he said. “Being a Huskie has been part of my life since I first was out of high school, and it feels good to have had that lifetime relationship. I have met so many people over the decades who ‘bleed red and black,’ and they are proud of what they have accomplished. They know a lot of it started with Northern.”

For Tierney, supporting NIU has been a sound investment—one that fulfills him personally and is amplified again and again in the larger Huskie community.

“I couldn’t have volunteered at NIU without the support of my wife of more than 38 years, as her support allowed me to put in the time and treasure that we have committed to the University,” Tierney said. “I think that with any volunteer activity, you generally get more out of it than you put into it. It’s been so satisfying to see the impact that the foundation is able to make on people’s lives.”

Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Jack Tierney, ’75, M.S.Ed. ’78, invests in NIU’s future

Categories: Alumni Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

P.J. Fleck
P.J. Fleck, student-teacher!

P.J. Fleck will never forget his semester as a student-teacher at Clinton Rosette Middle School.

It was Spring 2004, and the wide receiver for the NIU Huskies football team had tried to postpone that classroom immersion – he was training for his shot at the NFL, after all – but Professor Pamela Farris put her foot down.

Her words to Fleck were to the point.

“She said, ‘No, you’re not. You’re finishing school,’ ” says Fleck, who earned his B.S.Ed. in Elementary Education that May, “and if you knew Pam Farris, you know that you did what she said.”

And so began a period when Fleck rented two apartments, the one he still had in DeKalb and the one in Oak Brook where he actually slept.

Each morning, the future head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers rose at 4 a.m. for his first workout of the day. By 5:20 a.m., he was driving to DeKalb to begin a full day of student-teaching around 6:45 a.m.

When school dismissed in the afternoon, Fleck hopped back in the car, returning to Oak Brook for his afternoon workout. He followed that with planning for the next school day – and the next school week – before a final nighttime workout and five hours of sleep before it all began again.

That schedule “tested my commitment,” he says, but his perseverance throughout those months confirmed to him that he could return whatever life punted his way.

“I’m going to be prepared if I go to the NFL, and then I’m also going to be prepared if I’m going to be an educator and teach,” Fleck remembers thinking. “That’s why I feel like I can handle anything – because of what I went through as a student-teacher.”

Fleck would go on to accomplish both, of course.

He signed as a free agent in 2004 with the San Francisco 49ers and played pro ball for two seasons in the City by the Bay, and, throughout a coaching career that began in 2006 at Ohio State, he has taught the skills of football and life to hundreds of young men.

P.J. Fleck
P.J. Fleck

Now Fleck, named the NIU College of Education’s Spring 2021 Educator in Residence, will talk about “Winning in Football, Winning in Life” during a free, online keynote address from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 3. → RSVP online!

Launched in Spring 2019, the Educator in Residence program invites successful alumni to give back to NIU and the College of Education by sharing practical tips and tools to prepare students for life after graduation.

“We are thrilled and honored to welcome P.J. Fleck, one of our most well-known alumni, as our Educator in Residence this spring. I am a firm believer that teaching is coaching, and that coaching is teaching, and P.J. certainly has endorsed and exemplified that in his career,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper says. “As dean, I am proud that he got his start here, and as someone always striving to improve myself and the lives of those around me, I am eager to hear his advice on how we all can become ‘elite.’ ”

Fleck will explore critical concepts of people, vision, process, result and response to illustrate how he continually builds on his Elementary Education degree to motivate, develop and support college athletes as they focus on teamwork and mutual goals.

His job is challenging but rewarding.

“I have 130 players between the ages of 17 and 23. They come from all demographics, all financial backgrounds, all ethnic backgrounds, all religious backgrounds. I’ve got to teach 130 players a culture, a program, a standard – in 130 different ways every day,” Fleck says.

“We have people who have 4.0s. We have people who have 2.0s. You put them all together in this room, and it’s like a community,” he adds, “and that’s what I think educational classrooms are – they’re a community.”

P.J. Fleck and ESPN

Elite! P.J. Fleck, the 2019 Big Ten Coach of the Year, joins ESPN’s Maria Taylor to talk Golden Gopher football.

Coaches and teachers, he says, “get to determine what that community’s like. You get to create the energy, and the purpose, and the passion, and the time spent on making sure people get it, or you could be like other people and say, ‘Eh, it’s just not worth it.’ But these are human beings – they’re all worth it – and it’s up to us as educators to find a way to have them get it.”

Mistakes are essential to the process, Fleck adds.

“You’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to make all the right decisions. We actually define failing as ‘growth’ and failure as ‘quit,’ ” he says.

“Failing is OK, and I’m here to get everyone to fail. I’m here to push the standard – push the envelope – and when you do reach something, I’m here to make it even the next standard harder for you to reach,” he adds, “and so there’s this constant movement of growth by every single individual as an individual, and there’s this constant movement and growth through failing and succeeding as team.”

He’s navigated calm and choppy waters since joining the coaching ranks but remains steadfast to his now-famous mantra of “Row the Boat” – a philosophy that helped him heal from the passing of his second son, Colt, who died from a heart defect shortly after he was born Feb. 9, 2011.

Between 2006 and his arrival as head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos in 2013, Fleck changed employers several times, working for Ohio State, Rutgers and his alma mater NIU on the college side, and in the pros for the now-Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During his first season in Kalamazoo, the Broncos went 1-11.

Three years later, however, Fleck and the team finished the 2016 season with a No. 12 ranking, a 13-1 record, a conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

In Minnesota, where he was named head football coach Jan. 6, 2017, he has led the Gophers to unprecedented heights. In 2019, the team won 11 games for the first time since 1904, securing seven Big Ten victories for the first time in school history, beating two Top 10 teams, winning a Jan. 1 bowl game (the first since 1962) and ending the season ranked No. 10.


“They always say that you’re never ready to be a head coach. You think you’re ready to be a head coach until you are a head coach,” he says. “It’s the same thing with student-teaching. You’re never really ready to teach until you teach, and the greatest form of mastery of something is teaching.”

Although Fleck’s official title is “head coach,” it’s only one of many tags he applies to himself regarding the young athletes in his care.

Parent. Dad. Uncle. Teacher. Educator. Disciplinarian. Life coach. Mental health specialist. Emotional support system.

Years before this life, however, back in his suburban hometown of Sugar Grove, he described himself with four words: “Kind of a runt.”

Make no mistake, however, about the motivation lurking in those four words.

“I was always the ‘King of the Toos’ – too small, too short, too young. That’s kind of the story of my childhood,” Fleck says. “I was a very, very active child. I was involved in everything, to the point where my mom took me back to the pediatrician numerous times, saying, ‘There’s something wrong with this child. He has too much energy. He cries all the time. He just won’t settle down.’ ”

What did bring focus was competition, whether on the playground, at the local YMCA or even in a pottery class with his older sister.

“Baseball. Football. Basketball. Soccer. Any sport to get me out of the house,” he says. “I loved all sports. I always loved to compete. I wanted to be the best at anything I did. If I started something, I wanted to be the best.”

Although Fleck played four sports throughout his time at Kaneland High School, where he helped the football team to earn back-to-back state titles, it was the gridiron that settled him most.

Football appealed to him with – foreshadowing intended – its connection to life.

“There are only so many games. In high school, there are nine. In college, there are 12. You work all year round for these small, three-hour, once-a-week, one-time-a-season opportunities, so everything matters,” he says. “Basketball, there was always two days from now. Baseball, you could always play the next day. With football, it meant more because it was weekly. If you lost on Friday night in high school, you had to wait ’til next Friday night to make that right.”

Go Huskies!
Go Huskies!

It also extended – for seven long days – the raw emotions borne from each game.

“There was this massive joy with a win, and this massive pain with a loss, and I was drawn to that. As a competitor, you’re drawn to that … to that deep, deep enjoyment when you win and that deep, deep pain when you lose,” he says.

“When that’s the one thing that connects you, and knowing that life’s like that – that there’s going to be things out of your control that happen, and you’ve got to respond to it, and you’re got to respond to it now – I think that’s what drove me to football more than any other sport,” he says. “It fits life so much. It teaches you how to be able to grieve, cope, have success, fail, grow. It teaches you all those things that life’s about.”

A challenge to his natural competitive spirit also propelled Fleck toward his eventual pursuit of an Elementary Education degree from NIU.

Recess was, of course, his favorite part of school. Then, he says, Miss Jacob took that away.

“I wasn’t a great student early. I struggled to read. My third-grade teacher, Miss Jacob, changed my life forever because she called me out. She was the first teacher to ever call me out on me faking to read, or me faking to be smart. She called me out – and she kept me from what I loved, which was recess, to read with her,” Fleck says.

“I didn’t have any attention span to sit there, but she gave me things that I would enjoy reading or enjoy learning about, and she almost tutored me in a way that I would understand it. She took the lessons she was teaching everybody else and, during recess, she’d take that and use sports to teach me those lessons,” he adds.

“She taught me that there are numerous ways to learn, and that there are numerous ways to learn lifetime lessons. She took my cultural way of learning – and made it a lifetime lesson that changed my life.”

Go Huskies!

P.J. Fleck ranks No. 3 all-time in the Huskie Football Record Book for pass receptions, with 179 catches for 2,162 yards.

When choosing his college major, he remembered how elementary school – “the most pure, real, joyful time in my life” – had helped him manage some of his shyness and insecurity.

Playing sports also offered that, he says, but it was teachers who instilled the confidence that he could overcome those feelings.

“I felt safe at school,” Fleck says. “I remember pure joy. I remember creativity. I remember just being outside from morning ’til night. I remember my teachers being the people I wanted to be like. I had great influencers in my life who made it fun, who made learning worth it – and I remember the ones who didn’t – but I wanted to be someone who changed people’s lives. I wanted that for me like Miss Jacob had been for me, or Miss Dalton had been for me, or Pamela Farris had been for me.”

He also remembers the rush his teaching debut at Clinton Rosette, even though it had caused him great anxiety.

“When you’re in your clinicals, and you’re going through those three semesters, student-teaching was what I feared the most. I thought, ‘I can socialize. I can talk. I know the information. I feel like I’m creative. But how can I get 30 sixth-graders to learn 30 different ways during a 50-minute lesson?’ That’s hard, and to me, that was the exciting part,” he says.

“When you get that first opportunity to teach that first lesson, that’s a grand slam. You always remember that,” he adds. “I think I taught ancient Rome. All our students were in togas. We were building our ancient cities. In education, you need to use all the senses. If you have a really good clinical teacher, they’ll allow you to do that.”

P.J. Fleck

P.J. Fleck at the 2019 Goldy’s Run, which raises money for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Such a “collision” of topic, creativity and personality combine for the kind of “educational magic where people really learn.”

As a college football coach, Fleck hopes his players are learning life lessons to “be real, be you, be yourself, to be the best versions of themselves, to know that they are special” – and that true success requires, of course, teamwork.

His players hear about “humanity education” that goes beyond “textbook education.”

They hear about vision, hopes, dreams, aspirations – and believing in those. They hear about drawing from their past to create their future. They hear about leading – players and coaches together.

“To get to where you want in life, you’re going to have to earn it. But you’re also going to need other people to get there. We all can’t do it alone. If you’re real, and you’re authentic, and it’s the real you, you’re going to attract the right people to who you really are. We need to attract the right people who can help us to get where we need to go,” he says.

“That’s what I hope people get from me. It’s not the wins. It’s not the losses. It’s the moments and memories of those wins. It’s how you got there. It’s the stories of the people who came from nothing, and maybe didn’t trust and didn’t love and didn’t know what family was, and by the time they got out of your classroom, or the time they were done playing for you as a coach, they can do all things now,” he adds. “I think that’s the biggest thing in teaching and coaching. It’s about giving – and serving.”

Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Educator in Residence P.J. Fleck to share lessons of football, life in March 3 talk

Categories: Alumni Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

Thank you Tina for going out of your way to help course schedulers to enter summer and fall courses using the correct campus codes. Your help is appreciated and we know you put in a lot of hours on making sure everything was accurate and ready for the students.

Applaud a Colleague

Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Tina Moran – Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Categories: Applause

Paula helped us create inviting and informative web-based landing pages for the virtual interview days for both our Clinical and School Psychology graduate programs. She was incredibly responsive and her skills resulted in organized and successful days for our candidates, and for us, too! Thank you, Paula!

Applaud a Colleague

Date posted: February 22, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Paula Meyer – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Categories: Applause

NIU Doctor of Physical Therapy program faculty members Dawn Brown, Nicole Bettin, Bob LeBeau and Joy Robackouski showed they’re experts in the field during a virtual competition held Jan. 15.

In celebration of American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Centennial anniversary, the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) and APTA’s Academy of Education hosted a Jeopardy-style game night via Zoom which drew teams from across the country.

“I decided to enter the NIU Doctor of Physical Therapy program into the virtual Jeopardy-style game as a means of having fun and testing our knowledge,” said Brown, who was the team captain. “I recruited several faculty members, and we were on a four-way phone call during the game so we could discuss answers to the questions.”

About 20 teams representing physical therapy programs from across the U.S. participated in the event. Teams were presented with a total of 25 questions within five separate categories related to physical therapy education and the physical therapy profession.

“We didn’t really prepare, simply relying on our knowledge of the profession’s history as well as our expertise in physical therapy patient management,” Brown said. “The game was a little intense because the rounds were held at lightning speed, but we all had fun as we scrambled to find the answers to the questions.”

Was it a job well done?

The NIU team earned second place, which included a winning prize of two free registrations to the APTA Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) conference which takes place throughout February. The team opted to gift the prize to two Huskie students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, and after a lottery drawing, students Mishka Harrisingh and Nick Pedraza were awarded the conference prizes.

“After all, what good is winning if you can’t pay it forward?” Brown said.

Learn more about NIU’s Physical Therapy program.



Date posted: February 18, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on It’s a Jeopardy-style event for NIU Physical Therapy Faculty

Categories: CHHSnews Faculty & Staff Homepage Uncategorized