Thirty-four years ago, John Siblik was an NIU art student drawing up a concept for an environmental sculpture to be placed in the Kishwaukee River where it flows past the lagoon and the Music Building. Now, Siblik finds himself standing in that same river, in that same spot with a team of students and alumni installing that very same artwork.
John Siblik, associate professor in the School or Art and Design, created “River Weaving” which is on display until the middle of October.
Siblik is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, and this is the sixth time he’s created and installed a version of this project. It is the second time in Illinois. The first was in Lockport’s I&M canal in 2014. But this current version is particularly special. “River Weaving” is part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary year-long celebration, and a chance for Siblik to complete the vision he first had in 1986.
“The project commemorates the Kishwaukee River as an important feature of the landscape that helped influence state officials to select DeKalb as the site for NIU prior to its founding in 1895,” Siblik says. “Earl W. Hayter, in his history of Northern Illinois University ‘Education in Transition’ tells a wonderful mythic tale of the residents of DeKalb going without water for two days so that the city’s water supply could be diverted into the Kish and have it appear to the commissioners that the Kish was in fact a mighty river. For those of us that are alumni of NIU it’s been stated that if you dip your toe in the Kish you will never leave, at least in our hearts.”
The installation features 90 elements placed in the water made of willow, steel and stone. Each is six to eight feet in length and placed onto a base that is four feet wide and two to four feet tall. The design is flexible and portable to adapt to different rivers, and strong enough to hold up to flooding and currents.
“The most basic way to think about this piece of environmental art is that it is weaving as sculpture,” Siblik said. “The wood elements make the warp and water flows through and creates the weft, and that’s what makes ‘River Weaving’ a fitting title. The environmental significance is that the piece reminds the viewer that we cannot think of the environment as disconnected from ourselves. It serves as a reminder that all aspects of nature and society are connected and interwoven.
“As the water level in the river rises, “River Weaving” is activated and serves as a filter collecting litter and debris. Some of the items collected so far include a mattress, tire, shoe, fishing pole, COVID-19 mask, as well as several bags, wrappers, bottles, and cans., It starts as a beautiful, elegant sculpture. Then, after a heavy rain, River Weaving reveals that we dump too much trash into the water.”
But while installing the sculpture in the Kishwaukee River, Siblik said he was encouraged. “The water quality appears to be improving, and we found delicate arrowroot plants, crayfish and mussels, signs of a healthy waterway.”
His team includes Myel Simmons, an NIU art student and illustrator who is serving as the project manager, Jose Vazquez, an environmental science major, and business student Jared Norton.
There are also three alumni helping with the project. Arin Whitmore is a 2020 BFA drawing graduate, Mark Mattson, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s in English from NIU is the business development manager at Creative Therapeutics in DeKalb, and Ken Olson holds a degree in physical therapy from NIU and is a physical therapist and principal partner with Northern Rehab in DeKalb.
Support for the project has come from the NIU 125th Anniversary Committee, as well as material support from local businesses. Dimco Steel and Metal in DeKalb donated more than 3,000 pounds of rebar. Wagner Aggregate provided more than 14,000 pounds of locally sourced limestone from a quarry in Fairdale which is used to weigh down the sculptures, and R&B Services in DeKalb hauled and delivered the stone.
Siblik estimates the sculpture installation will be in place until about October 15, depending on weather, and he is planning a walk tour to view and discuss “River Weaving” at the site starting at the College Street bridge near the east side of the Music Building at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, September 24.
Date posted: September 9, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on NIU history woven throughout environmental art installation
After months of dire predictions nationwide for fall college attendance, Northern Illinois University announced today that total enrollment is up for fall 2020.
According to the official census on the 10th day of attendance, total enrollment for fall 2020 climbed to 16,769, up 160 students (1%) from 2019. Driving that growth is a freshman class of 2,047 (up 8%), and a 6-percentage-point improvement in retention of first-year students.
“I am incredibly proud of all those who worked so hard to make this accomplishment a reality,” said NIU President Dr. Lisa Freeman. “We increased total enrollment during a challenging and dynamic time by attracting a freshman class that is strong in number, talent and diversity, and by welcoming back continuing undergraduate, graduate and law students who appreciate the quality and affordability of our educational experience. It is a tribute to the hard work of many on our campus who helped potential students to look beyond the uncertainty of these last several months and recognize that NIU offers a tremendous combination of access and excellence.”
With this year’s jump, NIU surpassed their 2020 total enrollment goal put forth in its Strategic Enrollment Management plan and recorded its third straight year of growth among incoming freshmen. The university also set five-year highs for total number of applicants, number of applicants who met acceptance criteria and the number of applicants who confirmed interest to the university. All of that indicates that the university’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is working.
“Since we approved the plan in January 2019, we have dramatically changed how we approach potential students,” said Sol Jensen, NIU vice president for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications. “We are identifying potential Huskies earlier in their high school careers, communicating with them more frequently and more strategically, and raising our profile through more aggressive and targeted advertising. It is satisfying to see those efforts already yielding results.”
Like everything else, student recruitment had to be adjusted when COVID-19 hit.
“The circumstances we faced this spring were unlike anything we have experienced before, and while I am very proud of the entire Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications for the way they adjusted to the circumstances, I am also grateful to the entire campus. Every college, division, department and individual on this campus that helped us tell our story, that had positive interactions with students, that helped us navigate these uncertain times contributed to this milestone. It is an accomplishment that the entire campus community can share in and celebrate.”
Improved undergraduate retention is another key facet of NIU’s Strategic Enrollment Management plan, and this fall’s numbers reflect significant progress in that regard. Overall retention of first-year students climbed 6 percentage points (to 78%). That was driven by significant growth in the retention rates for students of color, as African American, Latinx and Asian students were all up by at least 10 percentage points from a year ago.
Those improvements are attributed to NIU’s commitment to removing barriers to college graduation for all students, including improvements in how the university identifies and assists students struggling to make the adjustment to college, said Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram. “The approaches we’ve developed and implemented – before and during COVID-19 – to support our students enabled them to thrive and re-enroll at NIU,” she said. “I am grateful for all of the collaboration between individuals and departments across campus that has helped make this possible. Just as importantly, their work should also help us maintain the improvements in retention and student success going forward.”
One area where numbers slipped was among new transfer students, which declined to 1,504 (a decrease of 7%). The drop reflects continued declines in the region’s community college population.
Looking at characteristics of the incoming class, NIU continued to have success recruiting students of color, particularly Black students. While colleges and universities across the country, including Illinois, have seen declining enrollment rates for Black students, NIU recorded its fifth straight year of increased African American enrollment in the freshman class. This year, 35% of entering freshmen are Black (up 2 percentage points), the highest that figure has been in university history. Latinx enrollment also grew, accounting for 23% of the incoming class (up 3 percentage points).
This year’s incoming class also boasts a strong academic profile. The average high school GPA among new freshmen was 3.32 — the second highest it has been in 11 years — and the percentage of applicants with GPAs of 3.5 or better grew by 16%.
Some of that increase can likely be attributed to the university’s new Huskie Pledge. Implemented this past year, the program guarantees that all tuition and fees will be covered by grants and scholarships for any Illinois students with high school GPAs of 3.0 or better and whose families have incomes of $75,000 or less.
The good news extended to graduate and professional enrollment. The NIU College of Law grew for the third straight year, up by 33 students (12%). Among all other graduate and professional programs, enrollment held steady at 4,185.
In all, Dr. Freeman said, this year’s enrollment numbers are cause for great optimism and pride. “This is one of the most diverse and talented incoming classes that we have ever recruited, and we hope that this sets the trend for the years ahead,” she said.
Date posted: September 8, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Large freshman class, strong retention lift NIU enrollment
The NIU Art Museum welcomes the campus and community back to the galleries on Tuesday, September 8 with the extended exhibition of the NIU School of Art and Design Faculty Biennial Continuum. The museum is excited to reopen, cautiously providing a space for reprieve, contemplation and enjoyment.
Visitors are welcome on campus, but we ask that you take the same precautions we ask our students, faculty and staff to protect yourself and others. Importantly, we ask that anyone feeling unwell to postpone their visit for another time. Guidance on university events will continue to evolve over the course of the semester. Before your next visit, please view our website niu.edu/artmuseum for the latest information and details on safety, scheduling changes, cancelations or additional notices. New protocols and cleaning procedures help protect campus and community, students, faculty and staff. Changes include new limited hours, capacity restrictions, and timed entry scheduled online for your convenience.
New limited hours: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday Noon – 6 p.m. Friday Noon – 3 p.m. Saturday, and by limited appointment Admission is free and open to the public.
What to know before you visit:
Gallery capacity is currently limited to 6 people per gallery.
Large group gatherings are not permitted and the ability to conduct guided tours is impacted.
Timed entry can be scheduled online for your convenience and safety at niu.edu/artmuseum.
Physical distancing is encouraged. Please maintain 6 feet of distance from others and avoid gathering in groups.
Face masks are required over your nose and mouth and secured under chin whenever inside campus buildings.
While campus group gatherings are not permitted, we anticipate presenting pre-recorded and live virtual experiences this fall as part of our calendar of events. Please continue to check our website for new content and instructions on how to join in and watch from home.
The School of Art and Design Faculty Biennial Continuum exhibition reopens Tuesday, September 8 and runs through November 14, 2020. The work on display represents the activity and interests of individual members of the School of Art and Design, but also the breadth of the arts programs and disciplines offered at NIU. Work includes the fields of: Art and Design Education; Art History; Ceramics; Drawing; Fibers; Illustration; Metals and Jewelry; Painting; Photography; Printmaking; Visual Communications; Sculpture; and Time Arts.
About the NIU Art Museum
Serving Campus and Community by Balancing Traditional and Contemporary Art to Explore the Connections Made through Visual Culture.
Part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts‘ vibrant and active arts community on campus, the Northern Illinois University Art Museum is a resource for the NIU campus, local community and beyond. The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end of Altgeld Hall, at the corner of College Avenue and Castle Drives on the main campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.
Parking is available in the Visitor Pay Lot located at 200 Carroll Ave. Limited metered and accessible parking spaces are available in front of Lowden Hall with accessible aisles and route to Altgeld. Campus parking is free on weekends and after 5 p.m. weeknights.
To request disability-related accommodations for museum programs, please contact the museum at least one week in advance.
The exhibitions and programs of the NIU Art Museum are sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council Agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; and the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Season Presenting Sponsor Shaw Media.
Top photo: Foreground detail of Mike Rea’s Tight Notes and Black Holes, CTINH, 2019, Wood and rope, with Michael Barnes’ Animals of Bremen, 2018-2019, Lithograph, and Nina Rizzo’s Venetian Moon, 2019, Oil on canvas seen on the gallery walls.
Date posted: September 8, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Northern Illinois University Art Museum reopens to the public
NIU College of Law hosted its new lecture series—Race and the Law Conversations— on Wednesday, August 26. The inaugural conversation, “Understanding Issues of Police Accountability and Reform,” featured distinguished panelists Sharon Fairley, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and former Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority in Chicago, along with Paige Fernandez, Policing Policy Advisor for the ACLU National Political Advocacy Department. NIU Law Professor Paul Cain moderated the discussion.
Both Fairley and Fernandez touched on a variety of policing issues including the racial origins of policing, police department budgets, defunding vs. reform, divestment of resources, lack of community trust and the massive threat of police unions to police accountability and reform.
Fairley pointed out the difficulty in police reform due to the “warrior culture” ingrained in police departments, a culture that has been decades in the making, and that it will take time to change this culture. She discussed the internal and external factors that impact reform and accountability by noting that change must start at the top with the leadership and stricter policies and more effective discipline must be implemented. She also acknowledged the importance of public activism driving change in how policing is responsive to community concerns.
Fernandez reported that, despite national crime rates continuing to decline, spending on police has dramatically outpaced expenditures on community services and programs that are known to build stable, safe and healthy communities. One of the more staggering statistics she conveyed was that, according to the FBI, out of the 10.3 million arrests made every year in this country, only 5% are considered to be the most serious crimes. This suggests the remaining 95% are a mix of lower-level offenses for which the police are spending a vast majority of time. In addition, many of these lower-level offenses could be prevented with investments that address underfunded community services including education, mental health and job training – just to name a few of the basic needs of survival that provide opportunities for more people to thrive.
Following their presentations, Fairley and Fernandez addressed a number of questions from the moderator and the attendees.
The Race and the Law Conversations series was created to provide a platform with expert panelists who will engage in much needed conversations on a wide range of racial and social justice issues including, but not limited to, racial inequality, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Save the date for our next Conversation on voting rights and election which will be held on Wednesday, October 21.
For decades, NIU has earned a reputation for having one of the most efficient and most welcoming campus move-in days in the country.
Of course, this year the pandemic meant there was no army of volunteers to greet students and hallways bustling with excited students, parents and family. However, the warm welcome did not suffer at all, says NIU Housing Administrator Tim Trottier.
“We wanted to be as welcoming as possible. We wanted their first contact with campus to be a good experience for students and their families as they went through this transition,” said Trottier. “And it turns out that you can still be engaging from six feet away.”
The biggest difference between this year and those past, was the pace, Trottier said. Rather than a six-hour sprint to move about 2,500 students into their rooms, the process became a five-day marathon that took place from Aug. 19 through Aug. 23.
Because students were assigned one-hour windows of time to move in, traffic backups were almost non-existent and things moved very smoothly. Even so, NIU Police were valuable allies, providing direction and answering questions.
When students arrived at their residence hall, they were greeted by volunteers who explained the rules and procedures for the day. “Everyone was very understanding. We had done a lot of communicating with students and families in advance, we reinforced the rules when they arrived, and it just became a part of the day,” said Trottier.
While the usual throng of 1,000-plus volunteers were not on hand to count, families did get a hand from local retailers Target, Walmart and Schnucks, all of whom donated the use of 25 shopping carts apiece, which made moving from curbside to rooms far easier.
Keeping everything moving smoothly from start to finish were about 60 volunteers, some of whom worked every day of the process. They came from Student Housing, Student Affairs, Admissions, campus cultural centers, the recreation center and other areas across campus, and they were invaluable. “I can’t say enough about the hall staff and all of the individuals who figured out how to make things as manageable, simple and as safe as possible. So many people came together to make this work,” said Trottier. “Every day we learned something new and everybody worked incredibly long and thoughtful hours to make this process a success.”
While this year’s move-in was hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, there were some lessons to be learned, said Trottier, who suggested that requiring students to sign up for a one-hour window for move-in, might be a way to make NIU’s process even better.
Date posted: September 2, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Move-In 2020 – slower, but still welcoming
Huskie Conversation Café will transform into a new podcast this fall with Huskies invited to listen in and reflect on conversations about NIU’s Common Reading Experience book, “When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.”
“I would encourage everyone to come with an open and mind and be pushed to learn and grow,” said Jane Pappas, assistant director of Social Justice Education for Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Jane Pappas, assistant director of Social Justice Education for Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Pappas will facilitate conversations as host of the podcast, with new experts from NIU and the DeKalb community featured weekly to provide their perspectives on the broad themes addressed in the book, written by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele.
Those who listen are encouraged to do self-guided journaling, with the help of self-reflection questions.
“We’re providing them with an opportunity to interact with a really diverse range of perspectives,” Pappas said. “We have a lot of folks you might not otherwise get to hear from. It’s an excellent opportunity for people to listen in on conversations maybe they have not had before.”
The expanded, interactive programming will cover relevant and important topics and perspectives as part of NIU’s ongoing mission to champion equity and inclusion, said Jocelyn Santana, director of Social Justice Education for ADEI.
She emphasized the value of the programming, especially today amid the Black Lives Matter Movement and recent unrest in the country.
“We must really challenge ourselves. It’s not OK for us to be passive,” she said. “Our institution, students, staff and faculty need to engage and be active agents in addressing systemic oppression and building an equitable community. We need to examine hard truths and have difficult conversations that matter. Society has historically adopted a philosophy that, ‘I’m a good person, therefore, I’m not racist, biased and/or do not commit microaggressions.’
“The problem with this perspective is that being good is not good enough. Being a good person does not absolve any of us from taking action and addressing oppression to ensure we can achieve equity.”
The dialogues should and will include a variety of perspectives, some perhaps in opposition to others, Santana said.
The programming provides an instrument for learning and understanding different perspectives, Santana said. She emphasized a quote in the social justice handbook, “Is Everyone Really Equal?”: “Everyone has an opinion. Opinions are not the same as informed knowledge.”
“These programs will provide knowledge that as a Huskie community will allow us to be empowered and take actions that will move us toward a more equitable and inclusive community,” Santana said.
In the first podcast, Associate Professor and award-winning author Joseph Flynn will cover the intro of the book through Chapter 3, addressing themes, such as racial profiling. Flynn, associate director of academic affairs at the Center for Black Studies and an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, wrote the book, “White Fatigue: Rethinking Resistance for Social Justice.”
Among the wide array of future experts are Counseling and Higher Education Professor Katy Jaekel, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Director Molly Holmes, Associate Professor of Anthology and Nonprofit and NGO Studies Mark Schuller, NIU Police Officers Shaunda Wilson and Rob Williams, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Assistant Director Ari Owens and many more.
While those who listen to the podcast are encouraged to read “When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” each episode will include an overview of the chapters addressed.
“You will get a deeper understanding of what we’re talking about if you have read the book,” Pappas said. “You don’t have to read it, but you’ll have a better time if you do.”
Date posted: September 2, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on New ADEI podcast encourages Huskie interaction on social justice issues
Previously a two-day intensive program, NIU’s CODE Institute has shifted to a six-week online experience for participants to build their cultural competency. The first course begins Sept. 14, and those interested can register now.
Jocelyn Santana, director of Social Justice Education
A train-the-trainer model, CODE will provide facilitators with tools to engage in conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion work, as well as self-assessment and reflection about the participants’ held beliefs, values and understanding of their lived experiences, said Jocelyn Santana, director of Social Justice Education for Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Participants explore interesectionality of identities (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, economic justice, nationalism and system of belief) and how these identity layers inform daily experiences of inclusions or treatment of otherness.
Those who fully complete the six-week course can become facilitators of future CODE workshops and programs, while others can customize the course to simply gain knowledge and engage with their fellow participants in learning about cultural differences. That knowledge can be incorporated into classrooms department services, policies and practices, and student resources.
“This program takes the curriculum we’ve covered in the past and focuses it more intensively on one topic per week. We’ll explore key concepts a little more thoroughly on this platform, rather than just introduce them,” Santana said.
“The real important part of CODE is that those in the cohort have an opportunity to connect with each other and share perspectives and perceptions,” she said. “That allows them to challenge one another and encourage the self-work to dismantle systemic oppression and the sustainment of a hierarchy of oppression.”
Future facilitators will participate in weekly peer-reviewed assignments as part of the course.
Always valuable, NIU’s CODE programs have taken on added meaning amid the Black Lives Matter Movement and recent unrest in the country.
“I am grateful to the ADEI team for their continued dedication to social justice education. The team has done a great job of shifting all social justice education to a virtual platform. In addition to COVID, the team has also been able to address racial injustice as a result given the national visibility of the murder of George Floyd,” said Vernese Edghill-Walden, NIU’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer
Since June, Edghill-Walden said, ADEI has increased the number of workshops and programs to meet the increased demand for professional development and training for faculty, staff and students on systematic racism and other systems of oppression.
“The demand for these programs has grown year after year, and this year has been like none other,” she said.
Along with exploring general diversity concepts, participants in the CODE Institute will gain a stronger understanding of their identities, personal beliefs and values related to cultural and social inequalities, said Jane Pappas, Assistant Director for Social Justice Education in ADEI.
“I’m really excited to be able to bring this to the NIU community, mostly because I think it’s going to broaden our reach with CODE. We already have strong facilitators on deck, and I’m very excited to be able to help train a whole new cohort of folks,” Pappas said. “Moving it to a digital format will allow us to reach a broader array of people who might not be able to come to a two-day training.”
Facilitators from across campus not only have used their CODE experiences to help conduct workshops, they’ve incorporated it into their teaching and interactions with students.
“Our changing environment has allowed us to provide education in virtual platforms and broaden the breadth of those we can now reach. We are hopeful our campus will take advantage of the opportunities offered and join us and peers in our workshops where we have conversations that matter,” said Monique Bernoudy, assistant vice-president for ADEI.
CODE provides faculty, staff and graduate students with the tools they need to champion equity and diversity throughout campus.
“We believe it is important to continue to engage in extremely important conversations and since the CODE Institute has shifted to a virtual platform, we wanted to provide an opportunity for exchange in dialogue through these assignments,” said Diana Garcia, graduate research assistant for Social Justice Education for ADEI.
“Our NIU community is so diverse and only by embracing the diversity in this Institute, will participants be able to enrich their knowledge and understanding of differences amongst our NIU students, faculty, staff and community partners.”
A listing of all Social Justice Education programming to be offered this fall can be found online.
Date posted: August 31, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on CODE Facilitator Institute goes virtual with course on cultural competency
I needed an emergency VPN fix for payroll for the Credit Union. Ben had me try something and get back to him. When it didn’t solve the problem he stayed on the phone with me and walked me thru to get it up and running. He is always is so helpful, and explains problems so we know what went wrong.
Date posted: August 29, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Ben Gardner – Human Resource Services
I am inspired by the steadfast grace demonstrated in Beth’s leadership that supports and advocates for optimal levels of performance to continuously examine effectiveness while never appearing weary of my endless questions! Cheers!
Date posted: August 29, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Beth Chilton – Intercollegiate Athletics
Deyundra has the job of keeping me on track. Trust me, its a full time job! She always double-checks on me to make sure I have what I need and I am doing well. This semester was was challenging, and she still is cracking jokes!
Date posted: August 29, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Deyundra Conway – Campus Parking Services
Sue has always gone the extra mile to make sure her employee’s have what they need. This past semester was a rough one all over campus, and the parking department was no exception. Through it all Sue keeps in contact with us and makes us laugh.
Date posted: August 29, 2020 | Author: Andrew Pemberton | Comments Off on Sue Bidstrup – Campus Parking Services