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Do you know the original name of Northern Illinois University? Can you guess the Governor who signed legislation creating the school?

NIU’s 125th Anniversary this year gives WNIJ the opportunity to explore key moments in the university’s rich history with a new program, The Northern Almanac.

The weekly feature, hosted by Clint Cargile, will focus on events that helped shape the entire region. It will launch Monday, Feb. 3, during “Here and Now,” and will air every Monday throughout 2020 at 12:31 pm.

Station Manager Staci Hoste said, “WNIJ’s Northern Almanac builds on ‘Key Moments’ identified by the NIU 125th Anniversary Committee. From its founding in 1895 through today, we will air segments about significant turning points in the university’s history.” 

President Lisa Freeman said the anniversary gives NIU an opportunity to not only look back and reflect, but also an opportunity to embrace the present and help chart the path forward. “You cannot chart a course for the future without understanding the past,” she said.

The Northern Almanac will air in tandem with a chronological list of NIU’s “125 Key Moments,” which will be presented online in monthly increments via the university website. WNIJ’s website will include The Northern Almanac, with podcasts of the weekly features and links to NIU’s anniversary information. 

For more details about The Northern Almanac, visit

Date posted: January 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on WNIJ’s Northern Almanac shares 125 years of NIU history

Categories: Alumni Community Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

One week after moving into new offices on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building, the staff in Academic, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) is already discovering that it is easier to work on creating a welcoming and inclusive campus when you can collaborate with your co-workers.

“The people in our offices need to interact on a regular basis and be able to maintain our good rapport, and that wasn’t always easy in our previous arrangement,” says ADEI Assistant Vice President Monique Bernoudy.

The office suite on the fourth floor of the Student Health building (in the area previously occupied by the Disability Resource Center) includes the ADEI offices dedicated to Social Justice Education, Academic Diversity and the main office of Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden (all of which were previously spread across two floors in Altgeld Hall). The office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education, which was previously housed in the Campus Life Building is also part of the move to the Health Services Building along with Brandon Lagana, director of planning and assessment for the Office of Undergraduate Studies and ADEI.

The ADEI office for Undocumented Student Support will remain in the Campus Life Building and the Diversity and Cultural Resource Centers will remain in their current locations.

The realignment is part of a series of office moves intended to improve student services by making them more accessible and convenient, and to encourage better collaboration. The broader plan includes moving some aspects of the Dean of Students office to the Holmes Student Center and moving most academic services into the Founders Memorial Library.

In their new space, located on Wirtz Drive, the ADEI teams are settling in nicely and reaping the benefits of being in close proximity to their colleagues, says Bernoudy. The change has been an enhancement, not only for staff, but also for students.

“Now, rather than sending an email or making a phone call, we can just walk down the hall to ask questions or share ideas, which just tends to lead to deeper communication and better collaboration,” Bernoudy says. “We also are a little more centrally located for students, and when they come here, we have a broader set of services that we can connect them with at once.”

Date posted: January 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on ADEI moves to Health Services Building

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

A wide-ranging group of projects have been chosen to receive grant funding as part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary celebration

Selected by committee, the eight winners were chosen based on how well they will build awareness of the university’s impressive history and promising future, as well as support NIU’s mission, vision and values.

NIU History Calendar

Using pictures from the University Archives, Library Dean Fred Barnhart and his staff have created a 125th Anniversary calendar. The calendar includes photographs from the archives, as well as key dates from NIU’s history. A limited supply of the calendars are available at Founders Library on the 4th floor. 

A Showcase of Southeast Asian Visual and Performing Arts

Honoring the university’s long and deep connection to Southeast Asia, the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies are holding a showcase of Southeast Asian arts in a concert slated for April 4 in Boutell Concert Hall. The event will include Southeast Asian shadow puppetry, Northeastern Thai music, West Javanese music, classical Cambodian music and Indonesian dance.  Incorporating the visual arts, there will be an exhibit of contemporary Burmese painting on display for three weeks during April in the Music Building Recital Hall gallery. Associate Professor Jui-Ching Wang of the School of Music is leading the project.

Huskie-Go 125

Based on the popular Poke-Go virtual game, Huskie-Go is creating a new virtual treasure hunt where participants can earn points and win prizes. The augmented reality scavenger hunt connects real places on campus with an app-based game to answer virtual trivia questions about NIU’s 125-year history. Participants will download a free app that will read QR codes found at significant locations across campus. The game will be launched on March 16, after students return from Spring Break.  It will be repeated in the fall with a new set of questions. Judith Dymond in NIU Outreach is leading the project.

River Weaving

This creative project utilizes the natural environment to celebrate the significance of the Kishwaukee River in NIU’s past, present and future. Professor John Siblik of NIU’s School of Art and Design will place 90 woven elements into a section of river that runs through campus, the elements providing the “warp” and the river the “weft of the weave.” It will be installed during a 14-day period this summer, and audience members will be able to learn more during an unveiling and “walk with the artist” lecture on July 15. River Weaving is meant as a subtle visual metaphor to remind us of the need to be mindful and appreciative of the natural world.

Somos Huskies (We Are Huskies): LatinX Students in the 1970s and 1980s

Focused on Latinx students who attended NIU in the ‘70s and ‘80s, this project includes an oral history and a “pop-up museum” that will illustrate the enduring legacy of Latinx students on campus. Created by the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, the project looks at a time period when Latinx students and faculty were advocating for greater academic support, visibility and resources. Latinx alumni from the period will attend an event during Homecoming 2020 and will be asked to bring items including photos, artwork, diaries, clothing and other personal effects from that era to help build a collection that speaks to the Latinx experience at NIU. Christine Abreu, Ph.D., directs the project.

Forward Together: Celebrating NIU’s Native American Past, Present and Future

Creating greater awareness of Native American people, traditions and legacies at NIU and in the northern Illinois region is the aim of an anniversary project led by Melissa Adams-Campbell, associate professor of English, and Natalie Joy, associate professor of History. A campus exhibit will celebrate Native American students and their activism. The project will also draw awareness to the interconnectedness of Native American and African American communities, including the commemorative naming of DuSable Hall.

Organizers are partnering with NIU’s office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to draft a public statement acknowledging NIU’s location on the traditional homelands of the Sauk, Meskwaki and Potawatomi nations. They plan to bring Native American leaders to campus for a land acknowledgement ceremony this fall.

125 Years of Preparing Teachers

During Homecoming in October, the College of Education will celebrate NIU’s beginnings as a normal school with an alumni and community event near the Milan Township One Room Schoolhouse on campus. Guided tours of the schoolhouse will be supplemented by a live history walk through exhibits in a large tent nearby. Each decade in NIU’s teacher preparation history will be featured, while key advancements and innovations in education will be highlighted. Susan Mizgalski of COE is coordinating the project. 

Huskie Philanthropy: 125 Years of Giving to NIU

Students in NIU’s Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies have embarked on a year-long research project to create profiles of the institution’s philanthropists. The final project will look at NIU donors by the decade, and will include people who have given not only dollars, but also time and talent to the university. The resulting collection will be published digitally on the Center’s website and may continue beyond the 2020 anniversary year. Professor Alicia Schatteman leads the project.

Date posted: January 22, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Eight anniversary projects receive grant funding

Categories: Alumni Community Events Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Andrew Glendening, director of the NIU School of Music will perform a world premiere as part of his Faculty Trombone Recital, Thursday, January 23 at 8 p.m. in the NIU Music Building Recital Hall.

Andrew Glendening

Andrew Glendening

“Der Heroszupfer” composed by Joseph Klein was written in 2019 and will be performed for the first time in this recital. Klein is a composer of solo, chamber and large ensemble works, including instrumental, vocal, electroacoustic and intermedia compositions. His music has been described by British music magazine The Wire as, “a dizzying euphoria…like a sonic tickling with counterpoint gone awry” and exhibiting “a confident polyvalence [the] heightens its very real excitement.”

Klein is currently Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of North Texas College of Music, where he has served as Chair of Composition Studies since 1999.

Among his other selections for this recital, Glendening will perform “Clef Hanger” composed by Jan Bach, who retired from the NIU School of Music in 2004 where he had taught theory and composition courses since 1966. Bach describes himself as, “one of those fortunate university composers whose works, through their many performances, have extended far beyond the borders of his campus to reach an international audience.” Bach has been the recipient of “countless” commissions, grants, recordings and publications. He is a composer member of Broadcast Music, Inc., New York.

Andrew Glendening
Faculty Trombone Recital
NIU School of Music
8 p.m., Thursday, January 23, 2020
Music Building Recital Hall
Tickets: $5 adults, $3 students online or at the event


Everything Happens for the First time (2018) Mark Dancigers (b. 1981)
Clef Hanger (2011) Jan Bach (b. 1937)
I was like Wow! (2003) JacobTV (b. 1951)
Der Heroszupfer (2019) premiere Joseph Klein (b. 1962)
Crossfire: Boxman (1986-1992) David Felder (b. 1953)

Andrew Glendening

Glendening is the director of the School of Music and Professor of Music at NIU. A native of Logansport, Ind., he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Trombone Performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music before attending Indiana University, where he was awarded the school’s highest honor: the Performer’s Certificate. He also earned a Master of Music degree and was the first ever recipient of the Doctor of Music degree in Trombone Performance from the Indiana University School of Music. His primary teachers were M. Dee Stewart, Per Brevig, Thomas Cramer, and Frank Crisafulli. Prior to becoming Director of the School of Music at NIU, Glendening was Dean of the School of Music at the University of Redlands, Chair of the Department of Music at Denison University and served on the faculties of Morehead State University and Northeastern Illinois University.

An innovator in inter-active music, Glendening has premiered, performed and recorded many works for computer and instruments and has lectured on inter-active applications at such institutions as the CNMAT Laboratory at UC Berkeley, CEMI at the University of North Texas and the Eastman School of Music. He is also the inventor of the “Magneto-restrictive slide position sensor” for the trombone, which allows for direct integration of the trombone and a computer using MAX/MSP software both for performance and pedagogical study. An active proponent of new music for the trombone, Glendening has premiered over 100 works, including three concerti. In 1998 he was awarded Morehead State University’s Distinguished Creative Productions Award for his solo CD, “Pathways: New Music for Trombone” (Mark Records.)

He premiered the wind ensemble version of Robert Parris’ Trombone Concerto with the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 1999, performed the West Coast premiere of Stephen Bryant’s Trombone Concerto, was the featured performer at the Fourth Annual American Music festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, performed the Rouse Trombone Concerto with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and performed a recital at the 2014 International Trombone Festival at the Eastman School of Music. For fifteen seasons he served as Principal Trombonist of the Redlands Symphony Orchestra and has performed as a substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and the California Philharmonic. Six of Dr. Glendening’s trombone students have won the U.S. Army Band National Solo Competition. In 2017, International Music Diffusion published his book, co-authored with Julia Broome-Robinson, “The Art and Science of Trombone Teaching”.

He was host and artistic director of the 2017 International Trombone Festival and has performed, judged and/or presented at the International Trombone Festivals in Cleveland, Illinois, North Texas, Eastman, Iowa and Ball State as well as the 2019 International Women’s Brass Festival.

Date posted: January 20, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Andrew Glendening Faculty Trombone Recital features world premiere

Categories: Arts Community Faculty & Staff Homepage

One NIU faculty member, one student and an entire department were recognized for their outstanding contributions to international education during the 2019 International Recognition reception held in November.

“The faculty and students that we recognize are committed to a common goal: facilitating learning about other places and people to ensure that our community develops cross-cultural understanding and communication skills,” said Bradley Bond, associate vice president, Division of International Affairs. “It’s important to take a moment and celebrate the work of faculty and students.”

Matthew Werstler, Kheang Un, and faculty in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education were presented with awards by Dean Brad Bond for their outstanding contributions to international education.

Kheang Un, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding International Educator. Born and educated in Cambodia and the United States, Un has worked in foreign countries and collaborated with scholars from around the world throughout his career.

“It is a great honor to receive the 2019 Outstanding International Scholar Award,” Un said. “This award not only recognizes internationally engaged scholars such as myself, but it also reflects NIU’s commitment to global educational outreach in an era of global interconnectedness.”

Un, who also serves as an associate of NIU’s Center of Southeast Asian Studies, is a world-renowned expert on Cambodian politics. In addition to promoting multicultural understanding at NIU, he is always learning.

“I have the opportunity to work with students of diverse backgrounds from the U.S. and abroad who challenge me to look at issues from multiple angles,” Un said. “They have taught me as much as I have imparted my knowledge to them; my own work has benefited greatly from the interaction and collaboration with these students.”

The Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) was recognized for their significant contributions made to international education. The department was honored for their internationalization efforts and for cultivating curricular and co-curricular opportunities for NIU students.

In addition to the faculty and department awards, the Division of International Affairs recognized School of Music student, Matthew Werstler, for his contributions and efforts in fomenting cross-cultural understanding, empathy and peace at NIU.

Werstler received a $500 credit on his bursar account and a plaque commemorating the award.

This year marks the 50th anniversary the Division of International Affairs was established at the university.

“NIU’s commitment to internationalization was recognized 50 years ago with the creation of the Division of International Affairs,” Bond said. “That commitment is exemplified by the interest and passion of faculty and students who were and remain eager to teach and learn about our interconnected world.”

Date posted: January 20, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Outstanding contributions in international education honored

Categories: Faculty & Staff Homepage Students Uncategorized

Yanghee Kim
Yanghee Kim

That the world is changing rapidly comes as no surprise to anyone who’s dialed a rotary phone attached to a wall or wearily rose from a comfortable couch to change the channel.

But the relentless and breakneck pace at which technology is evolving might startle even the most avid futurist.

UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) aims to make sure that educators around the world are equipped to keep up – and, to that end, has enlisted NIU’s Yanghee Kim to help ensure that happens in time for the jobs of the future that will be technologically intensive in almost every arena.

Its global efforts to define, create and immediately implement an integrated STEM curriculum for K-12 educators seek to foster future-oriented competencies in robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud computing and the internet of things characterized as Industry 4.0 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

IBE recognized and valued Kim’s knowledge and expertise to promote a new and shared global understanding of curriculum issues. It also provides practical technical support addressing critical areas that impact provision and delivery of equitable education for all within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Kim works with teachers in Turkey.
Kim works with teachers in Turkey.

Kim recently led a professional development program for implementing integrated STEM curricula in K-12 classrooms. The program was sponsored by UNESCO in Istanbul at a consortium of private schools, where she worked with 80 select teachers from all levels to understand the demands of their classrooms, their professional needs and how technology can help enhance their teaching.

“Our lives will be different. Are we preparing our children for this rapidly changing world? Many skills that they are learning in the current classrooms will be obsolete, and they will struggle to meet job requirements,” says Kim, director of NIU’s CREATE Center and the NIU College of Education’s Morgridge Endowed Chair. “The current education system was developed over 100 years ago. The content and needs have been changing constantly, but the system of teaching is the same.”

Educators also must seek better methods of assessment that overcome the limitations of test scores in providing credible and critical information on competency development, she says.

At the core, however, Kim says that students of today and tomorrow must learn to confront and find answers for real-world questions with competencies not separated by disciplines.

Kim worked with Fuat Sancak, president of the consortium of private schools in Turkey (center) and Mmantsetsa Marope, director of UNESCO-IBE.
Kim worked with Fuat Sancak, president of the consortium of private schools in Turkey (center), and Mmantsetsa Marope, director of UNESCO-IBE.

“Education needs to be geared toward the development of children’s competencies to solve meaningful and relevant problems,” she says. “Learning math and science concepts can be naturally embedded in learning to solve problems, where they learn in a deeper way rather than just memorizing.”

Kim also has brought technologically enhanced learning to local schools.

At one local elementary school, she tested the use of humanoid robots as teaching assistants (or learning companions). Robots can be used to enhance classrooms, covering some curriculum, freeing some teachers’ time for individualized in-depth interaction with children.

“Children like to learn in a small-group setting, with a peer who can mutually help each other,” she says. “I believe in the power of robots to assist children.”

Date posted: January 19, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Yanghee Kim assists UNESCO efforts to prepare children for future world

Categories: Faculty & Staff Global Homepage Students Uncategorized

Paris Thomas

Paris Thomas hopes her research will shine a light on how community violence impacts the health of African American men. Already, the doctoral student’s research plans have impacted NIU: Thomas became the first NIU student to be chosen for the Chicago Gun Violence Research Collaborative (CGVRC).

Thomas, a Ph.D. in Health Science student, was selected along with 10 other graduate fellows from Adler University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, Loyola University, Northwestern University, from multiple disciplines including public health, health sciences, sociology, social work, and psychology.

The CGVRC Fellowship Program offers the six-month fellowships to highly talented and committed graduate students enrolled in graduate and professional programs within the city of Chicago. The collaborative launched in 2016 with the purpose of bringing hospitals, universities and researchers together to have an impact on gun violence. This fellowship program was created to support faculty and graduate students’ involvement in the development of a community-based research agenda.

Thomas said she sought the fellowship because it is rooted in interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Gun violence cannot be addressed by a community alone, it takes the collaboration of diverse disciplines to implement community-based solutions and programing,” Thomas said.

The Fellowship provides a $1,000 stipend for engaging with interdisciplinary teams of graduate fellows across Chicago universities in collaboration with community agencies within Chicago neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.

“The CGVRC Fellowship Program is an excellent opportunity for Thomas to further refine her research skills while working to solve real health issues,” said Daniel Boutin, director of the Ph.D. in Health Sciences program. “The generous offer for her to join this interdisciplinary collaborative effort and investigate the impact of gun violence demonstrates how research at NIU supports not only Chicago but communities across the nation.”

Being a part of the collaborative will help her learn best practices for conducting research in sensitive areas where it is especially important to be respectful of families’ and victims’ privacy.

Thomas said her mixed-method study will look at qualitative data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a 10-city comparison in health trends in African American men, as well as interviews with community members on Chicago’s south side. She selected this topic because she discovered a gap in research on violence which typically focuses on the impact on children and mothers and not men’s health.

“So many studies are aimed at school based community solutions. But we have to realize that interventions at home are also imperative. African American men are so special to African American communities. We have to have interventions for them as well. I hope to contribute to the community violence research field with my own studies,” said Thomas.

While pursuing her Ph.D., Thomas continues her work as the director of program operations for Equal Hope at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.

“The CGVRC Fellowship Program is an excellent opportunity for Thomas to further refine her research skills while working to solve real health issues,” said Daniel Boutin, director of the Ph.D. in Health Sciences program. “The generous offer for her to join this interdisciplinary collaborative effort and investigate the impact of gun violence demonstrates how research at NIU supports not only Chicago but communities across the nation.”



Date posted: January 19, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Ph.D. student receives fellowship to research gun violence

Categories: CHHSnews Faculty & Staff Homepage Research Students Uncategorized

A nearly year-long effort to identify the key moments that shaped NIU enters a new stage today with the release of its first chapter.

“The Beginning (1895 – 1906)” covers eleven important events and people, from the legislation that established Northern to the earliest efforts at creating a school culture and institutional pride. 

The 125 Key Moments project is part of NIU’s 125th Anniversary celebration.

Faculty, staff, students, alumni and annuitants will receive an announcement email at 1 p.m. with a link to the site, which includes short stories, photos and film clips from the NIU Archives. Each new chapter will be similarly introduced once a month throughout 2020.

Key moment nominations were submitted by members of the university community and selected by a distinguished group of current and retired faculty, staff, trustees and alumni. Judging criteria included an emphasis on events that enhanced NIU’s reputation; had a lasting effect; set direction for some significant period; were a cause for celebration or reflection; had a significant impact; and built institutional pride.

The site includes links for sharing stories on social media accounts.

Date posted: January 16, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on First chapter of 125 Key NIU Moments to be released today

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Barbara A. Curry really enjoyed working and helping people. She worked at Northern Illinois University (NIU) for over 40 years in Human Resource Services, the Student Financial Aid Office, Veterans Assistance Program, and the CHANCE Office.  Barbara also worked at Oak Crest Retirement Center for many years as a Clinical Nurse’s Assistant (CNA).

Read Barbara A. Curry’s full obituary.

Date posted: January 15, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Passages

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Not everyone can claim to be a Noogler (a new hire at Google), but recent NIU College of Business grad Priyanka Gollamudi (MIS 2018) can. She reached out to the chair of the Department of OM&IS to share news of her professional adventures and the College of Business is delighted to share some of Priyanka’s insights about her experience in the OM&IS program. She also describes how her experience at NIU Business played a big role in helping her land a spot with Google.

I’m currently working as a business strategy analyst for Google’s Media & Entertainment Strategy and Operations team. I was hired in November 2019. My base location is in Mountain View, California, which is Google’s global headquarters.

The structured and practical approach of NIU’s OM&IS program helped up-skill my business and technology acumen. Specifically, courses such as database management, project management, and business systems and analysis played a pivotal role in building my foundation knowledge and my understanding of concepts. Such capabilities are required in order to successfully interview with companies for business/data analyst roles.

I have a special appreciation for the professors in the college’s Department of OM&IS. When I was a student in the program, they were very encouraging and always available to address questions. Every professor I interacted with left me with a positive feeling. They were all very approachable, and they all encouraged practical application of concepts.

The advice I would offer to current or new NIU Business students is first to say that it’s okay to be confused or even clueless. College is the best time to explore and then gradually firm up on career choices. I had five years of work experience when I pursued my master of information systems at NIU. The OM&IS program offers a great set of courses:  business intelligence, business systems analysis, bigdata, database management, SAP ERP, project management courses, among them. I took the opportunity to explore and learn about most of these subjects. This helped me to understand the topics and concepts that most interest me, which ultimately provided clarity on the career choices that were appropriate for me. In addition, interaction with students across the globe in a very conducive environment like NIU’s College of Business was very useful in my overall personality development. I encourage peer learning as much as possible.

When we contacted Priyanka for more details and for permission to share her story here, we also asked if she had a hero she wanted to mention. Here’s Priyanka’s reply:  “I would like to also take this opportunity to mention my parents who continuously supported me throughout this journey and my husband who encouraged me and mentored/guided me to prepare for the interviews. Without their support, I think this would not have been possible for me.”

Date posted: January 15, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on From NIU Huskie to Google Noogler

Categories: Alumni Faculty & Staff Homepage Students

If your New Year’s Resolution is to spend a little more time giving back to your community, don’t forget that the Huskies Give Back program now allows NIU employees to spend one paid day off per fiscal year volunteering at approved schools, libraries and charitable organizations.

If you aren’t sure where your help might be needed, there is a list of more than 25 DeKalb-area organizations that have signed up to accept volunteers,  If you have another organization where you would like to donate you’re time you can nominate an agency (or they can nominate themselves) by filling out an online application.

Employees nominating an agency must do so at least three weeks prior to the date they plan to volunteer so that the organization can be reviewed by the university’s Ethics and Compliance Office. Public schools are considered pre-approved, but private schools must be vetted. Volunteering for political activities is not allowed as part of this program. Volunteer locations need not be located in DeKalb County.

To utilize the Huskies Give Back benefit, you must complete a Volunteer Time Off Request form at least two weeks prior to the day you want to volunteer. Get your supervisor to sign off on the printed form prior to volunteering and have a representative from the agency where you give your time sign the form when you are finished. The form must be returned to Human Resource Services within one week of the completed service.

You can choose to divide your 7.5 hours of paid volunteer time over a number of days if you wish. However, volunteer hours must be performed during your regularly scheduled work hours.

Details of the program can be found on the Huskies Give Back website.


Date posted: January 15, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Huskies Give Back pays employees for volunteering

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After four decades of stage and screen acting, Allen has not forgotten what she learned from NIU theater classes—to just keep at it and love the work.

In case you cannot tell by looking at her pages-long resume of Broadway stage productions, television programs and award-winning films, actress Joan Allen has a thing about work ethic.

After four decades of stage and screen acting, she has not forgotten what she learned from NIU theater classes—to just keep at it and love the work. She is ever-mindful of where she came from—the small town of Rochelle, Illinois—and the fact that the Midwestern work ethic she witnessed all around her as a child helped to forge her own success.

“In any occupation, whenever I see a work ethic that is really devoted, I react very strongly to it. I was kind of raised that way. I think about the cornfields that surrounded the (NIU) campus, and all my friends whose families worked on farms,” Allen said. “It provides a real grounding place that has served me well throughout my entire life. And I deeply, deeply appreciate that.”

Of course, coming from a small, rural community had its challenges for someone like Allen, whose artistic aspirations superseded opportunities there. She searched for a way to express herself creatively as a child, trying music and dance lessons, as well as cheerleading. When she did not make the cheerleading squad in high school, she remembered walking past an open call to audition for what the school called ‘contest plays,’ where students acted in plays and competed against other schools each weekend.

“I thought ‘I’m going to try that.’  And once I auditioned, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do!’” Allen remembered of her ah-ha moment. “I did a lot of plays in high school, and I was always involved in some play at any given time.”

Allen began her college career at Eastern Illinois University, studying acting there for years and befriending then-student John Malkovich. Next, she transferred to NIU, where she focused in on the stage.

“I felt like (NIU) presented me with so much opportunity to actually do stuff,” Allen, who attended NIU between 1975 and 1977, said. “There were plays on the main stage. There were plays at the more experimental, smaller theater. I was able to do a lot of work. The way the theater department was structured gave me the opportunity to work with different directors and different actors and try different kinds of plays. And the variety that it offered me was really invaluable.”

When Allen was deciding on colleges, she did not want to be in a conservatory-like environment because, often, students could not get on the main stage until junior or senior year.

“I wanted to act. I wanted to learn by doing it,” she said. “(NIU) gave me the opportunity to learn by doing, rather than sitting in the classroom talking about it. It’s like being an apprentice. You’re hands-on, you’re taking swipes at things, and you’re trying to learn as you go along. Some are better than others, some are really bad, but you learn from the bad stuff, too.”

Between her junior and senior year at NIU, Allen received an invitation from Malkovich to be a part of a play in Chicago at the then-fledgling Steppenwolf Theater Company. The company would eventually introduce the world to the talents of actors like Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry and founder Gary Sinise, too. These phenomenal connections helped Allen to be able to work professionally as a student and to secure stage roles regularly in Chicago after college.

“Steppenwolf was a very egalitarian environment, and we all just wanted to do the best we could with the material. The star was the story, and it was a very ‘all for one and one for all’ environment,” Allen said. “I just loved that aspect, and I think for me, it’s been very grounding. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re doing a play in a tent out in the backyard of your parents’ home in DeKalb, or if you’re on a film set. It’s people together telling a story.”

For the next several years, Allen moonlighted as a serious Chicago stage actress, while paying the bills as secretary for an educational film company in Evanston, Illinois. Allen was content to be making her stage acting dreams a reality, even if she was burning the candle at both ends. Then, something happened that would change the trajectory of her career forever.

“I’d never even been to visit New York City personally until I did a play called ‘And the Nightingale Sang,’ and some producers wanted to bring it to New York,” she remembered. “It was first remounted at the Hartford Stage Company and then it went into New York City. So that was the first time I’d ever been to New York, starring in a play there. I got agents at that point, and they started introducing me to film and television auditions.”

And the rest is history. Allen has worked steadily in television shows and mini-series, on the stage, and in some of the biggest and best-loved movies of the last decades, having earned multiple Tony, Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy nominations. In 1989, she won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut performance in “Burn This,” opposite Malkovich.

“I don’t really think that I’ve had a career strategy,” Allen reflected. “I feel that I got some gift from God or something. Every acting path is different, and I just got this wonderful path. Things just kept happening, one after another, and I just followed them.”

Allen has played all kinds of characters to great acclaim—First Lady Pat Nixon in the film “Nixon”; a half-sister of King Arthur in the television miniseries “The Mists of Avalon,” a Quaker woman accused of witchcraft, opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, in “The Crucible;” a repressed 1950s housewife in Pleasantville; and a fictional CIA deputy director in the Bourne film series, to name just a few. While very different at first glance, many of her characters are women who are coming into their own, fighting for independence, and searching for contentment while being confined by society’s expectations and rules. They are often caretakers, selflessly giving to and fighting for others.

“At the time, I looked at every story individually,” she said, “but in retrospect, I think I have seen some kind of connection among my roles. There’s a woman coming into her own, in a traditional marriage but trying to figure out to navigate that and trying to be calm and take care of others. So, there must be something within me that resonates with these themes because of the roles I play.”

In her latest project, though, Allen is trying a very different kind of role. In Apple TV’s “Lisey’s Story,” which is based on Stephen King’s 2006 novel, Allen will play a character who’s lost control, gone catatonic and needs to be cared for.

“I’m having the best time because my character has gone crazy. People have to take care of me in this because my character has mental issues,” Allen said. “Because it’s Stephen King, the tone is also different than what I’ve done before. I have really enjoyed it, and they have to take care of me for once.”

The show began filming in October and will be available as an eight-episode limited series, co-starring Julianne Moore, Clive Owen and Jennifer Jason Leigh. J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros. are producing the series, Stephen King has written each episode, and director Pablo Larraín will take the helm for all episodes as well.

“Usually in television, they have a separate director for each episode, but we’re shooting it like it’s one big movie,” Allen added. “Pablo has a great vision for the material, and he’s just wonderful to work with.”

Even though Allen has been at this for years, there’s still a palpable excitement when she discusses her upcoming roles and the acting craft. At this point in her career, she’s able to choose her roles carefully and discern what’s meaningful to her.

“I think the bottom line in the most, most basic sense is, when I read a script, do I want to turn the page?” she said. “If I do, I’ve got to know, I’ve got to turn the page to see what happens next. There’s that element, where you like the writing to be good.”

Allen also noted that acting jobs are still about relationships and how she feels when working with people. This comes as no surprise, as Allen has been a team player since her time on NIU’s stages.

Nothing illustrates this better than Allen’s dedication to NIU. She starred in a Broadway play called “The Waverly Gallery” in 2019, and when a group of NIU alumni and NIU President Lisa Freeman came to see the production, she agreed to meet with them afterwards and have dinner—an experience that impressed all Huskies who attended. When asked why she made the evening a priority in a busy theater season, it came back to her strong work ethic.

“I think it’s just important to remember where you come from, and I think NIU sort of espouses Midwestern values in its approach to education,” she said. “It’s incredibly valuable. It ties me to my roots, to where I came from.” 

This article was originally posted by the NIU Alumni Association.

Date posted: January 15, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Actress Joan Allen reflects on her Huskie work ethic

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